The Times West Virginian

Sports

November 16, 2012

WVU gets help from in-state talent

MORGANTOWN — Ever since Rich Rodriguez discovered football gold in these here hills of West Virginia, a steady flow of top-level national talent has come to the state, lifting the WVU program back to the heights Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen had built it to during the 1980s and 1990s.

While readily adopted as its own by a state starved for victory and national recognition, West Virginia is always craving for one of its own to rise to the top, be it Randy Moss at Marshall or Quincy Wilson at West Virginia.

This past weekend a trio of West Virginians were given a chance, and all three made solid to spectacular contributions in a game that turned out to be a fourth straight Mountaineer defeat, 55-34, at Oklahoma State.

That threesome will be back at it trying to end the losing streak and Oklahoma’s BCS dreams when the Sooners coming to Milan Puskar Stadium for the first time at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Ryan Nehlen, the former coach’s grandson and a senior out of Morgantown’s University High trying to close out his career with his biggest contributions, caught four passes including a touchdown; Connor Arlia, a sophomore out of Weirton, had a pair of catches, one of them as spectacular a diving grab as has been made on any football field in the nation this year, college or NFL; and Cody Clay, a 260-pound redshirt freshman tight end/fullback out of George Washington High, gave the Mountaineers the big man blocking on the corner that had been lacking in the attack.

Now one may wonder why, at this late date, three West Virginia players should be getting their chance.

Part of it, of course, is that four-game losing streak, which forces change, but the Mountaineers also lost two wide receivers during the week.

First it was Travares Copeland, a talented freshman who had caught 10 passes during the season and had just earned a chance to start, and highly-rated Ivan McCartney, also a sometime starter, left the team.

Coach Dana Holgorsen has been making a point lately that his team isn’t lacking talent or coaching, but it is lacking attitude, a hard-nosed, gritty, attacking attitude … the kind of attitude West Virginians are known for, and these three players had it.

Asked what makes a good inside receiver, Holgorsen replied:

“It is grit, toughness and effort.”

This, he noted, comes when playing and winning means a lot to a player.

“You take guys like Connor (Arlia), Ryan (Nehlen) and Cody Clay. Those are three of the most disappointed kids in our locker room after the game. We need more of that to exist. I am proud of how they did that. I can’t manufacture new people. It is what we’ve got.”

Clay’s size and blocking ability was something Holgorsen had been seeking much of the year, his two inside receivers being Tavon Austin and Jordan Thompson, whose nickname “Squirt” gives you an idea about his size.

“It helps on the inside,” Holgorsen said. “We watched Texas Tech’s offense against Oklahoma’s defense. I studied that a lot this week. That guy (big inside receiver Jace Amaro) just destroys people. So the physical presence on the inside is necessary.

“We don’t have that physical presence on the inside. You have Tavon (Austin) and Squirt (Jordan Thompson). Those guys run circles around people, but they don’t necessarily run right into people.”

So, he put Clay, who had been more of a fullback but was overlooked since Ryan Clarke returned from injury, back into the slot.

“Having Cody (Clay) at that spot last week did us some good. He sprung Tavon for a touchdown, and he blocked well on the perimeter. He probably blocked better on the perimeter than he did in the backfield.”

While Nehlen’s touchdown and Arlia’s diving catches were noticed, what went unseen was the blocking … not only from Clay but also form Arlia, also an inside receiver.

“Having those guys I think is important, yes,” Holgorsen said. “Connor (Arlia) brings some toughness like that to the inside. He will get in there and give it everything that he has got. He will go in there and stick his hat on somebody and fight for everything that he is worth.

“That type of guy is important. You need those type of guys who can score, too. A Wes Welker type and Danny Amendola, who stick their nose in there and be gritty and then also make a guy miss and go score.”

Arlia understands it.

“It’s definitely something the coaches preach,” Arlia said. “They want you to block hard every play and run your routes as hard as you can. I’m not the biggest or fastest guy. I know that, so I know I’ve got to go as hard as I can. That’s all I try to do out there.”

The departure of Copeland and McCartney opened things up for Nehlen, Arlia and Clay.

“This is my last year here. I’m trying to make the most of it. The group of receivers we have here now, we all want it real bad and it shows the past three games,” Nehlen said, perhaps taking a shot at some of the other receivers like McCartney and Copeland.

Nehlen has had to wait his turn and, to be honest, it almost didn’t come, but he stuck it out, even though it wasn’t always easy.

“I’m patient,” he said. “It burns me inside sometimes. I don’t show it, but I try to be as patient as I can.”

And that is how Arlia is approaching it.

“I see a lot of Connor in me when I was young and going through college. He’s basically going through the same thing I did. West Virginia kid, walk-on. He’s going to make a name for himself, and I’m proud of him.”

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

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Kicker sees second chances after gondola accident

    Maikon Bonani knows all about second chances.
    The native of Brazil is back with the Titans for a second year with the kicker job wide open for the taking, and he’s the only guy in training camp with any NFL experience if kicking in a preseason game counts.

    August 1, 2014

  • Steelers sign Suisham through 2018 season

    Shaun Suisham doesn’t seem to mind kicking at Heinz Field.

    August 1, 2014

  • A healthy Trickett gives WVU chance to win

    You might recall that Pat White’s career as West Virginia quarterback began when Adam Bednarik was injured in the Louisville game of White’s freshman year, opening the door for him to come on and lead one of the greatest comebacks in school history.

    August 1, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Lingering injury keeps Barber out as season begins

    He was off on the sidelines on the first day of practice, where he’ll be for quite a while now, wearing the red jersey that signifies a player is unable to practice due to injury.

    August 1, 2014

  • Post 17 makes short work of Wheeling to advance to nightcap

    Post 17 Fairmont scattered 16 hits and plated double-digit runs in a 10-2 rout of Post 1 Wheeling Friday afternoon at Hawley Field.

    August 1, 2014

  • WVU #6 SHORTS -TS.jpg WVU opens practice with different feel: VIDEOS AND PHOTOS

    West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen was happy with his team’s first practice of the 2014 season.
    Of course, he would note, “Everybody in the country has a good first day.”
    But somehow, this was different.
    Very different.

    August 1, 2014 9 Photos

  • Post 17 #18-Post 29 catche copy.jpg Post 17 picks up much-needed win over Elkins

    After a rather sloppy Area tournament, Post 17 Fairmont managed to turn things around Thursday afternoon at Hawley Field in Morgantown, staying alive with a 4-2 win over Elkins in the American Legion state baseball tournament.
    While it’s usually hitting that gets Fairmont by, Thursday it was the pitching and the defense.

    August 1, 2014 5 Photos

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Social media adds another thing to watch for coaches

    As someone who has gotten himself in enough hot water with a misplaced Tweet, when West Virginia University quarterback Clint Trickett hit the send button on July 17 sending out to the cyberworld what should have remained there with him on the couch on which he was sitting, I could feel his pain.

    August 1, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Bobby Bowden won the bad-and-good battle with rival Lou Holtz

    The recent announcement that West Virginia University is resuming a football relationship with North Carolina State triggered a most memorable bad-news, good-news battle.
    It was between two legendary coaches, WVU’s Bobby Bowden and N.C. State’s Lou Holtz back there in the 1970s.

    August 1, 2014

  • WVU basketball non-conference schedule released

    After playing challenging schedules along with the tough Big 12 road, West Virginia University has backed off some this season on its non-conference schedule that was released Thursday.
    West Virginia is coming off a 17-16 season in which it failed to reach the NCAA Tournament and lost to Georgetown in the first round of the NIT.

    August 1, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
Auto Racing Breaking News
Auto Racing Standings