The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

August 19, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: Buie finds fit with WVU, new offense

MORGANTOWN — They say you find out the truth about people when they are facing adversity, and Andrew Buie, one of three freshman running backs in an exceptional class recruited by West Virginia University, knew such a moment had arrived for him.

It was the 1-A state championship game in Florida last year, and Buie’s Trinity Christian Academy out of Jacksonville was leading with about a minute and 50 seconds left in the third quarter, but the lead had been dwindling since they built it over American Heritage and now it was third and 15.

“Our momentum had started to die,” Buie recalled.

They called his number. This is significant in itself, for Trinity had another running back heading for Division I football in Ahmad Christian, but Buie was the significant other in the pairing.

“It was an outside run,” Buie explained. “A linebacker ducked his head and somehow missed me like … eh, miserably? I cut back across the field and from there it was was open field and I just ran and scored. That changed the whole complexion of the game.”

What said more about Buie was the celebration. He did not go running in front of the grandstand, pulling out on his jersey, exalting himself. He looked for teammates, the linemen who blocked, and turned it into a team thing.

“I never have been the type of person who takes self-glory. I always credit my teammates. If the linemen hadn’t done their job, I wouldn’t have gotten to that point. It feels good as a group when I can say we’re winning as a team than everyone just looking at me,” he explained.

As Buie talks you are thinking that this is really too good to be true. In this “me-first” era that leads to the shenanigans that have gone on at Ohio State and now, apparently, at Miami, this is an intelligent kid, well grounded, team oriented.

Oh, did we mention talented?

He rushed for 1,782 yards on 211 carries with 26 touchdowns as a senior. He also threw for 772 yards and 11 touchdowns on 43-of-94 passing attempts.

It gets even better, though, with Buie, for he is a kid who likes to be coached, not one of those know-it-alls that drive coaches mad.

And, he believes, that WVU running backs coach Robert Gillespie is the right coach for him. In fact, it was Gillespie who steered him to WVU.

“When Coach Gillespie started recruiting me, he was honest from the start. He wasn’t just selling me dreams to get me on campus. Everything he was telling me was the truth,” Buie said.

While offers poured in from some of the nation’s top powerhouses, Buie had WVU and Louisville mainly on his mind.

Then he visited Louisville.

“I didn’t feel like I was home. When I went into my recruiting process, I said along with playing ball there it had to be a school I could go to every day if I didn’t play football there. I just didn’t feel comfortable there,” he explained, using reasoning that others prospective college players ought to listen to in order to avoid problems.

Upon arriving at WVU, Buie was surprised to find himself thrown right into the mix, the Mountaineers having graduated Noel Devine and really having no backs returning that fit Dana Holgorsen’s offense other than Tavon Austin, who was a better fit in the slot.

“I was kind of surprised to see how quick we were thrown in there, but Coach Gillespie believes in his running backs real, real strongly and that anyone can do the job. There should be no letdown when anyone goes down,” Buie said.

The three competitors for the job — Buie, Dustin Garrison and Verard Roberts, all freshmen — have bonded and are engaged in a spirited — not ill-spirited — fight for the job.

Buie is the speedy, dangerous, breakaway back. Dustin Garrison is a patient, explosive back. Vernard Roberts is a steady, grind-it-out back.

“We inspire each other very well. If we could put everything the group brings to the table as one, we could be great,” Buie said.

It has been more of a one for all, all for one kind of competition.

“Dustin has been very beneficial to go through things with and Vernard, being here since January, has helped us prepare and not get caught off guard,” Buie said. “We are all going through the same stage right now. We are competing with each, but at the same time we are still friends.”

Then, without going into a James Taylor imitation, Buie added the ultimate “Lean on Me” line, “You are going to need someone to lean on when you’re down.”

Right now, it’s anyone’s guess how the competition comes out. It might even take all year to work it out, although Gillespie would like to get an established starter out of the group.

There does not seem to be anything lost if he doesn’t do that.

“Everyone has his own aspect of what he does, but Coach Gillespie does a good job of bringing us all together so we can strengthen all our aspects so we can have more than just one component of running the ball,” Buie said. “It takes more than just being able to block and run. You have to catch, too. It’s everything that puts the complete back together. Coach Gillespie does a good job of showing us we all have to get better all around.”

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Twitter @bhertzel.

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