Opportunity Knocks for West

George West was having a solid spring. Behind David Grimes, there was an open spot at the second wide receiver position. It appeared that West was winning the battle, based on praise from head coach Charlie Weis after several practices. But an unfortunate accident caused West to cut short his spring ball and focus instead on fall camp.

The sophomore from Spencer, OK was involved in a car accident during spring practice. West hurt his right hand in the wreck and was forced to watch the final few weeks of practice back in April, including the Blue-Gold game.

"I don't remember much," West said of the accident. "I try not to think about it. Every time you get behind the wheel, you don't want to think about a wreck, especially when it was something that bad. I try to leave it in the past."

West thought he was improving each and every practice in the spring time and separating himself from the pack for the chance to start at the second wide receiver spot. Still sporting a two or three inch scar on his wrist, West had negative thoughts on the future of his career. But faith, hard work and family helped West get through the ordeal.

"After it happened, I thought I was done seeing that my hand was all cut up," West said. "God has a plan for me. I was sitting there getting my stitches with my mom right next to me and telling myself it was okay. I stopped doubting after a few days. I came to the realization that I'll be back and work harder than ever before."

West's wrist is 100 percent and the sophomore is squarely focused on staking his claim to a starting spot opposite Grimes. West is a year older and now ready to contribute. Last season as a freshman, the Spencer, OK native caught two passes for 14 yards. West's biggest play was a 11-yard touchdown run on a reverse, showing speed around the corner. The sophomore knows it's his time to go out and show the coaches his worth.

"It makes me know that every time I go out, I have to compete," West said. "I have a lot of prove right now. I have to show the coaches that I'm ready to compete at that level. That's what it's all about. I've been working on my fundamentals better and making sure the coaches can count on me."

To prepare for fall camp, West literally put in some heavy lifting. The sophomore put on 15 pounds of muscle from his freshman frame but scaled it back to 10 added pounds. West now weighs 195 pounds. The weight room wasn't the only place where West tried to improve his game.

"The biggest thing for me was getting stronger, getting faster and working on the fundamentals," West said. "I've been working on things I saw Jeff (Samardzija) and Rhema (McKnight) do. I figured that they were successful doing those things, I should work on those things as well."

As a freshman, it was watching Samardzija and McKnight in practices and in games that showed West what it would take to get to the next level.

"It's great to come into a situation with two veterans and mold yourself after those guys," West said. "I didn't get to play much last year but it was a learning experience for me. I had the time to look at them, see how they come out of breaks, making certain moves and throwing DB's off, those are the types of things that will help in the long row."

West will never be compared to Samardzija or McKnight physically. At his press conference on Monday, Weis joked that his new receiving corps were the "Smurfs." Samardzija stood at 6-5 and McKnight was 6-2. Maurice Stovall, a 2005 star, was 6-5 and all three of these players were over 210 pounds. West stands at 5-8 while David Grimes is 5-10. West thinks he can use his size to great advantage.

"The quickness of a wide receiver is a big difference," West said. "As a defensive back, a taller wide receiver is a bigger target. As a smaller target, it's sometimes easier to get off the line of scrimmage. If you're physical and get bigger in the weight room, they won't be able to pound you like they think they can. There are some differences between the two but in the end it's a game of getting open. If you can get open, you can be successful."

And Weis knows how to win at the highest level with smaller wideouts.

"I've been involved with some teams that have won a lot of games where the tallest receiver was 5'10" and they have won championships," Weis said on Monday, harkening back to his days with the New England Patriots. "So where everyone can sell them short, no pun intended, in reality, I'm excited about the change in body types and the change in skill levels and the things they do."

West has watched Patriots game film, whose offense Weis implemented when he was the offensive coordinator. The sophomore has studied receivers such as Deion Branch, who was successful in the New England system and named Super Bowl MVP in one of the three Patriots' titles.

"Deion Branch, for example, was doing things that we expect to be doing this season," West said. "Seeing that they can do it on a level like the National Football League, it makes me say, ‘Ok, I can go out and do the same thing in college.' If I apply myself, it can happen."

West has watched the film. The sophomore also put on 10 pounds, worked on techniques and fundamentals and tried to apply what he learned from Samardzija and McKnight onto the playing field. With the car accident in the past, West is eager to make the hard work pay dividends.

"It seemed like everything was going right at that point in time," West said right before the wreck in the spring. "But everything happened for a reason. I feel like it was a time to prove myself and I didn't get that chance. Now, I'm hungry. I want to go out there and show people what I can do. You can't take anything for granted. Not a play or series or nothing. You have to play hard every play."

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