The Forgotten Class

On the eve of fall football practice, the focus tends to be on returning key players and newcomers to the program. Another group of players, however tends to get overlooked.

That group is the redshirt freshmen, who, after their fifteen minutes in the sun at the beginning of last year's camp, faded into the background for much of the season. Their time on WVU's successful 2002 team was mostly spent on scout teams and as practice opposition for their teammates who took the field on Saturday.

More than any group of newcomers, players who have been in the program for a year have a much better chance of playing, and, more importantly, contributing to the success of the team.

So, who are the players to watch from that group? (For this column, we'll exclude players who were on the team but did not practice last year, and also players that did not redshirt.)

In no particular order, here are a few players to remember when fall practice starts.

Jay Henry: Last year's defensive rookie of the year is scheduled to see playing time this year at middle linebacker, but he won't waltz into the spot. Adam Lehnortt has put a solid grip on the starting spot, and sophomore Alex Lake also got a significant number of reps this spring. Henry, however, bears watching as he turns his intensity loose in the middle of the Mountaineer defense.

Dan Mozes: OK, so he's not unknown. What he is, is a tough and aggressive offensive lineman that could be a four year starter. And whether he earns an opening game starting nod or not, he should still see a great deal of time. He has that hard edge that separates good linemen from great ones, and hopefully can share that intensity with some of his linemates.

Craig Wilson: With a number of teammates well south of the 300 pound mark, Wilson's 6-2, 300 pound measurements would be a welcome addition in the defensive trenches. Wilson showed a great deal of intensity and natural ability during the fall last year before the decision was made to redshirt him, and he's being counted on to at least provide quality backup this year. After sharing defensive rookie of the year honors with Henry, his progress in fall camp could be a major factor in the fortunes of the defensive front this year.

Nathan Forse: Yet another contestant in the wide receiver derby, Forse stood out this spring due to two factors. One, his 6-3, 205 pound frame makes him an attractive target in the secondary. Two, he catches the ball well. So what's not to like? At a position that has yet to be a strength of the Mountaineer offense, Forse should have the chance to make a mark this fall. While more heralded players will also be taking the field, Forse's hard work and soft hands make him a player to watch.

Jeremy Hines: As offensive line coach Rick Trickett looks to solidify his group this year, true center Jeremy Hines could be a factor, especially later in the season. Hines has improved a good deal through his redshirt year, and while he might not be ready for major playing time right off the bat, he could be ready to contribute as the season progresses. Although Hines was listed as a third teamer at center coming out of the spring, needs elsewhere along the line could require the players in front of him to shuffle to another position, which in turn might pave the way for a bit more playing time.

Warren Young: He was termed as "the most talented" defensive lineman by one source close to the program, but he must improve his consistency and effort if he is going to live up to his promise. Like teammate Craig Wilson, his ability to provide at least some solid backup work will go a long way in solidifying the defensive line in 2003.

Kevin McLee: McLee probably isn't ready for everyday service yet, but he could be a factor in West Virginia's search for a more consistent pass rush. Look for McLee to get some spot duty in 2003 as a substitute at the rob linebacker spot in passing situations. His speed off the corner and relentless ball pursuit ability won't be a magic potion to solve all of WVU's pass rushing woes, but he could be one on the ingredients that helps raise the Mountaineers' sack totals this fall.

There are some other players who could make a splash on the scene this year. The deep running back corps of Bryan Wright, Jason Colson and Erick Phillips has a much talent as any backup unit, but have even more talent in front of them in the form of Quincy Wilson and Kay Jay Harris. Talented defensive backs like Akeem Jackson, Abraham Jones and Dwayne Mundle could also have a chance to make their mark.

One thing for sure, however. There will be more players from this group than those from the newcomers who see the field and help the Mountaineers in their quest for success in 2003.

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