"They are both really different types of backs," said Magee, who also serves as running backs coach. "Collington is bigger, so it seems like he will be a little more powerful. His time depends on how much he learns. He has to use camp to learn as much as he can, because once school starts it is hard. It all depends upon the individual. What has helped him is that he has been around the guys all summer. He has had an opportunity to learn."
Center Dan Mozes, who has had opportunities to watch and block for Collington, said that the back's ability was a surprise. Collington is a downfield-style runner like fullback Owen Schmitt. He doesn't explode out of a hole as well as Slaton, but once he gets going, he is increasingly difficult to tackle.
"He ran with the ones some and he did exceptionally well," Mozes said. "I know he is a great player and he has exceptional speed, but the things he did on the field in the first day of pads shows me a lot. He went north and south and gained extra yards. He is showing he wants to compete."
That competitiveness is likely the catalyst that allowed the first-team all-conference and second-team all-stater a chance to play in college. Collington had his left shoulder pop out of place his junior season (2003) at Penn Hills High. He declined season-ending surgery and, wearing a brace, rushed for 950 yards and 11 scores. The same thing happened before his senior season, and the Pittsburgh native again declined, then led the WPIAL – the largest high school athletic conference in the nation – with 1,700 yards (8.8 ypc) and 22 touchdowns to solidify his status as a top prep back and a major collegiate player, albeit one who had to sit out a season to concentrate on academics.
"It was very tough, I hated being out," Collington said. "It is a process I had to go through. That was the first time I have ever had to sit out of any game. The team kept me up and had me keep working. Now it is time to play. I don't think I was forgotten. I just think people were waiting for me to get back on the field."
After Collington inked with WVU, he had surgery to repair the shoulder, which has held up after being tested early in contact drills. He seems the built back that he was when he emerged his final two prep seasons, having seemingly shaken off any skill deterioration from lack of playing.
"I can't tell he had any, to tell you the truth," Magee said of Collington's time off. "He has looked pretty good, and he is hungry, which is good. And he brings another dimension with his power."
That's a trait shared by Schmitt, who, though still not impressed with his own abilities, has commended Collington's work ethic and toughness early.
"Right off the bat he wants to be in there, he wants those reps," Schmitt said. "He is a fast kid, he has good agility. He is physical, a good player. I am anxious to see what he can do on the field in game situations. I talk to him, and he always says how he can't wait to get out there and show what he can do. He is going to do good things. And it's always nice to get fresh legs in there to make the defense tired. Having a good, solid backfield that has people who can step in, that's what happened last year."
West Virginia averaged 34.9 points per game in Big East play, its rushing attack producing 281.4 yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry, both league-bests. Its in-conference passing yardage was last at 105.3 yards per game and 11.1 yards per pass, statistically pointing not just to the Mountaineers' spread offense reliance on the run, but also its strength there. To duplicate those rushing numbers, WVU will need the additional depth Collington can provide, which would also allow Jason Colson and Jeremy Bruce to return to full-time status as slot recovers.
"Jeremy can come back and do it in the backfield," Magee said. "Jay has dropped some weight and appears to have that quickness back, so that's a good sign. He has been here for five years, and a guy here for five years knows how we do everything. It was just two years ago that he was really productive for us. So we will pick and choose our times to put them back there. But right now it's about getting Collington and other guys ready."
The situation was the same last year, when West Virginia was readying Slaton and fellow frosh Jason Gwaltney behind Pernell Williams and Tyler Benoit, among others. Slaton has embraced that role this season, with he and Colson teaching Collington the proper steps and reads. Magee said that Slaton "shows no hesitation. He knows the offense. He is quicker and he seems more confident. He had no clue this year last time and now he is teaching the younger guys."
"They are helping out a lot," Collington said. "During film and things they tell me what I am doing wrong and what to do and what not to do. They are a lot of help. You have to learn everything so fast. It is kind of confusing at times, but you have to calm down and everything will come to you.
"If you are good you are going to play. If you learn and work and play hard, you will play. I feel like I am doing very good. It helps me come with the right mindset and everyday that I come I have to get better. I feel like I can be both speed and power. They called me a horse in high school, and I don't plan on changing that at all."