"He is a very good runner, but he has a lot more tools than that," Alston told BlueGoldNews.com in describing the talents of rising senior Barry Brunetti, who committed to West Virginia after a visit. "I think he's shown this spring, and at the camps he's attended, that he's a lot better passer than people give him credit for. I think he got pigeonholed a little bit when people looked at him early on, but I'm not shocked at all. He's a good passer."
Any quarterback that operates out of the shotgun and piles up good rushing numbers can face the same stigma – that of being a runner who just throws the ball on occasion. That's not the case with Brunetti, however, as Alston is quick to reinforce. As a coach that is trying to win games and do what is best for his team, he is going to use each player's skills to get the best outcome for the group.
"We're in the shotgun, but we do what we need to do to win," Alston explained. We are balanced, but we will take what the defense gives us. If that means throwing the ball or running it, that's what we will do."
That philosophy echoes what West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart and offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen are working toward at WVU, and thus would seem to make Brunetti a good fit for the Mountaineers. Alston is quick to point out, however, that the rising senior shouldn't be slotted as a spread quarterback any more than he should be a running one.
"I think he can play in any system," he said of Brunetti. "I think he can play in West Virginia's system, and I think he could play in Southern Cal's system. He's just a very good passer who can run it, too."
Alston also likes the way in which Brunetti handles things off the field. He describes him as more of a lead-by-example player, but one that has the respect of his teammates.
"He's a leader who probably doesn't say a whole lot. He's not a guy that will scream and yell at his teammates, and that's probably a reflection of me, because I'm not that way," Alston explained. "That's just not our team personality. But he does what he is supposed to do, and he is dependable. That's why the players on our team look up to him and respect him."
Brunetti also earns praise from his coach in other respects. MUS went undefeated and won the Class 2A championship last year, defeating several opponents with such ease that Brunetti played only a handful of series in some games. However, he handled the lack of playing time with grace.
"We had some games get out of hand early, and we might have scored 100 points if we had left him in," Alston observed. "But that's not the kind of thing we do, so some other players got to play. We also had a senior quarterback that was pretty good that we wanted to play, and so he got to play some as well. Barry never complained about that, or about the number of snaps he got. I love that he his not selfish."
Those attributes certainly helped build that respect, and were also reflected in Brunetti's stated desire to wrap up the recruiting process by late June or early July. Alston believes that he set that deadline in order to avoid any negative impact on the team, so that he could give his undivided attention to preparation for his senior season. While the early decision might have cost him an additional offer or two, it's clear that Brunetti wasn't just focused on himself – yet another attribute that's required for a successful leader.
As a private school, MUS might get some questions about its level of competition, but Alston notes that his team plays some top teams from Mississippi before embarking on league play later in the year. MUS' march to the state title a year ago should also put to rest any issues about the talent level.
"I'm not saying it's better, but I think the level of football we play is as good as it is anywhere," Alston said.
* * *
Brunetti will have most of his offense back from a year ago, but MUS will have to do some rebuilding on defense in order to defend its state title.