"With his style of running, he's going to get banged up," Gillespie said. "He needs to be able to take more of the bumps he took last year and he has to have the endurance to play the whole game."
This is all new to Alston, whose 20 carries in the Orange Bowl in relief of Garrison were a career high. He only had double-digit carries four times before that. Alston was good for about 12 to 15 carries a game and maybe twice as many total snaps.
Gillespie said Alston's offseason and preseason preparations have him ready for handle at least 10 more snaps a game now. More important will he his ability to stay on the field and not have to take a break because he's taken a hit or taken the ball a number of snaps in a row.
In the final week of WVU's preseason camp, the coaches tested sophomore Andrew Buie by giving him the ball a dozen or so times in a row. Alston isn't quite there, and there was no need to push him that way, but he's aiming for the same durability.
He's worked with a nutritionist and paid careful attention to his diet. He and the athletic trainers have taken care of his body before and after workouts and practices. Last year, Alston sat out the team's conditioning test. This year, he passed it on the first shot.
"As far as the preparation and the weight room and the conditioning and all that stuff goes, last year I was on a different weight lifting regimen and guys had a different running schedule than me because of my neck," Alston said.
"Being healthy this offseason allowed me to lift better and run more and get in better shape and now I'll be able to come out and apply that to the football field. Last year, I couldn't make some of these cuts I'm making in practice and I couldn't break away on runs like I am now."
The Mountaineers are asking more of Alston by also requiring less. Gillespie wants Alston to lose a few pounds and drop from almost 240 to somewhere near 230. The size suits him well when the offense needs a yard, but he's also is skilled at things the Mountaineers will do on any down. He runs the inside and outside zone plays and can run routes to catch passes.
He was actually WVU's third-down back in 2010 on a team that had the shifty Noel Devine and ubiquitous Jock Sanders.
"Everybody talks about (how) he's a bruiser, but I don't like that," Gillespie said. "He's just a big back. Look at the NFL Draft this year. The backs who were drafted were 5-10, 230, 5-9, 225. Backs are bigger, so he's just a bigger back and a guy who can do everything for us."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.