Unselfish Play Keys Depth

With the recent attention to basketball, West Virgina's upcoming offseason football workouts have been largely overlooked. It will be a key summer for the Mountaineers, who hope to throw more to take pressure off the Pat White-Steve Slaton combo. And there might be no better player to judge their ability to do so than Jason Colson.

Colson has switched from tailback to receiver, and could again move into the backfield if needed. The upperclassman has seen game action at each position, knows the offense from both slots, and is among the few WVU players who have watched head coach Rich Rodriguez's spread offense morph from a true spread to a power running attack.

"I am an old guy, so I know the ins and outs," Colson said. "I have seen a lot of growth from the beginning, both in the offense and in players. And now it really is on us receivers and the quarterbacks this summer."

That's a nod toward West Virginia's plan to throw more. The relationship and flow between the wideouts and White, among the other quarterbacks, will be more important than ever as teams additionally stack the box to slow Slaton and fullback Owen Schmitt, among others. Slaton, the Sugar Bowl MVP, rushed for 1,128 yards (5.5 per carry) and 17 touchdowns in an offense that averaged 32.1 points per game despite throwing for just 116.5 yards per game. White carried for 952 yards, while Schmitt ran for a team-third-best 380 yards (7.9 yards per carry) while never losing a foot.

"Teams are going to try and stop Pat and Steve," Rodriguez said. "We know that. We know they'll make us play pitch and catch. We have to be able to do that."

Which means additional tossing between the wideouts and receivers. White and fellow signal-callers Jarrett Brown and T. J. Mitchell will be available all summer. Backup quarterback (at the end of last season) Adam Bednarik and reserve Nate Sowers must get healthy before they can throw. Bednarik could face off-season surgery on his throwing shoulder that might end his season.

"We'll try and throw three times a week," Colson said. "We want to throw the ball more and be ready for that going into fall, so the offensive guys might meet more. We'll throw and catch more balls in the summer. It should be a good one. It's going to be key as far as the passing game goes.

"If you look at the start of spring until the end, T.J. Mitchell really emerged. Pat White is Pat White. The other quarterbacks have played well. Brandon Barrett can play. It was time for him to let it loose. He's from West Virginia, so he'll let it loose this fall. I am still learning, but it's good to see different guys out there giving their all."

West Virginia will also have wideouts Brandon Myles, Darius Reynaud – who emerged as an athletic threat – Dorrell Jalloh, Jeremy Bruce and Rayshawn Boldon. Myles and Reynaud caught 34 and 30 passes last year, respectively, for a combined 833 yards and eight touchdowns. Slaton was the only other player with more than eight catches (Colson snared eight for 97 yards for 12.1 yards per catch), and the only players other than those three who caught passes for scores for the 11-1 Mountaineers were Jalloh and tight end Mike Villagrana.

Additional help in the fall from incoming freshmen Wes Lyons and John Maddox will provide depth. Lyons, at 6-7, could especially help in the deep game, where WVU has been lacking since the loss of NFLer Chris Henry. Slaton will be backed up by Tyler Benoit, switched over from defense, and Jet Best, along with newcomer Ed Collington.

Colson also took spring carries as well, prepping for a backup role. The only other player to have seen action in multiple slots on both sides is Pernell Williams, who started at tailback, moved to corner, and has returned to the backfield for additional depth. Williams' presence should allow Colson, who carried 43 times for 120 yards last year, to concentrate solely on the slot wideout position. Williams toted 67 times for 197 yards and two touchdowns. The junior also caught three passes.

"Pernell has been making the transition great," Colson said. "He is a veteran guy, too, so he knows the offense like the back of his hand. He is confident, but not cocky. He knows what is going on."

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