National View

When the Mountaineers play a big night game on ESPN, you can count on a lot of things. One thing you can almost certainly count on is the announcers saying something during the course of the game that offends legions of Mountaineer fans, no matter what context the quotes were made in. Lately though, it seems like you can count on someone else being mentioned: Jeremy Sheffey.

The sophomore guard made his third career start in last Wednesday's nationally televised conquering of Connecticut. His two previous starts? Last October at Miami on ESPN and the November beat down of Pitt, also brought into the living rooms of Americans via the worldwide leader in sports.

"It's kind of ironic. I don't really know what to say about that to be honest with you," says Sheffey of his knack for starting in the familiar situation.

Some may think that Sheffey is contractually obligated to start every night game on ESPN, but it has more to do with his play. The Catlettsburg, Ky., native weighs in at just 285 pounds, a tad on the slim side for today's prototypical college lineman, but is sound in executing his technique, which is what offensive line coach Rick Trickett teaches time and again. Looking back on the UConn game, Sheffey felt like he did pretty well.

"I graded fairly well this week at an 81 percent, which with coach Trickett is pretty good. We usually don't get handed good grades by him," admits Sheffey.

It wasn't all wine and roses for Sheffey however. He was flagged for false start penalties twice during the game Wednesday night.

"During the game I had a very different opinion of the referees. Looking back at film, they were really close. I don't know whether myself as a referee would have called it, but I might be a little biased," quips the o-lineman.

"I really needed to slow myself down. That's a big point for me this week: to get off fast but to get off at the right speed. I just need to get my timing up more than anything."

While he is just a sophomore, it already seems like he's been here forever. He had enough high school credits to graduate early, and enroll at WVU for the spring semester of 2002. The bearded Kentuckian credits a successful transition to college both on and off the field to his early enrollment.

"Socially it helped me a lot. It got me in the weight room. It kept me out of trouble too. It gave me an advantage to get stronger. I came in at 230 pounds, and going into camp I was 286.

"I don't even think of myself as part of the class I'm in, I think of myself as part of the class before me," sums up Sheffey of his extra semester in the University City.

Maybe the most intriguing thing about Jeremy is the fact that when he came to WVU he was on the defensive line, not offense. However, with a number of young d-lineman on the roster, along with concern about depth on the offensive line, the coaches decided to move him across the line of scrimmage. While fully concentrated on playing o-line now, Jeremy uses some of the nuances he learned as a defensive end to his advantage blocking his former peers.

"I think it helps me to a point. D linemen are more of an aggressive breed coming out of high school," says Sheffey, "but at the same time I've been on the O line for two years now. I always try to go in there and try to be as aggressive as possible. I know how they're fighting the reach because I've fought the reach before. I think I get off the ball a little bit quicker because of it, which kind of got me in trouble twice apparently the other night," he sums up with a reference to his multiple penalties.

Another unique thing about Sheffey is his neck roll - a big pad that sits on top of the shoulder pads and prevents the neck and head from being snapped back too far. While few linemen use the roll these days, the ones who do usually employ what's called a "cowboy collar." Mountaineer left tackle Mike Watson is one of the many who use one of these. Sheffey, however, goes for the old school look with his Ron Wolfley-esque white neck roll.

For chumps like me who grew up in the 80's and 90's, these bring back memories. Truth be told, Sheffey's not just trying to make a fashion statement.

"We tried a cowboy collar out, but I couldn't see as well with it. It's more custom fit to my needs. At guard, if you can't see the linebackers you're going to be in a lot of trouble," explains number sixty-five of his choice of protective gear. Sheffey also noted that he also suffers from chronic stingers, which make the equipment a necessity.

Much of the preseason hype surrounding the Mountaineers centered on the deep offensive line, which has had its ups and downs through the season. Like the rest of the Mountaineers, Sheffey generally keeps his nose out of the hype and takes care of business on the field both in practice and games.

"I don't watch Sportscenter or ESPN; I couldn't even tell you what papers you guys write for," he says with a laugh to assorted media members inside the Puskar Center.

Barring injury or an unproductive week in practice, Sheffey will make his second consecutive start this Thursday when the Mountaineers play host to the Syracuse Orange. And just like Sheffey's previous three starts, the game will be broadcast on ESPN.

BlueGoldNews Top Stories