Paving the Way

For years now, West Virginia's football team has been known for having one of the nation's best running games. It all starts up front, and this year there could be a redshirt freshman helping pave the way for one of America's best backfields.

Meet Greg Isdaner. He's pretty hard to miss, even in a big crowd. His 6'3", 305 pound frame makes him one of the biggest Mountaineers. His excellent play could make him a starter. Isdaner attributes his rise up the depth chart to his work with the Mountaineer strength and conditioning staff.

"Since I've been here I've dropped a ton of weight, but I'm more solidly built than I've ever been in my life," said the well-spoken redshirt freshman. "I just weighed out at 305, which I haven't seen since I was probably a sophomore in high school. I've worked a lot on my speed and my strength. We have the best strength and conditioning staff in the country. They're great to work with and they take care of us."

Isdaner came to WVU from Episcopal Academy in Gladwyne, Pa. At Episcopal he was a first team all-conference and third team all-state performer. His strong prowess in the classroom led to many offers from smaller, but more academic schools like Georgetown and Penn. In his heart, though, he wanted to be a Mountaineer. With a year in Morgantown under his belt already, he has no regrets.

"It's been a great experience so far, coming into a great program where everybody works so hard and competes everyday," he said. "You can't find a better program. I like to work hard everyday, and I felt good about coming here."

For much of fall camp, Isdaner ran with the first team at left guard. His ability allowed offensive line coach Rick Trickett to move sophomore Ryan Stanchek (last year's starter at left guard) out to left tackle. Things were going well until Isdaner went down with a knee injury. An MRI later showed no structural damage, and the big man returned to practice on Monday.

"I'm recovering from my sprained MCL," he said. "It's still not at 100 percent, but it's coming back. I've been practicing and I've seen a lot of positive things. I think Coach Trickett has seen a lot of positive things, but I can't speak for him."

Being a young offensive lineman can be rough. West Virginia's running game relies a lot on the zone blocking scheme up front. Trickett has shown numerous times though that he will play his best five, no matter what year they are. With that being the case, don't be shocked to see Isdaner getting plenty of reps with the first team during next Saturday's game against Marshall. He may make some mistakes, but with WVU's three-headed monster of Owen Schmitt, Steve Slaton, and Pat White running the football, those mistakes could end up being unnoticeable to the naked eye.

"Sometimes you can mess up on a play, but because Steve has that great speed, Owen has that great power, or Pat has that great quickness they can remedy your mistake quickly. I may not be perfect on every play, but with the other guys around me we can still be good on every play as a team," he says.

Isdaner has also been impressed with the leadership roles assumed by the Mountaineer backfield.

"They come to the field everyday ready to work, even if they're a little bit banged up," he says.

The big man has also found a couple of "big brothers" in senior offensive line stalwarts Dan Mozes and Jeremy Sheffey, each of whom has started their fair share of games in Morgantown.

"Mozes and Sheffey have been great leaders," said the business and economics major. "They take care of you, even when you first come into the program as a freshman. They're such great mentors for me."

Who knows, maybe in a few years it will be Isdaner mentoring the younger linemen? Right now though, he's soaking up as much information as he can, and trying to get back to 100 percent. Once that happens, Isdaner could be playing a big role on the Mountaineer offensive line.

BlueGoldNews Top Stories