Leader On Board

West Virginia has received its first commitment for its football Class of 2007, and at the same time, stuck a dagger in the arguments of those who maintain the Mountaineers could not keep home state talent within the borders.

Hometown quarterback Charlie Russell, who has helped the Morgantown Mohigans to three consecutive state AAA championships, left no doubt that West Virginia University was his first and only choice.

"I have been thinking that it didn't matter who was going to offer me. I was going to commit to West Virginia regardless," Russell told BlueGoldNews.com. "I've grown up being a Mountaineer fan. I love the state and the town, and it's home to me."

Despite receiving offers from Kentucky, North Carolina State and Nebraska, as well as heavy interest from Michigan, Stanford and Clemson, Russell didn't see any point in prolonging the process.

"I think I would have gotten more offers, but West Virginia University is like a second home to me," Russell said. "I feel at home at the Puskar Center, I drive past it every day.

"It's a big relief to get the decision behind me," the big passer said. "I don't have to worry about calling coaches back, or going to other camps, or telling them I will try to visit their schools. I can concentrate on my senior year, and that's very important to me right now."

That mindset is certainly understandable, as Russell has helped guide the Mohigans to three consecutive state football titles, including the last two as the starting quarterback. He hopes to finish his career with an unprecedented four straight state titles – an achievement that would certainly garner even more attention for him on the recruiting trail. However, his feelings for West Virginia, both the state and the school, combined to lead him to an easy early decision about his college career.

Some observers, noting that Russell's game is passing from the pocket, question whether he will fit into Rich Rodriguez' spread running attack. Russell, who had the same concerns, noted that the origins of West Virginia's offense were based on passing the ball, and that a return to those roots would not be a complex matter.

"I asked Coach Rod about that," admitted the well-spoken, thoughtful Russell. "He told me about the offense he designed at Glenville State, and said that his quarterbacks there ran the 40-yard dash in about a month. But still, they broke all kinds of records there, and that's how the offense is designed. It's easy to go back to that style. They offered me and another passing quarterback out of Ohio [Chris Smith], so it looks like they want to be able to throw the ball more."

At six feet, four inches and 220 pounds, Russell is a strongly built pocket passer who sees the field well and can throw the ball anywhere on the field. And although his 4.9 speed in the 40-yard dash won't qualify him for any Olympic sprints, he does have good enough feet to avoid pressure and run when necessary. It's obvious as well, from his comments, that he feels at ease in stepping in to the West Virginia offense in a couple of years, which is probably the most important factor in the end analysis.

A big benefit that could stem from Russell's early commitment is the fact that he will be able to help in the recruiting process.

"I will absolutely do everything I can to help recruiting, and try to bring in some wide receivers and running backs and offensive linemen, said Russell, who obviously was concentrating on his side of the ball. "I want to be a big help, so anything I can do, I will."

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