The Kinder Garden

A few observations as we wait for the hitting of spring football practice to unfold.

As I was watching Marquette dismantle Kentucky on Saturday, I had visions of the Mountaineer basketball team.

Now, I'm not predicting a Final Four run for West Virginia anytime soon, but Marquette's screen and roll offense made me think of West Virginia's patterned attack, and of the success that it could have with the addition of a couple of big bodies inside who can score when they get the ball on the blocks.

WVU's offense got off to a great start this year, but it bogged down late due to a couple of factors. The first, of course, was the increased quality of opposition and the advantage they had in being able to watch Mountaineer game films.

The second was the one-dimensional aspect of West Virginia's offense, which more and more relied on the three pointer as teams learned to cut Drew Schifino's drives to the basket and doubleteam Kevin Pittsnogle as soon as he touched the ball.

If John Beilein can add a player or two that can post up and force opponents to cover WVU from the blocks to the three point line, then at least a few of those close losses from the past year will be tranformed into wins in coming seasons.

Is that coming in this year's class? I'm not sure. But, WVU's inside play will definitely be better than it was last year.

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I'm excited to see the raft of redshirted freshmen and other newcomers in full contact drills at spring football practice, especially in the defensive backfield. Guys like Abraham Jones, Joe Hunter, Akeem Jackson, Ridwan Malik, Krys Williams and Adam Jones have the chance to earn significant playing time this year, and some of them will have to perform well to give the Mountaineers depth and quality play in the secondary.

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And now that I've said that, I need to temper myself a bit. It's very difficult, and I do mean very difficult, to make an impact on the football field after either sitting out a year, or not playing very much, or transferring in from a junior college.

There's a number of reasons, ranging from the increased level of competition to getting acclimated to the difficult grind of Division 1, but in the end, the results are often the same. Players go through tough stretches during their first year of competition, and sometimes get labelled as "busts". The player then comes back for his second year and sees his productivity increase dramatically.

For that reason, I am anxious to see what players like Travis Garvin, Aaron Neal and Fred Blueford do this year. Although those players did contribute some last year, I'm betting they will be very good players this season. And much of that is simply because they've had a year to get used to the demands that the highest levels of college football put on them.

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The Mountaineer baseball team has broken out of their hitting doldrums of the past couple seasons, and have been smacking the ball with authority over the first part of this year. Just when WVU had some momentum, however, that lovely Morgantown weather reared its head to rain and snow out games against Rutgers on Saturday and Sunday.

We should have known it was coming, of course. Whenever spring football practice starts, you can be sure that a spring patch of bad weather isn't far behind.

But back to baseball. Knocking off the Scarlet Knights would be a great start to the Big East season, but the weather postponements have certainly taken some of the speed off of WVU's roll. Let's hope they can recapture it this afternoon at Hawley Field.

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