Waiting Game

For someone like West Virginia defensive lineman Scooter Berry, the biggest hurts don't come on the football field. They occur when he can't get onto the field at all.

Berry has both dished out and received pain on the gridiron. As a battering ram fullback at North Babylon (N.Y.) High School, he blocked and ran his way through, and often over, opposing defenders. He also dealt out hits on defense, helping his team to its league championship. Unfortunately for Berry, he also was on the receiving end of some hard knocks, one of which was an ACL injury to his knee that hobbled him during his senior season. Although he kept playing, the injury caused him to get behind in preparation for what would have been his freshman year in 2005. "I had packed on a few pounds [after the injury]," Berry explained. "I was three months behind, and I ended up grayshirting."

The hard working New Yorker certainly wasn't slacking. It was simply a matter of being unable to work, run and play the way he did before he was injured. As a result, the coaching staff decided to grayshirt the promising prospect, which gave him more time to rehabilitate and recover. While that will probably end up being a great decision in the long run, it did have one immediate negative effect.

"The most difficult thing about sitting out [last fall] was going to the games and watching," the expressive freshman said. "After playing every year since I was a kid, sitting out was very hard. It hurt. Just sitting in the house every day and not being able to come out was tough, so getting back on the field and being able to come out and play every day with the Mountaineers was a great thing for me."

Berry, who returned to the field this past spring, didn't waste much time in grabbing the attention of the WVU coaching staff. While noting he had to "get used to contact again", the physical player proved to be a natural at the defensive end spot. That he landed at that position was something of a surprise, as Berry was originally targeted as a fullback or a linebacker. However, the need for edge rushers, coupled with his weight gain, earned him a slot up front.

"I didn't expect it at all. I didn't even expect to be playing defensive line," he said of his current position. "But when they moved me, I sucked it up, and now I am doing a great job. I am thankful. To be honest, I didn't know where I was going to play. I didn't care if was offensive line or whatever.

"Coach Kirelawich calls me a natural, so I think that's where I belong. I am most comfortable at defensive end, but if I had to play nose or tackle, I could do that. I just have to produce and help the team."

As Berry went through WVU's rigorous offseason conditioning program, he dropped the extra pounds he was carrying. And although he's beginning to put a few of those back on, he's still one of the smaller defensive linemen you'll see.

"They call me little, and that hurts," Berry said with a laugh as he explained his simple, descriptive nickname. I went from being the biggest guy in high school to one of the smallest here."

Although most would not say that measurements of six feet, two inches and 265 pounds was small, Berry will be outweighed by every one of his opponents this year. However, he has other weapons he can employ to get the job done.

"I would say my footwork is one of my strengths," he noted. "Being a fullback in high school helped me develop that. I can drop my hips and I have a lot of good overall flexibility. Up top I am strong, and I can move the big guys around. Having great footwork is a big deal at defensive end. I have to work on my hand positioning a little more."

Berry's performance has been good enough to make him a viable candidate to get on the field in the first game of his career. And although that might seem fast to many Mountaineer fans, for Berry, it's been a long time in coming.

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