The Times West Virginian

Sports

July 14, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: What can this season’s WVU group tell us?

MORGANTOWN — We find ourselves engrossed in the dog days of summer, which really never is a day at the beach when you are trying to find something of interest to write about.

Rest assured, as hard as John Raese tried, such matters as Tier 3 rights are of interest only to the people whose money is involved, while fans are far more interested in the comings and goings of the athletes who aren’t allowed to share in such fortunes.

So it is these mid-summer months between the fundraising circuit and the start of camp become as long as the summer days themselves, awaiting the time when a new football season comes upon us.

That is annually signaled by the conference’s media day, be it the Big East or the Big 12, whichever happens to be housing the Mountaineers in that year.

This year’s media day in Dallas is less than two weeks away at present, and while it normally gives many hints as to what can be expected throughout the conference in the current season from all the teams, there are distinct signals coming from West Virginia University just by the cast of characters which will represent the team..

A year ago, you may recall, WVU sent a platinum-plus group of offensive players with a quarterback named Geno Smith, a wide receiver named Tavon Austin and a center named Joey Madsen, all of whom currently possess NFL addresses … as does Stedman Bailey, a wide receiver who was passed over because it was thought that he would probably wind up using his senior year for such things.

Certainly, this group forewarned the league and the nation that West Virginia had a rather astonishing offense with which to contend.

The fact that the defense was represented only by Will Clarke, a solid but to that date undecorated defensive end who was a junior, also forewarned the faithful that the defense was lacking, although no one could imagine just how badly.

So, what can this year’s group tell us?

To begin with, the key figure is Karl Joseph. That he’s a defender probably signifies an improvement on that side of the ball.

That he’s a sophomore makes you wonder how much, although he is a special player and a good talker.

With Clarke also coming along, WVU will have a couple of pretty good spokesmen to sell the theory that a new coordinator and some new junior college linebackers can make a difference in a conference where defense is treated much the same way steak is looked upon at a vegetarian restaurant.

The tricky part isn’t really who is going to be on hand to explain the offensive side of the ball — coach Dana Holgorsen has always been pretty good at that, considering he sort of reinvented that part of the game — but what says more about the offense than even he can is that is the offensive representative is Quinton Spain.

One thing you can say with certainty is that Spain is a big talker, at 330 or more pounds, this offensive tackle is not a “shrinking” violet.

When you consider the questions surrounding this season’s offense — not the formations or the plays, simply which players will be running them — it makes total sense to send an offensive lineman.

First off, in general, they are the smartest, most intelligent of the players, and, while very few people want to listen to them when there’s a quarterback or running back or wide receiver around, they normally discuss the most interesting subjects.

This year, not knowing who will man any of the skill positions, it becomes Spain’s job to offer his insights into life after Geno, Tavon and Stedman.

But it matters not who goes to these media day festivities from WVU or any other Big 12 school, for the world is ready for some football.

Summer was nice and there’s a month and a half of pseudo-summer left, although it’s hard to accept summer time when football camp has begun, even if the temperature lingers near 100 as players become re-accustomed to helmets, shoulder pads and coaches who were so nice while recruiting them finding fault with everything they do for a couple of weeks.

So, enjoy the pool and what vacation you have left, for nothing really important is going on … not until football camp opens and everyone’s attention shifts into that direction.

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

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