Something, however, doesn't compute here. Don't West Virginia Mountaineers despise Pittsburgh? ">
Something, however, doesn't compute here. Don't West Virginia Mountaineers despise Pittsburgh? ">

SnapShot: David Upchurch

David Upchurch grew up in Hyattsville, Md., as a fan of the Washington Redskins, and that didn't change until college.<br><br>"I became a Steeler fan when I went to Morgantown because that's all that was on TV, so you learn to love them," said the Steelers' rookie defensive lineman. <br><br>Something, however, doesn't compute here. Don't West Virginia Mountaineers despise Pittsburgh?

"We don't hate the Steelers," Upchurch said. "Just the Panthers. That's a whole 'nother organization."

Upchurch played a major role in toppling Pitt's chances for a major bowl bid last season. With Pitt trailing by a touchdown and driving in the third quarter of the Backyard Brawl at Heinz Field, the West Virginia defensive end pressured Pitt quarterback Rod Rutherford into a horrible option pitch that didn't reach the tailback but instead bounced off the helmet of fullback Lousaka Polite.

West Virginia recovered and drove for a touchdown and a 24-10 lead. It held up for a 24-17 win, giving West Virginia a 9-3 record and a spot in the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte.

Upchurch, of course, would love nothing better than to cause havoc at Heinz Field again some day as a member of the Steelers.

"I was surprised I ended up here," he said at minicamp. "I got a call from my agent telling me the Steelers were interested and that made me happy because it's a great organization, great team and I think it would be a good fit, a 3-4 team. I played the same thing down at West Virginia, so I'd love to play for Pittsburgh."

West Virginia actually copied the Steelers' 3-4 fundamentals by frequently sending their coaches to Steelers camps.

"Our coaches always brought up the Steelers," Upchurch said. "That's where they got their original defense."

But Don Nehlen's 21-year coaching career at West Virginia came to an end after Upchurch's sophomore season. Incoming coach Rich Rodriguez scrapped the 3-4 in favor of a 4-3 as the Mountaineers collapsed to 3-8 in 2001. Last season, a variation of the 3-4 returned, and it may be something the Steelers, in turn, might want to copy, at least in their nickel package. West Virginia utilized a 3-3-5 alignment last season.

"A lot of people confuse their defense with a 3-4 defense, but it's not," Pitt guard Bryan Anderson told the Post-Gazette last November. "They've got guys stacked behind linemen. It's a really confusing defense."

Upchurch, a former nose tackle, prospered as an end last season. He had a team-high 14.5 tackles for loss to finish third on WVU's all-time list with 35. The team captain was named to the all-Big East second team. With the Steelers, Upchurch is a defensive end who hopes to show off his versatility by playing nose tackle as well.

"I would assume I would if I get a little bit bigger, because their nose tackles run from 300 to 325," he said. "I'm 283 and want to get up to 290 to play the end position. When I get into a set regimen in the summer I shouldn't have any problem putting weight on."

Making the team, of course, would become his career highlight. So far, he ranks the Rutherford fumble just below WVU's win in the 2000 Music City Bowl as his top moment.

"Winning that last one for Coach Nehlen was fantastic," he said. "And last season, going 9-4 after going 3-8 the year before, that was my favorite season. We had great games last year against Virginia Tech and Pitt. All of those games are highlights. Being in Morgantown was a highlight in and of itself. It's a football town with great people. I was comfortable and focused down there."

Jim Wexell
SteelCitySports.com


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