Lorello Embraces Switch to Spur

While most of the preseason talk about the 2004 Mountaineer defense is about who won't be suiting up in the Blue and Gold (Frazier, King, Wiley), the guys who will be playing in the 3-3 odd stack are ready to make some noise.

After becoming a household name to West Virginia fans last year, Mike Lorello is ready to play a vital role in a somewhat new look secondary for the 2004 Mountaineer defense.

Some "experts" have singled out the secondary as the weakest part of the WVU defense, but let's step back and take a look here. On one side of the field, you have junior Pacman Jones, a preseason Thorpe and Nagurski Award candidate who blossomed as the 2003 season progressed. Across the field from him is fellow junior Anthony Mims who, while being a first time starter, has plenty of experience. At free safety there's Jahmile Addae, who started frequently during his first two years before losing last year to a shoulder injury. At bandit, senior Lawrence Audena saw his playing time increase as last year's season went on. Then there's Lorello, the junior spur, who started all 13 games last season at bandit. So while King and Frazier are gone, it's not like this unit is starting over from scratch.

"I feel confident. We've been coming together all through fall camp and practice," said Lorello at the Puskar Center Monday night.

The Mountaineers first opponent, East Carolina, operates out of a fun-n-gun, made famous by the "Ol Ball Coach" himself Steve Spurrier at Florida. ECU offensive coordinator Noah Brindise, a former Gator, brought the scheme to Greenville this season when he was hired by John Thompson. With the new ECU offense, Lorello and company will have to be on their toes come Saturday night.

"We're definitely walking in the blind, but the coaches do a great job of preparing us for everything," notes Lorello.

As noted above, the Powell, Ohio native played last year at the bandit but moved to spur for this season.

"The main difference is that I'm taking on more blocks this year. Last year at bandit, I'd come unblocked a lot into the backfield. Now I have people hitting me, whether it's a fullback or a tight end.

"The bandit is more of a free safety/linebacker, where as the spur is more of a strong safety/linebacker."

Lorello has earned a reputation as being a reliable guy, and head coach Rich Rodriguez has noted many times that he makes hardly any mistakes.

"I think that's a lot of what gets me on the field," says the Ohioan. "I just want to be a leader by example, by my play on the field."

Rodriguez depends on the steady Lorello to make plays at the line of scrimmage, and oberved that moving him to spur should help in that regard.

"Mike is a very solid player knows exactly what we want on defense. Pound for pound, he is one of the strongest guys on the team. I think he plays even better in games than in practice, and I mean that as a compliment. Putting him at spur gets him closer to the ball, and we try to get our better tacklers closer to the line. That should help him make more plays.

So while there are a few fresh faces on the defense, the unit as a whole does have a fair amount of experience.

"We definitely want to keep developing a reputation. We want to be respected as West Virginia," sums up Lorello.

The old adage says "Defense wins championships." With the leadership and steady play of Lorello, success in the secondary will only make the ultimate goal that much more attainable.

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