Out With the New, In With the Old

  • By Julie Brown
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  • April 07, 2011 03:28 PM
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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Spring football offers a priceless opportunity for college teams across the country to put the countless winter hours spent inside in the weight room and studying playbooks to good use.

For the younger athletes, freshmen and sophomores especially, spring ball presents a tough learning curve. This year, however, it’s not just underclassmen who are facing this learning curve. The entire Mountaineer roster, both offensive and defensive players alike, has been presented with new challenges.

With the exception of a select few. For sophomore wide receiver Ivan McCartney, the new offense reminds him a lot of what he was used to in high school.

“In high school, we ran the same type of offense that we have with Coach Holgorsen,” he said matter-of-factly. “We ran a lot and threw the ball a lot more in spread.

"Last year we didn't run this type of offense, so I've just had to find my way back and work my way back into this style."

Having former high school teammates at quarterback and wide receiver can help to smooth the transition as well. McCartney, along with Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey, are products of Miramar, Fla., and were coached by former Mountaineer Damon Cogdell.

Like many first year players coming into a Division I program, McCartney found that adjusting to the speed of the college game was difficult. Fortunately, he had a support system in his former teammates.

“They (Smith and Bailey) came in earlier than I did, so they were already accustomed to the college lifestyle and the college game. They brought me along and took me under their wings and showed me the ropes of being both a college student and a college athlete,” he explained.

A highly touted recruit, McCartney had acquired all of the necessary accolades that often precede a great college career by the end of his high school senior season. He was named 2009 Florida Class 6A all-state first team and played in the U.S. Army All-American game. The Miami Herald named him first team all-county and he finished the 2009 season with 37 catches for 747 yards and ten touchdowns.

Yet despite being used on more than 125 plays as a freshman, he finished the 2010 season with one carry for two yards against UNLV and one catch for four yards against Rutgers.

But as all determined athletes do, McCartney used these stats as a source of motivation rather than a source of disappointment.

“It’s just about getting better and helping the team as much as possible,” he said. “I’ve been working on everything that Coach Galloway taught me last year. Everything he told me to improve on, I’ve been working on. I do feel that I’m ahead of where I was at last year.”

Sharing this hardworking and optimistic view with the rest of his teammates, McCartney is appreciative of the coaching staff and the positive changes they’ve brought to Milan Puskar Stadium.

“Everything is going great and everybody is happy with the new offense. The coaching staff knows what they’re doing and it’s awesome to have those types of guys around you,” he stated.

“They’re not going to be light on us; they’re always going to be on us, making sure we’re doing things right in the classroom and on the field.”

Now it’s even more important to get things right on the field. The door is wide open for every player to showcase talent and skills, as the coaching staff evaluates the players who best fit into the new offensive scheme.

“Coach Holgorsen has a plan and knows what he’s doing,” McCartney explained. “The ball is being spread around more than it was last year. The running backs are doing a lot better than they were last year. Everybody’s getting a chance now. Nobody has a solidified spot. Everybody has an opportunity to do something in this offense.”

Due to these opportunities, it’s become even more important to take advantage of the advice offered and corrections made between plays during practice.

“The rotations have been great. It gives us chances to talk to the coaches if we’re doing something wrong and catch a little breather because it’s so much constant running. There aren’t many short runs; everything is deep especially for the outside guys so it just gives us chances to get results on what we just did.”

With all of the new changes and transitions made to the offense during the off-season, many people were left wondering how everything was going to work out. As it’s only the second week of spring ball, it’s still too early to tell what’s going to happen in the end.

But one thing is for sure. This new offense is starting to grab a lot of attention. And according to McCartney, opposing teams need to be watching for it.

“I don’t think other teams are going to be prepared for this,” he ended with a confident grin. “Anything can happen on any given Saturday, but teams better prepare well for it because I don’t think there’s any stopping this offense.”