|Ciara Chic scores a touchdown in a recent game for the Pittsburgh Passion.
|Pittsburgh Passion photo
Among former Mountaineers, the most productive running back in professional football these days may not be the person you are thinking of.
Tampa Bay’s Charles Sims?
Steve Slaton, Noel Devine and Jock Sanders in the Canadian Football League?
No, no and no - at least not right now with those three.
Well, how about Ciara Chic?
Ciara Chic is currently the leading rusher for the undefeated Pittsburgh Passion of the Independent Women’s Professional Football League.
She scored a 33-yard touchdown during Pittsburgh’s 26-12 victory over the New York Sharks last Sunday to help get the Passion into women’s pro football’s championship game against the Houston Energy in Rock Hill, S.C., on Saturday, July 26.
Two weeks ago, Chic ran for 101 yards in Pittsburgh’s first-round playoff victory over the Keystone Assault.
You may recall Ciara being a tremendous sprinter for the Mountaineers and a member of the distance medley relay team that placed eighth at the 2001 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Chic earned All-America honors for that performance and was also a multiple all-Big East honoree in the sprint events.
A native of Charleston, Chic was the state record holder in the 100- and 200-meter dashes when she graduated from Riverside High.
Ciara currently resides in Wilkinsburg, Pa.
Way to go Ciara!
Speaking of Canadian Football League players, the three most prominent Mountaineer offensive players of the late 2000s are currently on CFL rosters.
Running back Steve Slaton is playing for the Toronto Argonauts while running back Noel Devine and quarterback Pat White are playing for the Edmonton Eskimos.
Other former Mountaineer players currently in the CFL include: Jock Sanders (Calgary), Selvish Capers and Robert Sands (Edmonton).
My thanks to our new graduate assistant, D.J. Jamiel, for doing a little Canadian Football League research this morning.
Earlier this morning, the Big 12 announced its 2014 preseason football poll and West Virginia was predicted to finish eighth ahead of just Kansas and Iowa State.
The Mountaineers were also picked to finish eighth last season and ended up finished tied for seventh with TCU and Iowa State.
Considering West Virginia’s inability to stop teams and a quarterback situation that still needs to be ironed out, that’s probably about where the Mountaineers should be heading into year three in the Big 12.
But in terms of personnel, I think this is probably the deepest team that Dana Holgorsen has had since he’s been here. Yet it remains to be seen if there are enough explosive playmakers to make his offense as effective as it was two years ago when Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Co. were here, or a defensive front three that can be stout enough to provide more resistance against the run and get to the quarterback in passing situations.
Those are the things that immediately jump out when looking closely at this year’s football team, but I do recall similar concerns about West Virginia in 2002 when the Mountaineers were coming off a miserable 3-8 season under first-year coach Rich Rodriguez in 2001.
West Virginia was picked to finish sixth in the eight-team Big East in 2002 and wound up finishing tied for second after Rodriguez stabilized his quarterback situation and retooled his defense.
No, West Virginia is probably not going to break any records for season ticket sales this year but the new sales staff Associate Athletic Director Matt Wells has assembled is making considerable progress in many areas.
The outbound sales team just added last month is already making an impact in overall season ticket sales, now at 29,100 as of earlier this week, as well as with the popular mini-package currently available that features Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State.
Wells is also pleased with the outstanding response they have received so far for West Virginia’s Sept. 6 game against Towson, designated a Family Day (four tickets and a $25 concession voucher for just $150) with a fireworks show planned at some point during the game.
Furthermore, the 2014 season opener against Alabama in Atlanta is also going well with less than 4,000 tickets remaining for the ticket office to sell.
“If this is a down year, it’s a sign our program and season ticket base is healthy,” said Wells.
Those interested in purchasing season tickets or mini-season tickets can call the Mountaineer Ticket Office toll-free at 1-800-WVU GAME
or by logging on to the official ticket office website http://www.wvugame.com
One of the top objectives for this year’s defensive staff is finding quality replacements for Will Clarke (third-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals) and Shaq Rowell (free agent signing by the Carolina Panthers) on a defensive line that did play well at times last year.
