Tall Task

With the Gator Bowl drawing closer by the minute, West Virginia strong safety Eric Wicks is making sure he does everything he can to prepare for the Georgia Tech offense.

When West Virginia takes the field against Georgia Tech on New Year's Day, Wicks will be one of the few Mountaineer defensive backs to have starting experience in a bowl game. That experience, though, won't necessarily make him any more ready to cover the talented receiving corps of Georgia Tech, led by consensus All-American and Biletnikoff Award winner Calvin Johnson.

"They have a pretty high powered offense," Wicks said. "It's kind of similar to ours, but they throw the ball downfield a little bit more to Calvin Johnson and James Johnson as well.

"They have a pretty good tailback (junior Tashard Choice), who led their conference in rushing. They have a great offense, and it's going to be tough to stop them."

One of the things that makes Johnson so dangerous is his size. At 6'5" 235 pounds, he has the frame of a tight end. On top of that, he has an impeccable ability to go up and get the ball. To top it all off, he's got the speed to turn a small gain into a big play.

"He's already 6'5" but he goes up for the ball like he's 5'11". Going up for the ball with him is going to be kind of hard, but we'll have to fight it," Wicks explained. "Not anything against some of the other teams we've played that have great receivers, but Calvin Johnson is an All-American. There's not another receiver out there like him. We have to go out there, give it all that we've got."

With the attention that Johnson commands, it's easy to think of the Georgia Tech offense as a one-trick pony. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Choice, who tranferred from Oklahoma after the emergence of Adrian Peterson, led the ACC With 1,304 rushing yards while scoring ten touchdowns. If the Mountaineers worry too much about the Biletnikoff recipient, Choice can certainly make them pay.

"That's what we have to worry about," Wicks noted. "We don't want to just key on Johnson, because they have a running back that runs the ball very hard. We have to worry about all of it. They have a lot of ways to attack, and we have to try to stop them."

Another role Wicks must play is that of a leader. After going to a BCS bowl game this year, the Mountaineers spent much of this season in a position to return to college football's grandest stage. A late-season loss to South Florida dashed hopes of a second straight big payday, but Wicks and his fellow team leaders are making sure that there won't be a letdown in Jacksonville.

"It's not a disappointment; it's more of an anger to play," he said of heading to Alltell Stadium for the third time in four years. "You want to play so bad and give it all you've got, because you feel like you haven't given it all that you've got just because you haven't made it that far. So we have to give it all you've got, and just go out and play football."

Before you know it, the game will be here. Wicks and his teammates know they'll have their hands full with the Yellow Jackett offense, but are certainly embracing the challenge that lies in front of them.


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