Chip Shots – End of Year

End of year

by Jim Buzzerd

A busy week lies ahead, so this will be brief today. When the West Virginia University Football Team takes the field next Tuesday night against Minnesota in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, they will do so without Leddie Brown, its top tailback. Brown, who has been a true warrior for the Mountaineers for four seasons, made his decision public last Thursday via Twitter.

The Philadelphia native eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards in each of his last two college seasons and finishes his career with 2,888 rushing yards, good for sixth on WVU’s all-time list between Steve Slaton and Artie Owens. Brown also caught 36 passes for 217 yards and one touchdown this season, giving him 86 receptions for 604 yards and five TDs in his career.

Brown’s decision does not come as a surprise because following West Virginia’s 34-28 victory at Kansas in the regular season finale, Brown seemed to indicate he may have played his last game as a Mountaineer and said he hadn’t given much thought about suiting up in a bowl game at that time.

So, the debate of players opting out of bowl games continues. I’m old school and prefer that players continue their careers until their eligibility expires. Now, in some cases a sure high round draft pick might have a good argument to not play so as to not risk millions of dollars should they be injured in a bowl game.

But not all potential draft picks are created equal and there is an argument to be made that many players can enhance their draft position by participating in their team’s bowl game. I’ll use a point made by a talking head last week to illustrate my thoughts on the topic. He said that if a player is not guaranteed to go in the top three rounds of the NFL draft, that showing NFL personnel they are a team first guy checks an important box. Plus, playing is another chance to impress on the field.

I’m not out to bash Brown, he’s one of my favorite Mountaineers ever because of the effort he gave on what turned out to be several mediocre WVU football teams. I wish he would play because I’m not convinced, he’s even going to be drafted, and this game could have helped his chances.

Speaking of football, WVU and head coach Neal Brown signed 22 high school seniors of transfers in the early recruiting period last Wednesday. The class is currently in the Top 25 nationally which is above where a West Virginia class usually resides.

Perhaps the top player in the class is four-star signal caller Nicco Marchiol is regarded as one of the most high-profile players in WVU’s Class of 2022. Marchiol earned Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year status in his senior season. He tossed 37 touchdown passes while throwing just two interceptions this fall. Marchiol also scored six rushing touchdowns.

“He’s got some ‘it’ factor. I think he is going to be a guy that is a fan favorite from day one. He’s got charisma. I think he’s got strong leadership capabilities. He is a student of the game. He loves football. He has been groomed from an early age by his father Ken to be a Division I and hopefully an NFL quarterback,” said coach Brown.

I know some, probably most, Mountaineer fans want Marchiol to come in and take Jarret Doege’s job, assuming Doege returns. I hope he’s good enough to do that, but it will be tough for a true freshman to beat out what is essentially a guy with five years under his belt. At least by September.