Making A Difference

Spring football practice is a time for individual improvement and experimentation, but it also can be a time when breakout players come to the fore. At West Virginia, two such "difference makers" have dominated the news during the first half of camp.

The pair of players, one on offense and one on defense, have made a big difference in the performance of their respective units, and while it wouldn't be fair to say that they are the whole story of the spring, they certainly have been the most noticeable.

The defensive catalyst, Reed Williams, certainly hasn't been a surprise in terms of his performance, but his effect on the overall play of Jeff Casteel's squad wasn't totally expected. While Williams, the defensive MVP of the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, definitely made those around him better, his ability to up the play of the stop troops this year has been even more dramatic.

"When No. 47 (Reed Williams) is in there, we're a different football team," head coach Bill Stewart said following Friday's work. "He is critical out there. If things are going a certain way then he can change it with his experience. He's like an extra coach out there."

It wasn't the first time Stewart has commented on the effect of Williams, who seems to amp up both the intensity and the performance of his mates when he's on the field.

Part of it may be a confidence factor, as players such as J.T. Thomas and Pat Lazear can go more freely when they have the senior beside them. And part may be the comfort of knowing that Williams is available to clean up mistakes. Whatever the reason, there's no doubt that Williams is the defensive difference so far.

Wes Lyons
Offensively, several players have made noticeable improvements since the end of last year, but none more so than Wes Lyons, who has risen from bit player to a featured performer so far. Lyons, working from the slot position, has been effective in red zone drills, and has made himself a big target in the middle of the field. That's the major difference from his career to date, when he didn't seem to use his height to its greatest advantage.

"Jarrett Brown keeps looking for him. and it looks like there is a connection that is forming there and that is neat to see," Stewart said of the blooming duo. "That's really exciting and he's been healthy and that's what excites me. He's always had a bump here or a nick there, and that has been frustrating. He's doing a real good job and I'm very proud and pleased with what he's done. He's a big target and I think our offensive staff is using him very wisely. It's good seeing him in that slot and outside position. There are a lot of plays and I think he can handle that.

Before Lyons is put in the same company as David Saunders or Khori Ivy, however, there are still questions to be answered. Consistency is one -- can he keep up this performance when fall and games roll around? Can he flip between the slot and wideout positions to create mismatches? Can he get separation, or use his height to its greatest effect? The fact that those questions are even part of the conversation right now, however, show just how far Lyons has come since the end of last year -- and his potential for becoming the sort of difference maker that Williams figures to be defensively.

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