Psyched, Not Hyped

For the third time in four seasons, West Virginia will enter the football season as a sexy pick to win the national championship. Before the first kick is teed up, though, fullback/tight end Owen Schmitt has plenty he would like to accomplish during the spring.

It was just two springs ago that Schmitt entered drills as a complete unknown. He was a walk-on transfer from Division III Wisconsin-River Falls, just trying to earn a spot on the team. Now entering his third and final set of spring practices, Schmitt has blossomed into a standout one one of college football's most star-studded teams.

Perhaps no game showcased Schmitt's skill and toughness more than January's win over Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl. In the absence of All-American tailback Steve Slaton, Schmitt filled the role of feature back with 109 yards and a pair of touchdowns to propel his team to victory. Beginning this spring, Schmitt will fill yet another role: tight end.

"I'm pretty psyched about that," Schmitt said. "Hopefully I can help us out in that department."

Truth be told, "that department" hasn't been much more than an extra blocker during the Rich Rodriguez era. Then again, the fullback position fit that bill before Schmitt proved during the spring of 2005 that he was a viable weapon in Rodriguez's offense. The seventh-year head coach has always said that he wants his best players on the field as much as possible. Giving Schmitt some reps at tight end enables him to remain on the field, even when the Mountaineers are running out of a one-back set.

Sure, there are some differences between fullback and tight end. Believe it or not, though, there are a plethora of similarities with the positions.

"As far as the tight end position goes in our offense, it's pretty much like a fullback but you're up on the line," explained the 6'3" 250 pound cult hero. "As far as blocking, it probably won't be that much different. I'll probably be taking on some bigger linemen.

"It's a little new for me, running routes. I'll just have to practice and see how that goes. I'm actually running specified routes. They aren't just like flat routes."

If Schmitt can provide a playmaking threat at more than one position, the already lethal Mountaineer offense will be that much more deadly. Already being touted as a national title contender, an added dimension to the passing game would give those sipping the Blue and Gold Kool-Aid even more reason to drink up.

For the humble hero, nothing could be further from his mind than making a run at the 2007 BCS title. As excited as he is about contributing to the team in a new way, he could care less about the predictions already coming out for a season which doesn't begin for another six months.

"I don't think that you really think about it. It's not even the season yet. Really, all I'm trying to think about is getting better as a player right now. I'm not even thinking about our first game. As far as all the hype is concerned, it's hype. It's fiction. It's a long way away."

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