Leading The Way

In theory, the natural progression of a college football player's career is supposed to culminate with an outstanding senior season.

Before the player can have an outstanding senior year, though, he must go through spring drills. And while spring is certainly viewed as a time for the entire team to get back to basics, by and large it is the younger players who are most under the microscope.

Apparently, that message did not reach rising senior linebacker Mortty Ivy prior to this spring. As a first-year starter during the 2007 season, Ivy had a career year for the Mountaineers, finishing with 89 tackles (48 solo) as the Mountaineers won another Big East Championship and captured the Fiesta Bowl title.

Ivy's breakout season was a major -- if underappreciated -- reason that the Mountaineer defense as a whole showed drastic improvement from the 2006 campaign.

With Ivy being one of the lone returning starters on defense, WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel no doubt has a great idea of what his senior strongside linebacker is capable of. Even still, an outstanding junior season and the trust of his defensive coordinator hasn't stopped Ivy from playing like a man possessed so far this spring.

"This is my final spring, man. The final spring," Ivy told BlueGoldNews.com following Saturday's scrimmage. "I've got to go all-out after having already been through these for four years."

In each of the eight workouts so far this spring, Ivy's play on the field has been nothing short of spectacular. Head coach Bill Stewart has mentioned his name seemingly every day, proclaiming after one practice that No. 44 is having "the spring of all springs."

Besides making tackles and creating havoc, Ivy has added another extra something to his game. On a defense more or less devoid of seasoned experience, the former Gateway Gator has assumed a leadership role left vacant with the likes of Keilen Dykes, Eric Wicks and Ryan Mundy having moved on after their senior years.

Whether it's leading vocally or by example, Ivy has filled the role beautifully. According to him, there was never another option.

"Me being a senior coming back from last year, I have to step into that role now," he explained. "We lost a lot of guys that helped lead us on defense and the team, and now it's my turn to fill the role, help out the young guys, and of course go make plays."

Leading the defense, helping younger players and making plays do not look to be challenging hurdles for the Multi-Disciplinary Studies major. That doesn't mean that Ivy will be letting down his guard anytime in the final seven workouts of spring, or even during summer conditioning drills leading up to fall camp.

For the senior, there's only one way: all-out.

"It's all about getting better every day," he said. "The goal right now is to come out here and get better every single day. You've got to make plays, and do all you can for the defense. As long as we keep doing that, we should be really good come fall camp and after we add in some new guys from this summer. We'll be real good for the fall.

"There's always more improvement you can make, you know what I mean? No matter how good you get, there's always more you can do the next day to be better. That's what we've got to do."

If Ivy's play is a barometer of what the rest of the defense is capable of, another big year for the Mountaineer stoppers just might be in the works.

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