Earning Time

Greyshirted. Redshirted. Scooter Berry's a young player in an old frame of mind.

The freshman, who is in his 20th month in the program after taking a greyshirt and a redshirt season "feels like an older young guy." He's a tough, physical competitor on the defensive line, a place that demands it. He meshes perfectly with the throwback coaching style of Bill Kirelawich, who more resembles a boxing manager than a football coach, towel across the shoulder, sunglasses on in the midst of a rainstorm, beat-up cap slapping players on the hip.

And, with the line numbers taking hits from injuries, Berry's willpower and grit to fight for a slot continues to impress. Because he could have quit, given up football when his all-prep everything half-brother, Jason Gwaltney, failed to remain eligible at WVU after entering with huge expectations as the country's top-ranked tailback. Berry certainly wasn't the biggest or most talented, no surefire three-year starter at any major Division I-A college. But he sacrificed his first years for later time, built a solid body with a mind to match. Now, coming off a great spring, Berry is primed for playing time in the top six behind defensive end Johnny Dingle along the front of the 3-3-5 stack.

"It's tough sometimes," Berry said. "The rotation (along the line) is really small right now. There are a bunch of guys missing, guys hurt. You rest and get ready and you start to count down the days and the games are almost here. I am looking forward to it."

This is Berry's second fall camp, and, because of his greyshirt season, he has already taken part in two spring practice sessions as well. Yet he has four seasons of eligibility remaining after a high school career at North Babylon in New York, where was a two-time all-state and three-time all-county selection, rushing for 1,341 career yards and 20 touchdowns from his fullback slot and making 68 tackles, including seven sacks, as a linebacker his final year. Berry, who graduated in 2004, finally joined the Mountaineers after their 38-35 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia in January of 2006.

"I do feel like an older guy now already," Berry said. "I have just been here a couple years, but I am feeling old. Maybe I'm an older young guy."

Indeed, Berry is backing up a senior in Dingle and is alongside a sophomore in James Ingram and fellow freshman Chris Neild with the second team. Keilen Dykes – a three-year starter who has seen extensive action since 2004 – and Thor Merrow are a senior and sophomore, respectively. So though there will be one slot vacated next year (tackle, by Dykes), Berry must continue to fight over his entire playing career for time.

"We count on working hard and being strong," Berry said. "I feel like I might have a slight advantage over the other guys having been here so long, but nothing is given out. We compete every day. It's always going to be here. As of right now I can't say about depth. We don't know. But we'll continue to work."

Berry did miss Friday's practice with an elbow injury. Also adding to the list of wounded was Dingle (strained hamstring) and Merrow. But Berry, a former scout team defensive player of the year, is aware there remain less than three weeks until No. 6 West Virginia opens the season at home versus Western Michigan.

"We'll be ready," he said. "We aren't right now. There is work left to do. But we will be."

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