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April 11, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Myers not modest in expectations

MORGANTOWN — KJ Myers doesn’t want much.

Not at all.

“I want to break all Stedman Bailey’s records,” he said Tuesday evening as he took some time out to meet with the West Virginia media during spring practice.

That’s thinking big, see, because Stedman Bailey, you may recall, holds the West Virginia University records for most passes caught in a season, 114 (tied with Tavon Austin); most passes caught in a game, 14 (tied with Tavon Austin); most receiving yards in a season, 1,622; most receiving yards in a game, 303; most TD catches in a season, 25; and most TD catches in a game, five.

Bailey also caught 210 passes in his career, second in school history while also gaining 3,218 yards, second in history, and a record 41 receiving touchdowns.

Myers?

Oh, he possesses two catches for nine yards, 4.5 per catch, one of the catches for a touchdown.

You might say he has a ways to go and might be rather brash in thinking he can pull it off, but then this is the 2013 season coming up and today’s athlete approaches everything he does that way.

Once upon a time it was fashionable for an athlete, no matter how talented he may be, to approach his craft with a strong sense of modesty. The best of them took an “ah, shucks” approach, saying, “I just hope I can do my best and I hope my best will be good enough.”

They credited their success to Wheaties, to clean living, to a strong work ethic and to being fortunate enough to having been in the right spot at the right time.

Then along came an athlete named Muhammad Ali and the entire approach changed.

Today the greatest athletes may be good, even if they aren’t half as good as they think they are ... and KJ Myers thinks he’s good enough to do all that Stedman Bailey did and a little bit more.

And if he does it, he will have Bailey to thank because Bailey spent a good deal of time tutoring him last year as he played sparingly as a redshirt freshman of Jacksonville, Fla.

“I sat and talked with him often. I still talk with him,” Myers said. “He gives me pointers, tells me this, tells me that. He tells me things I need to know. He’d tell me how to beat a cornerback and how to make this play or that play.”

And what would Myers tell Bailey?

“I tell him I want to break his records. It’s a big order, but it can be done,” Myers said.

Maybe.

See, Bailey had two things going for him that Myers doesn’t — quarterback Geno Smith throwing the ball and Austin in the slot.

Smith, of course, was the most prolific quarterback in WVU history and may just become the first quarterback selected in the first round of the NFL draft. His precision passing and his familiarity with Bailey — the two worked together in high school prior to coming to WVU — gave the duo a huge edge.

Myers doesn’t even know who will be his quarterback, Paul Millard and Ford Childress fighting it out evenly for the starting job through the spring with the battle expecting to go into the summer and fall.

And then there’s the matter that Austin was so dangerous out of the slot, capable of taking short passes and turning them into long touchdowns, that defenses could not sell out in their coverage of Bailey in his deep outs, crossing patterns and long balls.

Austin is gone now. So is K.D. Woods, and Ivan McCartney, and Ryan Nehlen. In fact, the leading returning receiver is Jordan Thompson, who caught 13 passes, so if Myers is what he believes himself to be, he will draw the bulk of attention from defenses.

Right now, 10 days before the spring game, no one really knows who will step forth among the receivers.

“The competition is good,” Myers said. “I’m not going to say which one, but each one is competing and making a lot of plays and film is just helping all of us. Everything is open right now.”

And with it all being a new combination between quarterback and receiver, the Mountaineers are going overtime trying to create some chemistry.

“That’s why during the spring, before practice, we get extra work in together, getting our timing down. Our connection is way better than at the beginning of the spring,” he said.

But in the end, it comes down to Myers as the man who is going to have to make an impact, and he is certain that he can.

“I have the edge. I have a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I’ve been here a couple of years now. This is my time. I know I can do anything if I put my mind to it, with the Lord on my side. I feel I can be great. I feel I will be great.”

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

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