When the spring started, Travis Bell had a whole lot working against him.
Over the winter, he had been arrested on a domestic violence charge, which normally doesn’t sit well with football coaches, who prefer to see their defensive players throwing ball carriers around rather than girlfriends.
Having been disciplined, he had hoped to show what he could do on the field at West Virginia University, but he had a shoulder injury.
“We didn’t think he was able to participate in the spring,” defensive coordinator Keith Patterson admitted.
That didn’t mean he wasn’t the subject of some discussion among the coaching staff.
Patterson had watched his cornerbacks perform last year, and it was, to be quite honest, unacceptable as the Mountaineers gave up 39.5 points a game.
To make matters worse, they hadn’t signed any new cornerbacks, believing that since it was a young group that it could be coached to be better.
Travis Bell was a safety, and as they talked about him in the spring, they thought it might not be a waste of time to try him at the corner.
“It was something Brian brought to my attention and Coach Gibson and I talked about it,” Patterson said
Brian is Brian Mitchell, who last year was defensive coordinator at East Carolina and has come over to coach the corners and does so with a clean slate, while Coach Gibson is Tony Gibson, the safeties coach, also in his first year back at WVU after having served under Rich Rodriguez.
This was one of those “what have we got to lose” things. Safety, with Darwin Cook and Karl Joseph, is one of the strongest positions on the team, meaning if Bell could contribute at corner it would be a huge step forward.
He stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 188 pounds, which is not particularly big, but is bigger than most of the corners on the roster.
“We’re trying to get more length out of all our guys. He brings something a little bit different to the table, and that was the topic of discussion,” Patterson said. “He brings size. He’s physical. He’s explosive. He has a chance to break on the football. I’m looking for big things from him.”
All they needed to do was get him on the field, but that looked like it might not come until August.
Then, two practices before the spring game, the word came down that Bell was cleared to play.
“Once he was given the green light, we made the change,” Patterson said.
And so it was with no small amount of surprise to a media that is not allowed to watch practice that Bell showed up at corner for the spring game, and more of a surprise when he made the game’s only interception and one of the biggest hits.
If the untrained eyes of the media or public thought they had discovered something, head coach Dana Holgorsen was not so fast to welcome him as a potential player at the corner.
“We made the switch two days ago. He may be there full time. We’ll evaluate,” Holgorsen said.
But the tackle? The interception?
“He made one play where the receiver just forgot to block him. I probably could have made that play,” said Holgorsen. “On his interception, he undercut it, but the ball was so under-thrown that I’m not saying I could have made that one but I would have been in position.”
Maybe back in the day Holgorsen could have done those things, but now?
“My point is, we will study the film for different things. He’s embraced the change, and he’s excited about it. He’s not a 210-pound kid; he weighs about 180 pounds. He can run fast, and he has great conditioning. It is an experiment that we talked about a week ago, and we moved him. We’ll keep looking into it,” the coach said.
Patterson is hopeful.
“Right now it looks like he could benefit our team,” the coordinator said.
If this doesn’t work out, of course, they could always put Holgorsen back there.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.
When the spring started, Travis Bell had a whole lot working against him.
- WVU Sports
Arrest warrant out for WVU recruit
West Virginia University’s newest men’s basketball recruit, Tarik Phillip, has an order out for his arrest in North Carolina, according to a story in The Dominion-Post, which said three Gaston County Magistrate office spokespersons confirmed.
WVU baseball powers past Oklahoma, 9-5
The WVU baseball team tied a season high with 18 hits to defeat Oklahoma, 9-5, on Saturday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
The win gives the Mountaineers their second Big 12 series win of the season and improves the overall record to 19-16 and 4-7 in conference play. Oklahoma drops to 25-16 overall and 5-7 in Big 12 play.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules
At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.
Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma
Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.
FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing
Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.
Huggins signs junior college guard
Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.
HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing
The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.
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Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
• A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.
Bussie looks forward to WNBA
On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.
WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete
The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.
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