Southern Vistas

With a full two weeks between football games and a seemingly unending break of nine days between the first and second basketball contests of the season, there has been plenty of time for WVU fans to sit back and think. That can be a good or bad thing.

Indeed, the break has been a welcome one for yours truly, who has really begun to appreciate the difference in the workload between this and my former job as of late.

My editors at the Daily Athenaeum, my old stomping grounds, might ask for three stories from me if it were a busy week.

That has become my weekly quota for the print edition of the Blue & Gold News (a product which, from reading The Silver Lot this week, I discovered that some of you do not even realize exists) since starting here in late March.

Add in my duties for this web site (for which I normally turn around about six or seven stories a week, depending on the team's activity) and I have found myself to be a much busier young reporter than I was in previous years.

The addition of basketball to the weekly workload in recent weeks has only further served to complicate things.

But like a breath of fresh air, this week came along at the perfect time, giving me the chance to reflect on where both programs stand at this point. I offer the following thoughts to you after letting them rattle about in my brain for the past few days.


I hate to bring more negativity to a web site that has seen more than its fair share of it lately, but the biggest mystery to me about the WVU football team's season has been the poor play of its offensive line.

Sure, we all knew the unit would be extremely inexperienced going into the season. And we knew that having a young front five could lead to an abundance of troubles.

But did anyone expect the offensive line to still be playing at such an inconsistent (or, more troubling, consistently low) level at this point in the season?

For all of the talk about the talent along the line, there has not been much in the way of reasons for optimism at that position this year.

While I won't go as far as to single out or bash individual players, it has been mystifying to watch certain linemen continually fall victim to opposing defenders.

Another offseason to devour film and work with strength and conditioning coach Mike Joseph may do some of those players wonders.

But for now, that won't help quarterback Jarrett Brown get any more time to work in the pocket. Indeed, Brown played perhaps his best game since the Syracuse win in last Friday's 24-21 loss at Cincinnati.

All the fifth-year senior signal-caller needs is some time to operate and he can make things happen.

It's sad to say (but, nevertheless, true) that Brown's best work against the Bearcats -- particularly on the team's next to last drive, which stalled infamously in UC territory when head coach Bill Stewart opted to go for a fourth-and-nine conversion attempt instead of kicking a field goal -- came on broken plays.

Brown had big runs on two such plays, which only came as a result of the QB's improvisation on the field after his protection completely failed him.

While I typically wouldn't mind Stewart's decision to be aggressive at that point in the game and go for the fourth down conversion, the fact that it was an obvious passing down would have led me to opt for the field goal if I were in the head coach's proverbial shoes.

The line had failed to give Brown time to operate for almost the entire game. It had shown just how badly it was struggling earlier on that same drive. So why would anyone think it could suddenly stop an aggressive Cincinnati defense on such a big play?

The play called by offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen (who, to my mind, has taken far more criticism than he has deserved in the past week) was one that seemed to have a chance for success -- if only Brown had gotten a bit of time to work through his progression.

If that same front five struggles in the next two weeks (both of which include games against solid corps of players at both defensive line and linebacker), WVU could very easily end the regular season on a three-game losing skid.


When highly-sought recruit Adreian Payne opted to commit to Michigan State over the Mountaineers, many fans wondered what went wrong.

Others simply lamented the fact that head coach Bob Huggins and company missed out on one of the country's top players.

While there is no doubt that West Virginia would have liked to have Payne in the fold, Huggins' staff hardly missed a beat in recruiting, jumping at the chance to get David Nyarsuk.

The 7-footer from the Sudan, who is playing at Mountain State Academy in Beckley this season, signed before the end of the early letter of intent period.

While Nyarsuk may not have the name recognition of Payne (or the same number of stars beside that name on this web site), he brings some of the same skills to the table that his more highly-sought counterpart did.

Both are considered to be defensive stoppers with the body to alter shots in the post and grab rebounds at will. Both are also considered to be a bit behind the curve in terms of developing an offensive game.

In the end, it was Payne's defensive skills that attracted Huggins and others to him.

In quickly grabbing Nyarsuk, a player with untold potential (as he still has plenty of time to develop his game), the Mountaineer program made a solid move to fill in what was perhaps the most glaring absence on WVU rosters of recent vintage -- interior defense.

If current freshman Dan Jennings can pan out well and Nyarsuk does likewise, opponents may find themselves having a tough time getting points in the paint in games against West Virginia in the coming years.

As for those who have expressed disappointment in missing out on Payne and fellow star recruit Tobias Harris, take heart in the fact that Noah Cottrill (who seems to have become an afterthought to some after committing to Huggins and WVU over two years ago) finally signed his name on the dotted line.

The fact that West Virginia has gone from needing to have key players fall into its proverbial lap (Mike Gansey, Joe Herber, Joe Alexander) to fighting late into pitched recruiting battles with the likes of Kentucky, Syracuse and Michigan State speaks volumes for the job Huggins has done in Morgantown thus far.


...and, apparently, we don't need to know.

The rumors have run rampant since Devin Ebanks failed to appear on the bench or on the floor in WVU's season-opening victory over Loyola University of Maryland last Sunday.

I've seen (and heard) more than my fair share of tales, ranging from the utterly ridiculous to the somewhat plausible.

Reading the Silver Lot, it became apparent to me today that some readers think some of us in the media know more than we are letting on and are simply keeping quiet for our own reasons.

While I can't speak for every media member, I know that is not true in my own case.

Huggins made clear he would not have much to say on the issue. He has remained mum since last Sunday, skillfully dodging the brief questions thrown his way about the situation during a press conference Friday.

The Ebanks mystery has been connected to that of WVU cornerback Brandon Hogan, who did not participate in last season's Meineke Car Care Bowl as he dealt with issues of his own.

In both cases, speculation ran wild after both coaches refused to reveal more than the fact that "personal issues" got in the way of the players continuing to work with their respective teams.

Apparently, neither Huggins nor Stewart cares much for what crazy stories the public invents about their players.

While we seem to be no closer to discovering the truth about Ebanks' absence than we ever were to finding out what happened to Hogan, several fans have speculated on a wide range of reasons for the forward to be missing practices and games.

Regardless of what those reasons are, it is interesting to see two head coaches -- whose styles differ so frequently -- agree to be completely silent about the statuses of some of their players.

While the lack of information can be frustrating for fans (and doubly so for media members, who are paid to find out these things and report on them), it is probably the best policy for all involved that the coaches stay out in front of these situations and refuse to give any details.

It's no accident that Huggins and Stewart have both been labeled as "players' coaches." Their actions in both of these recent circumstances have shown that they will ensure that the privacy of a star college athlete -- a concept that has become more and more eroded in recent years -- is still respected.

Beyond the Xs and Os, those are the sorts of coaches that the average big-time athlete should (and often does) want to play for.

BlueGoldNews Top Stories