Into The Great Wide Open

They have been through the paces, ran the routes, caught – and thrown – the passes. West Virginia's slash twosome has been repping alongside rare company.

Adam Bednarik, the quarterback-turned-receiver, has played on the first team during most preseason practices alongside fellow quarterback Nate Sowers, now manning only a slot wideout position. That puts three quarterbacks on the field at one time, with Patrick White behind center and Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt in the backfield. Oh, a plethora of options!

The moves of Bednarik and Sowers create a Pandora's box for defenses. Sowers, in particular, can run past a defender, or body him up, bullying a corner for the ball and bruising not only his sternum, but also his ego. Imagine the postgame locker room, media and fellow players asking how a Division IA corner got burned not by West Virginia's backfield, but by a former member of it, and a quarterback no less. It's amusing if you're a Mountaineer fan, disheartening if you're not.

"Those guys are good enough to help us win," head coach Rich Rodriguez said of Bednarik and Sowers. "And being former quarterbacks, they know where to run the routes and what we're looking for. That gives them an advantage."

And that edge trickles down throughout the WVU offense. Bednarik and Sowers have the unique perspective and ability to read coverages and know the routes and how to run them to assist their quarterback. White has said the duo are among the best at having a complete knowledge of the offense and everything within it, and because of that offensive coordinator and assistant head coach Calvin Magee is trusting the players to help in a passing game that has wanted for big-play threats the last two years.

"A lot of the route packages that we do have, it's a lot of reads off what the defense is doing to know where to run the route," Bednarik said. "It's constantly reading coverages. I felt that (being a quarterback) helped me out as far as seeing coverages and where I needed to be. But being that we are a running offense, in the last few years our receivers have become known for their blocking ability. If I am out there blocking I will do it as hard as I can.

"I am just trying to find a spot on the field. I am going out there and giving it everything I have everyday. It's different, though, being full speed running every play, and the blocking. It really takes everything out of you. You gotta get set and ready to go because you are running such a fast-paced offense."

Bednarik and Sowers have adapted, getting into receiver shape as opposed to quarterback shape. It has been six years since Bednarik last played receiver during his junior season at Bethlehem Catholic in Pennyslvania. At West Virginia, the 6-2, 225-pounder has been plagued by injury. He missed the entire 2006 season recovering from shoulder surgery, that after being held out of the final seven games of 2005 because of the same shoulder. In nine career games, he has thrown for 532 yards on 55 of 75 completions with four touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Sowers, who led Class AAA Martinsburg to the state title game, has more game experience than Bednarik at wideout, and is also manning some special teams slots. The sophomore did not see varsity action in 2005, but did catch a six-yard reception from backup quarterback Jarrett Brown in the week six win over Syracuse. He scored a rushing touchdown in the win over Eastern Washington, injuring his hamstring on the play. That limited him until later in the season and, like Bednarik, Sowers is eager to get on the field and prove he can play at the highest levels of college football.

"It was tough adjusting," Sowers said of his move to receiver. "As a quarterback, you might take a three-step drop and throw the ball and that's the play right there. As a receiver you are out there blocking and running 20 yards each play. It is totally different, but I have adjusted. That's what you want in a program. It has to do with both (physical and mental toughness). No matter what position you play, it is going to wear and tear on you. It's part of being a football player. A lot of guys take pride in that."

Said Bednarik: "I don't look at it as a sense of urgency. When I put the pads on, I play as hard as I can. It killed me not to be able to play last year. It's my final year here, so I want to make an impact in whatever way I can."

And the best part, they both agreed, is that perhaps now fans would listen to them when they say all interceptions are not the fault of the quarterback.

"A receiver can make a wrong read and hang the quarterback out to dry," Bednarik said. "Playing wide receiver, I can see where all those things come into play. To people in the stands, and on paper, it goes down as an interception that looks bad on the quarterback. But it's not always the quarterback's fault. Sometimes it is the receiver's fault. A lot of people don't understand that."

NOTE: The latest depth chart issued by WVU has Sowers as a starter in the slot along with Darius Reynaud. Bednarik is not listed among the two deep at wideout, despite his many appearances with the first group during fall camp.

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