West Virginia-Miami: Locker Room Notes

If nothing else, the last 2 minutes and 30 seconds of Thursday evening's contest were thrilling as the Mountaineers almost pulled off the huge upset. While the games climax was exciting, so was much of the news we found out starting on Wednesday.

Discussions began around quarterback Brock Berlin and his prospects at the next level. Berlin is considered an enigma by many scouts; he is brilliant in the clutch yet looks very ordinary during the games first three quarters. His reads and decision making are questionable as Berlin throws some terrible interceptions, at times looking as though he has no clue as to where his receivers are on the field. This point was continually brought up ; give Berlin time as he's only started five games in his college career and has won all his starts.

Obviously the talk late into the night was of Frank Gore but as we see it there were three parts of the story.

Part one entails Gore's decision to turn pro after the season, which a source friendly to the TFY Draft Preview had tipped us off on this three weeks ago. Evidently if Gore were to have a big campaign, and he was on pace to produce 1500-yards of offense this year, he was entering the draft. Gore comes from a very large and very poor family, to which his prospects at the next level would help sustain them all. We were told even coach Larry Coker was of the opinion the NFL was rightfully the next option for Gore. Those we spoke with on Wednesday prior to the game concurred Gore was in fact planning to play on Sunday's next year.

Part two of the story were opinions on Gore's prospects at the next level. While he is an explosive ball carrier with amazing footwork and cutback abilities there were several areas of concern. First; most feel Gore does not have the body, at least as of now, to hold up on an every down basis at the college level, never mind the pro's (one reason the program is so happy with Jarrett Payton). Secondly, he has not shown that extra step which enables him to run away from defenders and peel off 60-yard runs as Willis McGahee did so often last year in the games tight spots. Whether his lack of breakaway speed has to do with the prior knee injury is debatable. Lastly, Gore has broken down a lot in the early part of the season which raises red flags.

The last part is of the injury suffered last night and how it was explained. During the first weekend of November in 2002 we scouted the Florida State-Wake Forest game in North Carolina and saw what happened to Greg Jones. After Jones initially injured his knee the team classified it as a sprain yet when seeing Jones in the locker room we said, "No way." Ditto for last evening. Gore was valiant trying to jog off the field but was having great difficulty afterwards from what we were told and we saw him on crutches. Someone told us don't be surprised if surgery is performed by weeks end. (It has already been announced Gore did tear an ACL). Right now it would be sheer lunacy if Gore decides to enter the draft.

Likewise our same source told us a while ago, and it was pretty much confirmed last night, that Vince Wilfork will leave Miami and enter the draft next April. The only reason Wilfork did not enter the last year's draft was the promise he made to his mom of staying in college. While scouts are impressed with Wilfork there are by no means overwhelmed. In fact someone made a pointed comment that Wilfork at times plays like "he's trying not to get hurt". Most we spoke with feel Wilfork will be a top twelve pick but has not made a move into the top three in what looks to be a very mediocre draft in the very early reaches. Also, keep this in mind, our source seems to think Cowboy coach Bill Parcells has taken a liking to Wilfork.

Miami is thankful for Jarrett Payton's performance and several scouts in attendance have been pleasantly surprised by the flashes he's shown this year and are classifying him as a "late bloomer". Several reasons were pointed out as to why this may be so. Believe it or not Payton has limited playing experience; he was a standout soccer player in high school and as someone close to the program told us Frank Gore had almost as many carries as a freshman in high school as Payton had in his whole career in high school. Factor in the tragic passing of his father, a car accident which kept him on the sidelines and it all adds up to Payton's football development being slowed. Payton stayed around and got a full schedule of tough off-season work in which put him ahead of the game coming into the season. There is an obviously talent differential between Gore and Payton but scouts were impressed with his hands and interior running skill. To my mind the most impressive aspect about Payton last night was he improved the more work he got, which bodes well for the future.

One victim of Gore's injury is Jason Geathers, the running back-turned-receiver-turned-running back. An excellent athlete with both speed and explosion, Geathers was getting more time at wide out and flashed skill making an outstanding catch last night. Geathers best shot at the next level is as a receiver but the constant movement of positions has left him as a very raw football player as he's never cracked the starting line-up. Now with Gore's injury Geathers will move back to running back and will need some huge pre-draft workouts to move into the middle frames.

How good is Kellen Winslow Jr.? One scout commented last night he's "Jeremy Schockey squared" in every aspect; attitude, athleticism, confidence and production. If he comes out, and the decision may rest with his dad, the consensus with those we spoke with Wednesday is junior will be a top five pick.

Several comments were passed that the Hurricanes are very undisciplined and are not coached to their uppermost level. Seeing cell phones on the sidelines late in a tight game does not help the situation, even if it was harmless.

There were good signs in West Virginia's heartbreak last night. Many were impressed with the performance of running back Quincy Wilson; his interior running skills, strength and ability to finish runs were evident to all. While his pass catching skills are average they are better then anyone originally thought but what really stood out was his blocking. On several plays he had key blocks that sprung quarterback Rasheed Marshall for long gainers.

One scout said he felt WVU Grant Wiley is going to be an excellent inside linebacker in a three-four scheme. The fact is this scout's organization plays that type of scheme.

Finally, anyone at the game last night experienced some hilarity and stupidity right before Miami kicked the winning field goal. While we don't condone fans running onto the field of play but last night was a classic. Just prior to the Hurricane's field goal attempt someone ran to mid-field and was pursued by almost eight police officers. That in itself was not funny, but as the officers chased this knucklehead around the field he produced either a camcorder or digital camera and was taking pictures of the whole ordeal. It took a while for authorities to subdue this person as he showed good juke and jelly in his running but watching this clown take pictures of police as they tired to run him down was hysterical. We figured it was either a fraternity stunt or the pictures would show up on E-Bay.

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