Western Trails

West Virginia's 2008 football roster is taking on a bit of a western tinge with the commitment of a second player from Phoenix College in Arizona.

Courtney Stuart, a six foot, three inch, 220-pound safety, has committed to the Mountaineers. He follows cornerback Brantwon Bowser, who graduated from the school in December, signed with West Virginia during the early period and enrolled in January. While Stuart won't be able to come to West Virginia until he graduates from Phoenix College in May, he could team with Bowser to help shore up WVU's depth in the secondary, which was hit hard by graduation.

Stuart excelled at the safety spot for Phoenix in 2006 as a freshman, but then tore the labrum in his shoulder following the season. He worked out during the offseason and tried to play through the injury, but was unable to do so, and ended up having surgery and sitting out the 2007 season.

"We didn't even know he had done it," Phoenix head coach Dale Wolfley told BlueGoldNews.com. "He worked out the whole summer with it, but we finally found out about it and he had to sit out."

The good news surrounding the injury is that surgery completely fixed the tear, and doctors gave Stuart a clean bill of health. Stuart's absence from the field also means that he has three years in which to play three seasons at West Virginia, which gives him an extra year of Division I football.

"West Virginia got an absolute gem," Wolfley said in describing Stuart. "I am telling you, he has been off the radar [because of the injury], but West Virginia knew the situation, and that his health was good. The injury caused a lot of Division I schools to pull off of him, because they want to see [junior college players] play as sophomores. Even as good as he was as a freshman, some of them want to see him again as a sophomore. So when he didn't play this year, he fell off the radar."

In his one year at Phoenix, Stuart had 40 tackles and one interception. He did that while making the transition from cornerback, which he played in high school, to safety.

Stuart possesses the size and speed to be an impact player at safety, and could well be an outstanding candidate for the spur or bandit position in West Virginia's defense. Along with his linebacker-like frame, he has 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash, which should allow him to play well in pass coverage in Division I.

"I think he will be a safety," Wolfley confirmed. "He played that position really well for us in 2006, and his speed is really suited for safety.

"He had a really good outcome from the surgery, and he is set to graduate this spring," Wolfley continued. " He came to us as a non-qualifier, but has worked hard and done everything he needs to do."

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