Power For Speed?

Owen Schmitt becomes the tailback if Steve Slaton can't play because of his deep thigh bruise. And while that gives West Virginia added power, it saps the speed out of the spread.

There are ways to counter the problem. The first, and most likely, is simply to have Schmitt man the fullback spot and insert tailbacks Jason Colson and Ed Collington in the tailback slot. The second – and what head coach Rich Rodriguez alleges will happen – is for Schmitt to become the tailback. But that takes away much of the speed, the main asset of the Mountaineer backfield and the one edge it most needs against a very fast Georgia Tech defense. Schmitt, who is close to 100 percent after a high ankle sprain has nagged him for more than three weeks, has said that he has been taking most reps as a fullback.

"My role will be the same as it has been in any other game," Schmitt said. "I am running mostly with the fullback. I have ran tailback, but in most of the packages I will be the fullback. I have gotten more reps, gotten my wind back."

Schmitt said he is not expecting increased carries, though Rodriguez said he was the backup tailback. During the power set portion of practices, the I-formation look has Schmitt at fullback and Collington, a slightly bigger, more power back than Colson, at tailback. Slaton has not practiced when the media has been able to watch the sessions, but the All-American did take a few handoffs in a green (limited contact) jersey today and seemed to move fairly well. Schmitt did note that the added snaps in practice have helped him get a better feel for the game and to regain some of his game shape after being limited for more than six weeks.

Schmitt suffered a high right ankle sprain late in the Cincinnati game on Nov. 11 in Morgantown – a 42-24 West Virginia win – and also injured his knee when he was reinserted late after the final outcome was decided. The ankle injury was also combined with a foot problem suffered on the same play. Schmitt hurdled a defender and landed awkwardly. He said he felt like all the bones in his foot mashed together, and he has several bone bruises. The injury takes months to heal properly, and the continuous game prep and practices are why he has not totally healed. He is closer to being totally healthy than he has been since the injury.

"I feel really good," Schmitt said. "I am pretty much 100 percent. The swelling has gone down. I am pretty close, probably about 95 percent. I feel better than I have all season now. The break has helped me out a lot.

Schmitt rushed for 242 yards on 52 carries this season, an average of 4.7 per tote. He has a career-best five touchdowns this year. He has 12 catches in as many games for 91 yards and one score. He has 100 career runs for 622 yards and eight touchdowns. Schmitt's blocking will be a major key, especially against the fast Tech defense. The tailbacks, and WVU overall, will need the physical play as well.

"They play hard and obviously they are a pretty good team," Schmitt said. "They played for the conference championship The overall attitude of the defense is great. They run to the ball and tackle well. It will be a physical game. Our coaches have done a great job figuring out the schemes. We have a decent grasp on what they do."


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