Magee's Troops Feature Different Styles

WVU running backs coach Calvin Magee is looking forward to this fall, when he will have a full stable of backs with a number of different styles to choose from.

Assuming a healthy roster, Magee will be able to call on a number of different backs, with varying styles, this fall. From the power running of Erick Phillips to the speed of Kay Jay Harris, the Mountaineers should be able to field an impressive arsenal.

One of the challenges for Magee would appear to be designing an offensive scheme that fits the different characteristics of each back. However, Magee notes that it's not a matter of calling different plays for different runners, but more a case of coaching each player according to their strengths.

"We might adjust a little bit, but not a lot," Magee said of tweaks in the running game for individual players. "For example, we adjusted a little bit for Quincy Wilson from what we did with Avon Cobourne. Kay Jay Harris is more like Quincy. But you don't really adjust the plays you call or what you are doing. You just use their style in what you are doing.

"You still call the same plays and run the same offense. You just let them do it with their style. You don't want to start trying to make Kay Jay into Avon. You want each of them to use their style, and fit it within the scheme.

"Let's say you run a zone play. Jason Colson might cut a little better, so you teach him within the scheme to look for a place to use that. Erick Phillips might have more power, so you tell him to look for something different. It's the same play call, and the same play, but they can use their own style within it."

Phillips is the wild card in this year's running back derby. Although Harris, Colson and Wright all missed time this spring with various injuries, they are all expected to be 100% when fall practice begins. Phillips, however, is facing a huge task as he attmepts to get back on the field less than ten months after a serious knee injury, which included damage to two knee ligaments.

"I've seen players physically come back that fast, so it's the mental part that you worry about," Magee said of Phillips' rehabilitation. "How mentally tough will he be coming back? I think he will be able to do it.

"One of the things that helped him the most was Quincy visiting him in the hospital after the surgery. He told Erick about his own injury, and how he came back. And then Erick sees the kind of year Quincy had, and I think that put Erick in the frame of mind where he's saying 'I can do this too, I can come back and be strong.'

"I'm sure there will be some moments where he might be hesitant, but I'm very confident in Erick and his mindset," Magee concluded. "He is so ready to get back out on the field. I think he'll do it."

Although it's further from the spotlight, Magee also is building depth at the fullback position. Behind starter Hikee Johnson, Magee has no proven depth, but does have some players that he thinks can help at some point. Two of them, linebacker Leonard Merriman and long snapper Justin Anselmo, came from different positions, which means it's back to square one in terms of teaching.

"We have to start them out with the basics," Magee explained. "Their stance, how they start out, everything. We have to teach them how important their steps are, because they think they can just take off running. How to have their eyes on the target. Keeping their hands inside. How to read the defensive front. Even though some guys have come over from defense, they may not know how to read defenses from the offensive point of view. They need to read the flow of linebackers and the play of the defensive linemen. You have to teach them like a freshman coming in. The read, the keys, the steps, you work the fundamentals with them.

"Justin Anselmo came to me and asked about playing fullback, and we asked Leonard Merriman about moving, because it didn't look like he was going to get much time at linebacker. I think he's going to do ok. Also, Justin Dziak, who came to us from spring tryouts, has a chance. They're not ready to go yet, but they could help us in the future."

For now, the future is this fall, and Magee is eagerly eyeing the chance to get on the field and solidify his depth chart. Although the injuries kept several of the backs from making a move, Magee has an idea of how things might shake out.

"I have a good idea, because three of the guys played last year. I know what those guys can do. It's a matter now of who will earn the job and in what order. I've seen Erick and Jason and Kay Jay in games, so I have an idea of what it's going to be. But it's still open, because I'm going to do everything I can to see what Bryan Wright brings to the table, along with the freshmen. It's going to be open competition."


Magee is excited about the recently announced scheduling of Mississippi State, which puts a Mountaineer game in reasonable proximity to New Orleans, which is one of his primary recruiting areas.

"Anytime you can go to the south and play, it helps. The presence of being there is great. Louisiana papers have coverage of Mississippi State because they are in the same conference. Any recognition and the chance to play close to home of the players I am recruiting helps. I'm excited about it."

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Magee also joked about a comeback to the NFL after dropping more than 50 pounds in the last two months. He, along with several members of the Mountaineer staff, have a contest every spring to see who can drop the most weight, and the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer tight end has put up a strong effort. Magee notes that the weight loss has also helped ease the pressure on his knee, which has given him trouble since his playing days.

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Magee is also the subject of a poll on Tampa Bay's official NFL website. The Bucs are currently in the process of selecting their all time team, and Magee is one of the nominees at tight end. Magee's first NFL reception went for a touchdown, and he also caught Steve Young's first NFL TD toss.

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