Karmic Payback?

West Virginia running backs coach Calvin Magee has been blessed with a number of outstanding rushers during his tenure at West Virginia. For the most part, the affable coach has also kept the injury bug away – but that is something that has changed over the past few weeks.

One of the big keys to putting together a successful season is avoiding injuries – something that's out of the control of any coach. However, after going through several seasons where his starting backs were available for most games, might some karma be catching up with Magee and the Mountaineers this year, as both Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt aren't at 100% and Jeremy Bruce is out for the Gator Bowl?

"I've never thought of it like that. All I try to do is get everyone ready to play," Magee said with a laugh. "Really, I'm excited about Ed [Collington], I'm excited about Jason Colson. And Steve Slaton is still there, and Owen Schmitt is still there. I'm the kind of guy that is going to take the next guy and say, ‘Let's go'. I don't even think about it like that. I think everyone else is more worried about it than I am."

While some might think that Magee is whistling past the graveyard, that's not the case. He knows he can't control injuries or the healing process, so he works with everyone that's available each day and prepares them in the best way possible to be ready on game day. Since worrying about injuries or player unavailability doesn't help in that process, Magee doesn't spend any time on it, or worry that one player or another won't participate.

On the flip side, however, Magee does admit that the lack of game experience for backups is a factor to be concerned with.

"It's a lot different until you get that game experience," he allowed. "You always wonder how someone is going to do in a game. It's just like everybody else, though. We wondered how Steve was going to do before his first game against Virginia Tech last year. And it was the same when Owen or Quincy Wilson played their first game. If they just go out there and play, and be fundamentally sound, they have the talent. They just have to go play."

That leads to the mental side of the experience equation. Just as Magee doesn't know how a player is going to perform physically, he also doesn't know what his mental reaction will be when the lights go on. True to his outlook, however, he doesn't pay any more attention or have any special words of motivation for players preparing for their first real action. So, he won't be hovering over Ed Collington tonight at the team hotel.

"I just tell 'em to go play ball," said Magee. "They've been doing it their whole life. That's why they are here, and that's why we recruited them. I think sometimes we get too much in the psychological stuff. It's football. Just go play ball and cut loose. I just tell them to go have fun and play, and don't make a big deal about it. I remind them of the fundamentals, how to carry the ball, remind them of all the technical stuff, but then send them out to play ball. That's it."

So, no matter who takes the snaps at running back for West Virginia on Monday, they'll get the same instructions. Whether its vets like Slaton, Schmitt or Jason Colson, or inexperienced players like Collington, Magee will have prepared them in exactly the same manner. What he hopes for, of course, are the same rushing results that the Mountaineers have produced all year.

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