Quiet Key

Although he doesn't get a great deal of publicity, WVU bandit Lawrence Audena may turn out to be one of the key players on the Mountaineer defensive unit this year.

Audena isn't as outspoken like Adam Jones. He hasn't put up huge tackle numbers like Adam Lehnortt or Scott Gyorko. And he doesn't weight 280 pounds like many of his newly-enlarged teammates along the defensive front. However, the 6-0, 210-pound senior just may turn out to be one of the linchpins of the WVU defense this year.

In an attempt to get players into positions, which enhanced their strengths, the Mountaineer coaching staff did some position shuffling at the end of last season and during the spring. One of those moves involved Mike Lorello, who was shifted to the spur to take advantage of his aggressiveness and run-stuffing ability. That left Audena, who made a great deal of improvement at the end of last season, to move into the starting bandit spot. Audena has the ability to defend the pass and provide support against the run, which makes him a good fit for his current position.

Audena took quickly to the new position, and didn't have any problems with the pace at which the changes were implemented. That's not surprising, considering his status as a member of the Athletic Director's Academic Honor Roll.

"During the spring, we got most of the defense put in," Audena recounted. "This fall has just been like a refresher course. We've changed it a little bit here and there, but most of the stuff we already know."

The changes Audena mentioned include modifications to the base 3-3 stack defense that are intended to help in both the pass rush and pass coverage arenas. As the bandit, Audena will be involved in both of those phases, and he admits that he's happy with the progress made by the team so far.

"It's going good," said the Milford Academy graduate. "I don't want to say too much, but the changes we have are going to be really good."

Like many players in the WVU secondary, Audena began his Mountaineer career as a free safety. Coaches believe that the free safety spot is the easiest from which to learn coverage schemes and get a good picture of what the entire secondary is doing, so many players begin their freshman seasons at the free.

Audena, however, didn't find that learning one position helped him a great deal at another, although he does admit that knowing more than one spot helps in on-the-field communication.

"Not really," was Audena's answer to the question about free safety being a learning tool for other spots. "I played free safety in high school and when I was at military academy. When I came here I started out at free safety, but I've moved around a lot. One thing, though, is that if I know what the free safety is supposed to do, I can help him or he can help me. When we have to adjust to different formations, we can point things out."

As mentioned previously, Audena is not the most vocal member on the back end of the defense, but he has developed a confidence level that he didn't possess earlier in his career. Part of that comes with being a senior starter, and part of it is an outgrowth of the summer conditioning program, which has made some practices seem almost easy by comparison.

"As much as we did in the summer, by the fourth quarter, I don't think anyone can stay with us," Audena observed. "I just think we are going to be in really good shape when the fourth quarter rolls around. We feel good, even after practice and two-a-days. I think we did more than most teams did in the summer. Two-a-days were hard, but when you are in shape, you get through it o.k."

Audena is also trying to enhance his senior status with even more leadership skills. He, like many of his defensive teammates, chooses to lead by example.

"I try to come out ready to play all the time, whether it's practice or games. There are only two seniors at the bandit and spur, so if I come out lackadaisical, the other guys will see me and think that's o.k. So I come out and go hard all the time, and let them know that's the way they have to do it to."

Audena's hard work paid off as the 2003 season wound down. He had five tackles and a key interception against Pitt that sparked WVU's second-half steamrollering of the Panthers, and also had excellent performances against Syracuse (seven tackles and a forced fumble) and Temple (four tackles and two pass breakups). Those stats show his versatility, and the Mountaineer coaching staff is counting on him to continue that level of performance during his senior season.

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