Final Shot

Damien Crissey has gone from solid division II prospect to possible Division I-A starter. And he solely credits West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez's unique offensive sets and styling for that chance.

The senior-to-be (6-4, 280 pounds) would be an undersized lineman at almost any other BCS school. But WVU's spread offense puts a premium on well-conditioned trench players who can run.

"He is one of those overall athletic linemen," said WVU center Dan Mozes, an Outland Trophy contender. "He is the fastest linemen on the team with a 4.9 40. That's pretty smokin' for a guy his size and weight."

Yet his lack of weight is also one of the reasons Crissey received looks from mainly Division II schools out of Bedford High (Mann's Choice, Pa.). He attended Edinboro for a full season and was seemingly content there before watching West Virginia on television. The linemen, the size, the pace of the offense. His mind began wondering…

"I watched a few games and noticed that their linemen were like me," Crissey said. "I liked what I saw. They were not the biggest guys, but agile and could run and move and they were well conditioned."

I can do that, he thought. And a few game films later, Crissey walked-on. He lacked the strength of most of WVU's linemen, and still must gain in that area this summer. But he has proven that he can block at this level, working onto the two-deep last season before being groomed this spring to start in the fall. He and John Bradshaw have yet to settle into their tackle slots left by Travis Garrett and Garin Justice, but Rodriguez noted during spring drills that Crissey "had done some good things at tackle."

"He looks really good," Mozes said. "He is a lot stronger now than last fall and through a lot of spring. He is really working, because he will be a senior. This is his last shot."

And, in many ways, his first. Crissey spent the majority of spring adjusting to the speed of playing on the first unit. He has had a steep learning curve, and his body is still developing into that of a major Division I-A player. Add in that Crissey works at MBC Bridge Company in Bridgeport, W.Va., then reports for lifting every day, and his summer schedule is full and physically grueling.

"It's hard to work outside all day, then come here and lift," he said. "But you just get it done and go to bed early and do it again. I grew up working on a farm, so being outside and working is not so bad. But there is some pressure. I want to prove I can play here and contribute. As a walk-on, you always want to prove you can play here, like Owen Schmitt did."

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