By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Perhaps the most gaping hole left by graduation in the West Virginia defense right in the middle, where Chris Neild anchored the line. He was 300 pounds of trouble for any offense, his presence requiring double teams on every play, triple teams on some.
The result of that was fewer people to block on J.T. Thomas at linebacker or slip off and help delay Bruce Irvin as he terrorized quarterbacks from defensive end. He made running to the inside a near impossibility while the Mountaineers had the speed to cut down runs to the outside.
The defensive coaching staff spent a lot of time during the off-season trying to figure out what to do to replace Neild, arriving at a decision to move Jorge Wright from defensive tackle to nose guard, where he would battle Josh Taylor for the spot.
To date it has been a successful conversion for Wright, one of the most surprisingly interesting players for WVU and, it is beginning to seem, one of the best.
In many ways he cracks all the stereotypes, beginning with the idea that players who come to WVU out of Miami often have troubled backgrounds and academic problems.
Wright is not only personable, but he is extremely bright, although there are people who might question why anyone would want to bang heads with a center and guard on almost every play of every game, simple math saying that those two-on-one odds make life quite challenging.
So who is Jorge Wright Jr. how did he arrive at this point in life?
“He came to school when he was very young, 16. He grew up here,” said Bill Kirelawich, the demanding veteran defensive line coach. “As he got older, he matured on the field and his outlook got better.”
Sixteen is terrible young to be thrown into a major college football program, even as a redshirt.
Wright was so young because he had skipped a grade in high school, a strange move in an era where many kids are being held back by coaches and parents so that they can be more physically mature by the time they play.
“My mom wanted me to get a head start on life,” Wright explained. “I had an ability to go to college early, so I took it.”
If you are getting the idea that this is not the typical inner city Miami household run by Ellen and Jorge Wright Sr., you are right. Ellen Wright is a superintendent in the Dade County school system and they demand a lot out of their children.
“There was always a bar set up high,” Wright said. “Me and my little sister always competed to see who could make our mother happiest.”
It isn’t always easy, no matter what the upbringing, for a teens to follow the right path as there are temptations always jumping out from behind rocks and trees.
“When you have a good mother and good surroundings around you, temptations can’t break you,” Wright said.
And so it was that he arrived at WVU a year or two earlier than many of his classmates and as much five or six years younger than some of his teammates, but that did not prove to be a problem.
“I fit it,” he said. “Since the ninth grade I was always younger than everyone else. It was the same thing in the transition to college.”
Besides, he noted, “I never looked 16, just like I don’t look 20 now.”
“To me, it’s pretty much the same thing,” he said. “If you don’t put in time, you don’t get the results you want. If you come here and be lazy in practice, lazy in the weight room, lazy in the film room, you’re not going to do good. If you don’t study, don’t do your homework, you won’t get grades.”
The coaches had him at tackle until Neild left.
“He’s played backup at tackle a couple of years and for Coach Kirlav and [defensive coordinator Jeff] Casteel to see something in him and move him to tackle says something about him,” said starting defensive end Julian Miller. “Those are big pads to fill. To get recognition from the coaches, to have them say we want you to be that next guy, it has to be an honor,”
He hasn’t let Kirelawich down to date.
“I still don’t think we’ve seen the finished product yet. I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface. He is going to be be a very, very good football player,” Kirelawich said. “Is in that class with Neild right now? No. But he might be. I’m not going to throw any roses in his path. He’s got a lot to learn. He’s doing good for right now.”
Wright understands that.
“To be good it takes a lot of confidence and listening to your coach. If you do what Kirlav says, you’ll be all right. You can’t do things your own way. Everything is tied to a string, part of the same defense. If you try to play your own way, it won’t work,” he said.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com.