By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
August 19, 2009
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Freshman fullback/tight end Chris Snook has been raised in a football family, being the son of a father who has led the Highland High program in Medina, Ohio, for several years.
||Chris Snook comes from a football family and he says it's easy for him to pick up the phone and call his dad for support.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
Having watched his father work his magic on the sidelines growing up, Snook admits to having an edge on knowing the tendencies of a coach. He became more aware of the dos and don’ts as a football player as time passed on, and is excited about being at a football frenzied school like West Virginia because it reminds him of home.
“My dad has coached at Highland High for about 22 years,” Snook said. “He still coaches there. My brother played at Highland, as well, and brought the team to its first playoff appearance. That school is in my blood and I’ve been raised by blood. I think it’s a plus for the discipline part, and understanding where coaches are coming from.”
The biggest deciding factor in Snook’s decision to come to Morgantown boiled down to one key word preached by Coach Bill Stewart – family. The former high school running back who rushed for 3,866 yards in his career feels a tremendous bond with his teammates and the coaching staff that made his college choice a lot easier.
“I like the family feel here,” Snook explained. “When I went to other schools I didn’t feel that everyone was as close as they were here. Family is a big thing that coach Stew stresses and without that, no program can be successful.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer all-star expects to eventually play a key role in WVU’s rushing and receiving game. He works alongside fullbacks Ryan Clarke and Ricky Kovatch and also gets his reps at tight end, making him more versatile as a blocker, ball carrier and receiver.
But Snook is willing to take the smalls steps first in order to someday become a prominent performer for the Mountaineers. He certainly could contribute in various ways during his first season, but must perfect offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen’s spread attack and understand it thoroughly before he can make progress on the field.
“This year all I’m trying to do is help the team and learn the system as much as I can,” Snook said. “Hopefully next year I can progress. My main goal is to come here and win championships. West Virginia is very successful for that. That’s one of the main reasons I came here – you want to come to a program that is successful. Hopefully that will be something that I can be a part of.”
Players like Will Johnson, Max Anderson and Tyler Urban, who all have a similar role to Snook, have added weight to better accommodate the task of playing more physically, blocking more efficiently, and being harder to bring down as a ball carrier.
Snook also has plans to tack on some muscle and become even more of a physical specimen for defenses to handle, hoping to add about 15 more pounds by next year. He knows how much more advanced defenses in the BIG EAST and other conferences will be compared to the high school level.
“In high school I used to be able to bounce it outside from time to time,” Snook said of his days as an all-state tailback. “Everybody’s fast and everybody’s really strong here, so I’m just going where the play is supposed to go. If I see an ounce of daylight, I’ll take it.
“It’s definitely different from high school. You don’t go up against 300 pound guys everyday in high school. I’ve had to get a lot lower than I’ve been used to. If you let up an ounce then you’re on your back.”
Snook looked at WVU as a top-notch fit for his style of play, spurning offers from Ohio State, Cincinnati, Wake Forest early, and then several Big Ten schools after committing to West Virginia, to expand his versatility as a player. He is accomplishing that goal and more by playing a position that is new to him.
“I was a tailback and a linebacker in high school,” Snook admitted. “I never played tight end before. I’m not really used to being down in a three-point stance, so I have to work on that a little bit. I’m trying to learn step by step.”
If the prized Ohio recruit runs into any problems with the complexities of the offense, he knows that he can pick Mullen’s brain and better his understanding of all the nuances of the playbook. But there are times where he can explain such a situation to his family members, especially his father, and clear up some of the fog that is associated with learning a Division I offense in your first season.
“I talk to my dad, my brother and my head coach (Tom Lombardo) back home about certain things,” Snook said. “We ran a lot of similar things in high school that we’re doing here. They give me more mental notes – not necessarily plays but how to adjust to things.”
Although the adjustment period for a big school is rough for many incoming freshmen, Snook has acclimated himself just fine. He has gone from one irreplaceable football family back in Ohio to another one in Morgantown that is like a second home.
Stewart said he purposely worked his team hard this afternoon in the heat, scrimmaging about 110 plays. He said the ones got 50 plays, the twos 40 and almost 20 plays with the younger players.
True freshman Shawne Alston was the team’s short-yardage back today in the team’s big package. Redshirt freshman Ryan Clarke has been sidelined with a sprained ankle, but Stewart expects him back in some capacity by next Monday.
Other players in red were Eain Smith (thigh) and Bradley Starks (groin).
Stewart was pleased with what he saw from Alston today between the tackles.
“I hope he shows you all (media) on Saturday what he showed us today,” Stewart said. “He ran hard. For a freshman, he’s doing really well.”
Stewart said there has been some shuffling at some positions to get a look at different players. Joey Madsen ran some with the ones today at center.
“We will know tonight after we look at the film how he did,” said Stewart. “That is not to say anything bad about Eric Jobe – we are interchanging a lot of positions as well.”
Offensive line coach Dave Johnson has said he would like to have at least three players capable of shotgun snapping at center this year.
Stewart indicated that the kicking competition between freshman Tyler Bitancurt and senior Josh Lider continues to progress. He is pleased with the way both of them have been kicking field goals.
As for the all-important kickoffs, Lider is showing the ability to get the ball near the goal line.
“Josh Lider’s hang time has been around 3.9 (seconds), and the ball has been anywhere from the 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and I can live with that,” said Stewart. “He kicks the ball about four seconds, on the numbers, almost every time.”
Stewart said he is not against using two kickers in a game if that is what is required.
“I will do whatever it takes to win the game,” he said. “One might be the field goal guy and then the other may be the kickoff guy.”
Stewart said Lider is also an outstanding pooch punter and may be called to do that as well.
- John Antonik