The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

April 10, 2013

Unlikely path turns onetime center into RB

MORGANTOWN — A month ago to the day, as this is written, West Virginia opened spring football practice with almost too many unknowns to imagine, yet there was one area where head coach Dana Holgorsen felt his team had a proven strength — running back.

And, among the running backs, perhaps the one he felt most certain of was the most unlikely one in a bunch including returners Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison and newcomers Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood.

But Holgorsen went a step further in noting the running back strength, singling out in-state produce Cody Clay as someone who will “line up back there and do some good things.”

Nothing has changed that opinion and, in fact, Cody Clay has, if anything, further entrenched himself in the picture even though he is anything but what one would expect out of a running back.

Certainly this former George Washington player who was projected to be a center when recruited — more on that later — has won over the new running back coach JuJuan Seider during the first month of drills.

You ask him who among the running backs has impressed him, and while all of them have, the answer you get is not the one you expect.

“I keep going back to Cody Clay,” Seider said. “He’s doing everything we have in the backfield, on the line, catching the ball.”

He’s used as a blocking back, as a slot receiver, mostly to clear the way for others, and he does it better than anyone else.

“To me, if you don’t block, you’re not playing,” Seider said. “That quarterback position is too important, especially in this offense.”

And right now Cody Clay is his prime protector, much as the Secret Service agent is in charge of the safety of the president of the United States.

“I love to block,” Clay admitted. “I’d rather block than even catch the ball.”

It is wrong, however, to believe that Clay will simply serve as a blocker ... sort of a sixth offensive lineman. He can catch the ball and run it, too.

“I trust him enough to have no problem putting the ball in his hands,” Seider said.

Why not? Being with the ball in his hands was how WVU and Seider, then at Marshall, envisioned him when they were recruiting him a couple years back ... only it wasn’t running with the ball or catching it.

It was snapping the ball. They asked him to move to center.

“Everyone presumed he was going to grow into an offensive lineman,” Seider said.

Seider had seen players like Clay grow into linemen, noting that John Thornton had come to WVU as a tight end and became an NFL defensive lineman and he envisioned the same in Clay.

Clay was asked to gain 30 pounds while becoming the scout team player of the year in 2011.

“I ate a lot, but I don’t know what happened,” Clay said. “I just couldn’t gain the weight I needed to. I thought it would be easy, but I tried.”

While everyone on earth seems to be fighting to keep weight off and losing the battle, Clay fought to put it on and lost.

“We thought he would be a center,” Seider admitted. “He was big, he ran well, caught the ball well. It’s just the style of offense where you fit them. It’s a testament to him; he lived right, he did the right things on and off the field to develop into the type of player he is.”

And that type of player is the kind that lays it all out there on every play, and a coach can’t get enough of them.

“I’m hoping Elijah Wellman (a recruit out of Spring Valley) is the same type kid,” Seider said. “Those kids build a program. They are the same type of kid — blue collar and will do anything you want them to do and will sacrifice so much to be part of this program. You need those kids in your program.”

All one needs do is think back to what Wes Ours did for the Mountaineers a decade or so ago as fullback in a lineman’s body to understand the importance of such a player.

That is how they saw Clay.

“We felt he’d make the running back room better because those guys see him competing and laying it on the line every day,” Seider said. “It’s easy when I can say, ‘Hey, look what Cody’s doing. You guys need to do the same things. You don’t understand how privileged you are to have someone like Cody who lays it on the line for you like that.’

“Guys buying in, believing in him, having his back, making him want to work hard is good for everyone in the room.”

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: NCAA football is thriving in the digital age

    The other day Baylor football coach Art Briles walked into his graduate assistants’ office and had to laugh at what he saw.
    “There’s five guys sitting in there — a couple of GA’s and some office personnel — and they all are within a foot and a half of each other and not a one of them is talking to each other,” Briles said, describing the scene “Every one of them is on the phone.”

    April 24, 2014

  • O’Brien leads WVU baseball past Marshall

    Catcher Cam O’Brien made a bid at becoming only the second West Virginia University player to hit for the cycle as the Mountaineers jumped on Marshall early and routed their in-state rival, 10-3, behind strong pitching from Corey Walter and a pair of relievers.

    April 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- WVU faithful again have a reason to root against Vick

    It would be one final indignation, that’s what it would be if Michael Vick were to beat out Geno Smith and win the starting quarterback job with the New York Jets.

    April 23, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Luck open to WVU fans’ suggestions

    West Virginia’s fans have spoken, perhaps not verbally but nonetheless have had their voices heard, over the past few years as attendance has fallen at the Mountaineers’ football and basketball games.

    April 22, 2014

  • Mountaineers ready for slate of rivalry games

    Looking to put together a late-season run to get into the NCAA championships, West Virginia faces a pair of midweek rivalry games in a crucial five-game week coming off winning two of three games at Oklahoma.

    April 22, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Summer, Alabama will be used to get WVU’s mind right

    The ink had barely dried on the final reports out of West Virginia’s spring practice when thoughts turned forward toward the lazy, hazy days of late summer, days that will bring us into football season with a game that can either change the entire image of WVU football or sour it even further.

    April 21, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Watson tees off a new century at The Greenbrier

    You knew this was going to be one of those unpredictable, memorable days when you drove into the Greenbrier Resort and headed to the Old White Golf Course and found the best parking place in the joint.
    As Bob Uecker would say, right there in the front rooooow.

    April 20, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads