Proving His Point

Jason Colson forced Syracuse to take him as a running back or not at all. The Orange chose the latter and have since regretted it.

The West Virginia running back verbally committed to Syracuse, then reneged when former head coach Paul Pasqualoni's staff told him he was not a major college tailback. Instead, Syracuse wanted Colson to play in the defensive secondary.

"They didn't think I was good enough to play tailback," Colson said. "I thought I was."

The snub served as motivation and morphed Colson from a solid running back to one possessed against the Orange. The junior ran for a career-high 113 yards on 18 carries in WVU's 27-6 home win last year.

Now, 10 pounds heavier and facing a last collegiate game in his native upstate New York, the Rochester native is bent on showcasing his skill -- and reminding Syracuse of its mistake -- a final time in front of family and friends.

"I see red when I run against Syracuse," Colson said. "It will be the same way against Pitt."

That's because former Syracuse running backs coach David Walker, an all-Big East tailback at SU in 1992, now coaches the Panther offensive backfield. The Syracuse and Pitt games sandwich an 11-contest schedule spanning 12 weeks. If Colson can maintain his vengeful mindset for three months he could become West Virginia's first 1,000-yard rusher in two years -- no easy task considering WVU signed highly-rated prep runner Jason Gwaltney.

"He knows what he is doing," West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "He knows the offense and is ready. And his extra weight should enable him to take more pounding. He has the ability to have a great year."

Colson will also play a slot receiver position, allowing the 6-1, 220-pounder to carry the ball 20-30 times per game and gain easier access to the open field, where the former all-state sprinter's speed is most dangerous.

"Jason does everything really well," Gwaltney said. "He has tried to help me along with what he knows. He is a real smart guy who plays and runs hard. And being able to play couple positions? I thought one was hard."

Colson has rushed for 941 yards in 21 career games. His four 100-yard games, nine touchdowns and 4.8 yards per carry rank first on a WVU team that lost major running threat and all-time single-game rushing leader Kay Jay Harris to graduation. Colson, the Iron Mountaineer Award winner as the top performer in winter workouts, is the leading returning pass catcher with 12 receptions.

The Edison Technical High graduate will have 60 family and friends watching the Sept. 4 nationally televised season-opener.

"That has made preparation for this opening game even easier," Colson said. "The game is only 60 miles from my house. And with my family there and my history with Syracuse, this is always a big game for me. I want to play well against them especially."

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