Collington: Finally Healthy, Set To Play

The ankles are fine. It's the mental mindset that reserve tailback Ed Collington is adjusting to now as the potential greatens that he might take snaps for the first time in six games in the Gator Bowl against Georgia Tech.

Collington, a sophomore, has appeared in just four games and totaled two carries for a one yard net. Offensive coordinator and running backs coach Calvin Magee lists him behind starting fullback Owen Schmitt and backup tailback Jason Colson on the logjam after Steve Slaton. With the recent deep thigh bruise to Slaton – which normally takes three weeks to heal – Schmitt's nagging high ankle sprain that "comes and goes," according to the Schmitt, the hamstring injury to receiver/running back Jeremy Bruce and Colson's history of fumbling whenever inserted, Collington could be the main back on Jan. 1.

The 6-0, 200-pounder has shown flashes of the ability and burst he had at Penn Hills High, in Pittsburgh, where he rushed for a 1,700 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior to lead the WPIAL, the nation's largest high school athletic conference. The back, who himself has had a nagging high left ankle sprain, said he has been fully healthy for more than one month. The high ankle sprain occurred in fall drills and took a solid two months to heal.

"He has looked good to me," Magee said. "He has been practicing well and running and cutting on it."

So the biggest question is his approach entering what is a big game for both teams. The New Year's Day exposure would be the most he has had in his short career, and that, coupled with not playing for more than two months, could create a difficult situation for the young back.

"I am trying to correct mistakes and take it very seriously, taking this as an opportunity to get better," Collington said. "I don't think your approach changes. I'm not worried about that. It is a big game, though."

Collington has been used in most of the power sets this week, with Schmitt as the lead blocker. Colson has taken the majority of the first team reps. But the senior, who has carried 19 times for a net of 40 yards, is a lighter runner. That is, Colson doesn't have the power if Collington and doesn't pack as much of a hit when he runs. The latter is also a longer strider and has a burst matched by no other backfield player on the team outside of Slaton and quarterback Patrick White. West Virginia will be able to use him at 100 percent for the first time in his college career.

"My ankle is 100 percent, 110 percent," Collington said. "I have been running and cutting on it pretty good. It feels great. I am taking this the same way I prepare for every game. I do feel I have a bigger chance to play now, though."

Collington said he feels comfortable with both the first and second team linemen and that he doesn't note many differences between the two. His experience in the offense should allow him to play with minimal adjustment, though there will be some as the line feels out the back play and vice versa.

"We are trying to get him ready and get him playing this week," guard Jeremy Sheffey said. "We are seeing if we can get some backfield depth for this game, if nothing else. You get a guy like Steve back there and you make mistakes, he fixes them for you. Ed is a good back, and he will do fine. There won't be much meshing needed. If we make the hole big enough, he'll have to hit it."

Slaton, who rushed for a school single-season record 1,733 yards this year, did not participate in any of the full contact sessions held by the Mountaineers this week. Thursday's practice was to be a non-contact session in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts. Schmitt is listed as the first player behind Slaton, but doesn't offer near the burst of Collington or Colson. His blocking from the fullback slot is a major asset that will be lost of he is only played as a tailback. For Colson, the game will be the last of his career.

"Practice is for getting the timing down," Colson said. "It is a situation where we have to be ready. If one guys goes down, the next has to be ready."

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