By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
West Virginia University’s football program received a needed boost on Wednesday when it announced that three players have enrolled for the spring semester and will begin their football careers in spring practice.
Quarterback Brian Athey, linebacker Josh Francis and defensive back Avery Williams each has a chance to be an important member of Bill Stewart’s final Mountaineer team.
Athey, a 6-3, 203-pound quarterback out of Eden Prairie (Minn.) High, is a much-needed immediate backup for starting quarterback Geno Smith.
It had been planned that Barry Brunetti and Jeremy Johnson, both recruited last year, would be backup quarterbacks and possibly push Smith for the job, but Johnson did not make it through camp before returning home to Texas, and Brunetti played the season but returned home to Memphis after the Champs Sports Bowl.
That left Coley White and Bradley Starks, both converted from quarterback to wide receiver, as the only backups.
Athey will benefit greatly by being here to take in offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen’s first spring as he installs his new “Air Raid” offense.
Athley led his team to a combined 21-3 record as starting quarterback the past two years.
A star baseball player, Athey is the grandson of former WVU assistant and current radio analyst Dwight Wallace.
Francis, out of Lackawanna Junior College in Scranton, Pa., is expected to battle for a starting job, maybe even in the middle, although at 215 pounds he may be undersized there.
A first-team, 2010 NJCAA All-American, he was a hot commodity on the recruiting trail with Arkansas, Kansas State, North Carolina, Oregon and Rutgers offering him after he finished a two-year career with 95 tackles, 13 sacks and 19 tackles for losses.
Williams is a highly-regarded defensive back out of Washington, D.C.’s Calvin Coolidge High who originally signed a letter of intent with the Mountaineers last February but sat out the fall semester after failing to qualify.
He has legitimate 4.4 speed but at 5-10, 173 pounds is going to have to hit the weights. But he was being tracked Michigan State, Utah and Kansas.
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Having achieved success both as a former West Virginia University wrestler and recent position as an assistant head coach, sixth-year coach Greg Jones has been promoted as an associate head coach, WVU coach Craig Turnbull announced Tuesday.
“Through his competitive career, Greg achieved a lot that many wrestlers don’t even come close to,” Turnbull says. “He won three NCAA championships and was even named the Outstanding Wrestler at the NCAA Championships one year. Having one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of our program come back to coach for us is a tremendous benefit to the team. It has a tremendous ripple effect and transcends all areas of the program.”
A three-time national champion and All-American, Jones is looked upon not only for his coaching but also recruiting abilities.
“Not only was Greg an outstanding wrestler, but the kind of person you would want in the program,” Turnbull said. “He was a good student, spoke well to the media, stood for all the right values, had a solid work ethic, and he carries that into his coaching career.”
As a Mountaineer, Jones went 126-4 over his four years and was a four-time Eastern Wrestling League champion in the 174-pound weight class. He ended his career with a 51-match win streak.
“My belief is that he will be as good of a coach as he was a wrestler,” Turnbull said. “As he continues to mature into the profession, he is going to assume more and more responsibilities. The title change is very appropriate and well-deserved.”
E-mail Bob Hertzel at email@example.com.