What a Difference A Year Makes

Redshirt freshman quarterback Adam Bednarik is much more at ease after spending a hectic first year prepping for emergency duty at quarterback.

A year ago at this time, Bednarik was fresh out of high school at Bethlehem Catholic, and was undergoing a crash course in the Mountaineer system. West Virginia had but three scholarship quarterbacks eligible to play (Dwayne Thompson could practice, but not play), so the WVU coaching staff had no choice but to groom the still-wet-behind-the-ears freshman as quickly as possible.

In a system like WVU's, that demands quick recognition and lightning fast reads in both the passing and running games, many QBs struggle to get a handle on everything by their junior seasons. Bednarik was asked to do so in a little less than a month. Of course, he wouldn't be asked to know and execute the entire offense were he called upon, but the task was still a daunting one.

"I don't think I would have been near as ready last year, but I think I could have done the basic stuff," Bednarik said during WVU's first week of fall football camp.

Fortunately for both WVU and Bednarik, that call never came. Charles Hales backed up Rasheed Marshall beautifully when needed, and Bednarik was able to preserve his redshirt season. And while he would have been able to steer the Mountaineer offense in 2003, the fact that he was able to stay on the sidelines and observe will no doubt bring bigger benefits down the road. Bednarik got to observe the Mountaineer offense in person at every game (he travelled to every road game), which increased the opportunities he had to learn and assimilate the WVU attack. However, it was still a bit of a whirlwind tour for the six-foot-two, 220-pound Pennsylvanian.

This fall, it's a different story. Bednarik, who, according to head coach Rich Rodriguez, "picked up the offense about as quickly as anyone I've had" is now in a more relaxed learning mode.

"This year is a lot different - I feel a lot more comfortable," the strapping quarterback told BlueGoldNews.com. "Not only do I feel more comfortable in knowing the plays, but I also feel better in having been around the guys for a year. I feel like I know them a lot better, and I feel more comfortable around them."

As a natural leader of the offense, a quarterback has to have the respect of the players around him, and getting to know them is the first step in earning it. Of course, play on the field is also a big factor, and Bednarik believes he has made great strides there as well.

"This year, if I had to step in, I'll be much further along," the relative of NFL Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik observed. "I know some more of the trickery, and I could definitely run a lot more of the offense than what I could have last year.

"Knowing the plays makes my reads easier, especially in the passing game. My footwork is easier too, and I know where the guys are going to be. Having been here through the year and this summer helped that a lot."

Although Bednarik is primarily known for his passing, he also can run the ball, and looks forward to getting that chance on the field. While he's not a speedster on the order of Rasheed, Bednarik has enough quickness, with the added benefit of power, to get the job done. It will take more than an arm tackle to bring down the rock-solid signalcaller, who capped his high school career with a strong QB draw for a touchdown in the Big 33 All-Star game.

"I feel like we have some athletes at the QB position, and we are going to utilize them," Bednarik said of the running game.

Bednarik is getting some additional reps at quarterback, as both Hales and Thompson take some snaps at wide receiver. While Hales will still be the backup QB in the event Rasheed is unavailable, the extra snaps figure to help him as he makes his push for playing time in 2005. And should he be called upon sometime this season, it's certain that he will be more prepared than the typical redshirt freshman.

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