MORGANTOWN — There’s something about Branko Busick that draws you to him, especially if you happen to have a football under your arm.
As a middle linebacker, that’s the way it is supposed to be, but for a moment we’re not going to talk about the way he does his thing on the football field.
We promise, though, they we will get back to that rather quickly, for it is almost as fascinating as the kid himself.
He has a look, the look of a football player. It’s in his eyes, which are strange in a way, or it may be the cauliflower left ear that is a leftover from his wrestling days. Wrestling is in his blood, you see, his father having been a professional wrestler, Nick Busick, so you can guess what his personality is like.
It’s like your old man wears a derby, has a big handlebar mustache and is a wrestling villain ... think you’re growing up to be a shrinking violet?
Busick is a middle linebacker, maybe the most savage middle linebacker to walk into the Puskar Center since Grant Wiley was turning ball carriers into tackling dummies.
The emphasis goes on the word dummies, for there isn’t much other way to describe what it was like going at Wiley and it is begging to look like it’s that way Busick.
He probably won’t win the starting job this year, because it’s so early in his career, only a redshirt season behind him, one where he made the WVU varsity ball carriers aware of his presence on a daily basis in practice.
But don’t bet he won’t be playing a whole lot behind Pat Lazier, the starter.
“He’s a tough young guy who plays at full speed,” said Jeff Casteel, the linebacker coach and defensive coordinator.
If that sounds cliché-ish, it is, but that’s how coaches usually speak. Casteel made up for it though with his next observation.
“He has a chance to be special, but right now it’s all Spanish to him,” Casteel said. “But he’ll get it.”
The fact is it may not even matter if he gets it, such is his approach to the game.
“It’s like Ray Lewis said,” Busick said, when asked to describe his style of linebacking. “Middle linebacker is not a position, it’s an attitude.”
And anyone who has ever watched any defense that likes to bang people around understands that they get their attitude from that man in the middle, the man who is free to roam, for the man who takes on fullbacks and who blitzes quarterbacks.
You think of linebackers and you think Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke and Ray Lewis and, yes, West Virginia’s own Sam Huff, the man who virtually invented the position when he went to the New York Giants.
In some way, Huff’s DNA is found in all the great linebackers.
Busick isn’t happy on the football field unless someone in the other color jersey is on his back.
He claims some of it is natural, but that his high school coaches in Steubenville, Ohio, gave him the roots to his game.
“Watch him close,” Casteel said. “He has a way of finding the football like the good players do. He has the ability to play and the natural instincts.”
His development has been one of the most pleasing aspects of the first week and a half of spring practice, and it comes to Busick after he feels he paid his dues.
Redshirting is not easy for someone as competitive as he is.
“It was a rough year for me,” Busick admitted, speaking of his freshman season.
That was spent practicing without playing, which is an unfamiliar role and hard to accept.
“It wasn’t only football. It was my first year in college,” he said. “That opens your eyes. I’m a big family guy. I missed them. We stayed in touch every day, but I have now built a family here.”
NOTES – Cornerback Brandon Hogan, who didn’t practice the first week, running the stadium steps as a disciplinary move, still is not practicing. According to coach Bill Stewart, it’s an academic issue … Ryan Clarke, who was running the steps with Hogan, is back at practice and running well … QB Coley White looks like the most improved player in camp, throwing the ball well, and it seems that he may force them to take a look at not moving him to wide receiver … Stewart was not happy after the practice as he has a number of players out, which is making it tough to get anything going … He especially doesn’t like what he’s seen on the right side of his offensive line.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.