Odds and ends
Lost in the run to the final four by the West Virginia University Men’s Basketball Team was the beginning of spring football practice at WVU. Coach Bill Stewart begins his third season as the Mountaineers’ head coach. Expectations for the 2010 season are lukewarm if you would take a random sampling of those who are involved in covering West Virginia football.
One of the biggest concerns this spring will be the development of the offensive line. A young and inexperienced offensive line last year caused a number of problems for the Mountaineers. Quarterback Jarrett Brown was forced to run for his life on numerous occasions as pass rushers ran free all too often. The running game suffered a lack of consistency, because of poor run blocking.
Despite those issues, Brown was able to bail out the passing game fairly often with his strong arm and running ability. Ditto with Noel Devine and the running game. Devine delivered many home runs last year. Devine’s breakaway running ability was fun to watch and necessary at times to get a stagnate offense in gear.
Devine surprised many fans last winter when he declared that he would return to West Virginia for his senior season. There was plenty of talk suggesting he would enter the NFL draft. Whether there is significant improvement on the offensive line or not, Devine will still get those long runs. That is just the way it is, the guy only needs a small crease and he is gone. Put an improved line in front of Devine and you will see a back that can put up Heisman Trophy numbers.
Where the real concern about the line play deepens is in the passing game. Geno Smith played quarterback in several games last year as a true freshman when Brown was nursing injuries. Smith is a highly regarded sophomore, but things are a bit shaky right now with regard to the WVU quarterback situation.
Stewart postponed the start of spring drills so Smith would have time to heal from another foot injury. Smith injured his foot last summer before fall camp in an ATV accident. He injured the foot again in January while working out. So far Smith has been practicing, but has not been cleared for full contact. Redshirt sophomore Coley White has been running the first team offense in contact drills.
So, to recap, WVU is counting on a talented, albeit injury prone, quarterback to lead them in the fall. At the moment White is the only other scholarship QB on the roster and the coaching staff has not exactly been confident about White’s progress. Two highly regarded freshmen, Barry Brunetti and Jeremy Johnson, will arrive this summer to vie for a backup position. Definitely some depth and experience concerns going on at the quarterback position at WVU. The pass blocking this fall might be the single most important aspect of this year’s football team.
Devin Ebanks, West Virginia’s 6-9 sophomore forward, has made himself available for the upcoming NBA draft. That announcement would seem to confirm what many people have suspected for some time. That Ebanks would turn pro and end his career at West Virginia. The Long Island native has yet to sign with an agent, thus leaving the door open for him to return to play college basketball. It is expected that Ebanks will sign with an agent this week though and that will officially close the door on Ebanks’ college career.
The Ebanks decision has plenty of fuel for debate. Many question his readiness for a NBA career. His offensive skills are not well developed. He struggles on the perimeter shooting the ball and often lacks strength inside to get shots in the paint. Yet, coming out of high school two years ago, he was already labeled a NBA prospect.
Some of the basketball writers say Ebanks is a potential first rounder and others say he will have to play in Europe before he sees any real NBA time. If he goes in the first round his decision is validated. If not, he will be left to ponder what more time in the weight room and another season in the Big East would have done for his draft status.