First-year defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said his goal is to have six game-ready players available when the Mountaineers take the field against Alabama in Atlanta on Aug. 30.
“That way we can try and roll them and keep them fresh and keep the best guys in there as much as we can, but we have to do it by committee,” Gibson said earlier this month. “You can’t play three or four defensive linemen and try and expect to get through a game.”
“Wait until you see (Brown),” said Gibson. “He looks like a totally different person. He looks good and Dontrill is the same way. They’re running, they’re getting in shape, they’re hungry and I really like where we’re at as a unit with those guys. We just have to keep getting better and get those guys some confidence early.”
Running backs coach JaJuan Seider says West Virginia will be ready to go when the Mountaineers face Alabama in Atlanta on Aug. 30.
“If we open up with Florida A&M our kids will be ready,” said Seider. “We are coming off a losing season for the first time in, what, 13 years, so our kids will be motivated.”
Seider especially likes the underdog role that West Virginia is in this year – a role the Mountaineers have played frequently (and very successfully) through the years.
“We like those games where nobody gives you a chance. The one thing about West Virginia, and you guys (media) know it, we thrive in the underdog role,” Seider pointed out. “Nobody is going to tell us what we can and cannot do. We’re going to walk into that stadium and be ready to play.”
The players they are recruiting come from winning programs, and they are being recruited to play in a program that has a reputation for winning – not one at the bottom building its way back to the top.
“When you get the right kids who are used to winning, used to working and have the leadership qualities we are looking for, he is going to make the other guys around him better,” said Seider. “That’s why you recruit those types of kids. If you keep bringing in those kids it’s going to help bring the program back where it used to be.”
Most importantly, says Seider, is that all of the players now fully understand what it takes to win games on a consistent basis in the Big 12 Conference.
“You can have a down game against Rutgers and still have a chance to win, but you can’t have a down game when you play Oklahoma State or Texas because they can outscore anybody in the country,” said Seider. “I think our kids are finally starting to realize that going into year three.”
|Former West Virginia University coach Don Nehlen once served on the College Football Association board of directors.
|WVU Athletic Communications photo
And finally, a Don Nehlen story from Chuck Neinas, former Big Eight and Big 12 commissioner who today is still the No. 1 consultant in collegiate sports.
Neinas and Nehlen worked closely together when Neinas was the executive director of the College Football Association (CFA), the two becoming great friends. Whenever they get together, Neinas always manages to tease the coach about the time he ripped into a group of college presidents at a CFA board meeting.
“(Nehlen) was on the board of directors – we had 11 members and there was one football coach, one AD, one faculty rep, one conference commissioner and basically presidents and chancellors,” Neinas recalled. “And Don was representing the football coaches at that time.”
The group had finished its morning work session and after returning from lunch, the chair of the group went around the room seeking suggestions on how college football could be improved before wrapping up the meeting.
“Don was the next to last to speak and when they came to him they said, ‘What do you think, Don?’ He said, ‘I think we should knock off all the bull----.’ That was something, especially coming from Don (who rarely spoke in colorful language). Don said, ‘I’m having lunch with all these presidents and you’re all talking about how your incoming freshman classes have 1,200-1,300 on their board scores. You expect me to recruit guys who do 750 and graduate at the same level as the 1,200-1,300s. Now, all college coaches know who the boss is – it’s the president – and let me remind you, if we don’t have the players to fill the seats on Saturdays then you can’t pay the bills, so don’t tell us one thing and expect another!’”
Nehlen left a big impression on everyone at the meeting, especially the presidents and chancellors sitting on the CFA board at the time.
In fact, every single one of them offered him a job during his WVU coaching tenure, including Missouri’s chancellor, who once sent Dan Devine to Morgantown to try and talk Nehlen into taking the Missouri football job.
Nehlen literally had to kick Devine out of his office because the former Notre Dame coach was told to hire Nehlen at any cost.
But by that time, Nehlen was fully settled and established in Morgantown, and had developed a great bond with the state of West Virginia.
Interesting stuff, nonetheless.
Have a great weekend!