Setting the Tone

West Virginia -- the state, the fans, the alumni, players and coaches -- would do well to welcome the Jahmile Addae defense.

It's hard work and harder play, blue-collar mentality and gritty resolve. It's the ability to bounce back from setback instead of cowering under the table until the season's over.

It's everything the 2004 Mountaineers were not -- and everything the state loves. And oh, how it loved hating -- or hated to still love -- its Mountaineers last season.

From the off-field hype to the on-field tantrums, the last edition of West Virginia football was the hardest to watch in decades. For the first time in a long time, it took talent and wasted it instead of maximizing potential.

If it does it again, if the Mountaineers don't shrug their crossed-arms, me-first mentality, Addae would be right to slap it out of them before Syracuse does.

The free safety is the quarterback of the defense, the one who signals each play, then examines how his fellow 10 match the other team's 11. He tweaks, he checks, he slides players around. He is the field general, and his commands are to be heeded, even according to head coach Rich Rodriguez.

"He is in charge back there," Rodriguez said. "He is a good one. He knows what he is doing and is such a smart player."

And he is respected, by upperclassmen and newcomers. Addae's first serious action was against Miami as a 17-year-old true freshman. When he held his own, he gained respect for his steady play and an inability to be intimidated that has never been lost, even through his 2003 season-ending shoulder injury.

Now, on a team looking for an identity, the 6-0, 200-pound Addae's heady, physical play (See: Virginia Tech, 2004) could set a fresh tone for this season.

"Now it's more as one," Addae said. "There is no one guy looking to make the play, or that we are looking to for leadership. We are a well-rounded team. You definitely don't want to lose the guys we have lost, but at the same time I think well-rounded teams have been successful in the past, and that's where we are."

See the NFL champion New England Patriots or NBA champion Detroit Pistons, or WVU's Elite Eight basketball team.

"We're on the up and up for the most part," Addae said. "I am comfortable with our defense and where we are. That's my job."

Addae's security and comfort is akin to a coach saying the same. With an excellent understanding of schemes, styles and situations, Addae is a perfect mix of experience, knowledge and ability and the perfect candidate to again bring respect to the very heart of WVU football -- smash mouth, shutdown defense.

"Everybody uses the analogy that you are the quarterback of the defense and it's true," Addae said. "It's not just pre-snap reads. It's also during the play, after the play. It is a position where you have to go hard and trust your keys, your eyes and everything else."

Now if the players just trust Addae and his workmanlike style, and emulate it, the Mountaineers will be poised to polish up the image of hard-working overachievers that the state is so quick to take to its heart.

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