This Week's WVU Sports Notebook
Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin believes Alabama has the most talented backfield in the country – college or pro. At least that’s what he told an Alabama reporter last week.
Junior T.J. Yeldon led the Crimson Tide in rushing last year with 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns, while fellow junior Kenyan Drake rushed for 694 yards and eight scores and sophomore Derrick Henry added 382 yards, three touchdowns and an eye-opening 10.9 yards-per-carry average.
The trio combined to rush for 2,311 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2013, so he may be on to something there.
Yeldon, a five-star prospect, was Alabama’s Mr. Football in 2011 coming out of Daphne (Pat White’s hometown), Drake was a four-star recruit and the seventh-best player in the state of Georgia in 2011, while Henry was a five-star recruit from Florida and the Parade Magazine national high school player of the year.
West Virginia will get an opportunity to gauge how much improvement its retooled defense has made under first-year coach Tony Gibson against those guys in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta on Saturday, Aug. 30.
Speaking of Alabama, the Crimson Tide could have a former Florida State quarterback as its starter when they hook up against West Virginia in Atlanta.
Nick Saban has yet to name his No. 1 quarterback, but it could very well be Jacob Coker, an Alabama native who began is collegiate career at Florida State where he was a backup to 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. Coker played in seven games, completing 18 of 36 passes for 250 yards for the Seminoles.
Another former Winston backup, West Virginia’s Clint Trickett, could be the starting quarterback for the Mountaineers in the opener as well. Injuries limited Trickett to only eight games in 2013 when he completed 52.8 percent of his passes for 1,605 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions for the Mountaineers.
Interestingly enough, Trickett’s father, Rick, worked with Alabama coach Nick Saban when the two were at LSU in 2000 before joining Rich Rodriguez’s West Virginia staff in 2001.
Lower end zone, mezzanine and upper end zone tickets for the game are currently on sale through the Mountaineer Ticket Office and can be purchased by calling 1-800-WVU GAME, or by logging onto WVUGAME.com.
The game will be televised nationally and will kick off at 3:30 p.m.
- A quick scan of Alabama’s Spring Football Prospectus has just one Crimson Tide player who listed West Virginia among his top five college choices. That would be redshirt freshman defensive back Anthony Averett from Woodbury, N.J.
- I am told that more information on football season ticket availability and packages for the general public will be released later this month. Stay tuned.
- Here is how difficult this year’s 2014 WVU baseball schedule was: four opponents so far have advanced to the NCAA Tournament Super Regionals (TCU, Oklahoma State, Maryland and Louisville) and two more opponents are still alive in the tournament (Texas and Texas Tech).
The Big 12 has been the most successful conference so far with a combined 11-3 record after Sunday’s games. Kansas, which was eliminated on Sunday in the Louisville Regional, also managed to get a win in this year’s NCAAs.
- If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out the Mountaineer Athletic Club Coaches Caravan Event at Bartini in Morgantown this Tuesday evening. The event will begin at 7 p.m. and will feature a round-table discussion with several Mountaineer coaches, including football’s Dana Holgorsen and men’s basketball’s Bob Huggins.
A ticket for the event is just $20 and can be purchased through the MAC by calling toll-free 1-800-233-2072. For more information, you can also email the MAC at MAC@mail.wvu.edu.
The MAC wraps up its Spring Caravan later this week in Charleston with the WVU Classic, presented by Med Express, on Thursday, June 5 and Friday, June 6.
- A hearty congratulations to former West Virginia center Rob Summers, who was named head men’s basketball coach at Urbana University late last month. Summers, who becomes the ninth head coach in Urbana history, spent last season working at James Madison where he was the Dukes’ Director of Men’s Basketball Operations.
Summers is part of an expanding Mountaineer basketball coaching tree that includes WVU teammates Patrick Beilein (West Virginia Wesleyan head coach), Darris Nichols (Wofford assistant coach), Joe Mazzulla (Fairmont State assistant coach) and Frank Young (West Virginia Wesleyan assistant coach).
All of them played together, and four of the five played on West Virginia’s NIT championship team in 2007.
Speaking of West Virginia’s coaching tree, here are some additional branches: Zach Spiker (Army head coach), Jerrod Calhoun (Fairmont State head coach), Kyle Triggs (Rutgers assistant coach), Mark Richmond (East Tennessee State director of basketball operations), Kevin Schappell (Northern Kentucky assistant coach), Ben Asher (NC State graduate assistant), James Haring (Illinois graduate assistant) and Casey Weitzel (Azusa Pacific assistant coach).
I am certain there are others out there that I am missing, too.
- Liz Repella, who wrapped up her Mountaineer playing career for Mike Carey in 2011, is back at WVU as the team’s graduate assistant coach for 2014-15. Liz replaces Madina Ali, who finished her two-year coaching stint with the Mountaineer women this past season.
Liz spent the last two years at Michigan where she was assistant director of operations for coach Kim Barnes Arico. Repella helped West Virginia to NCAA tournament appearances in 2008, 2010 and 2011.
Liz is not the only one from Barnes Arico’s Michigan program back at West Virginia. Chester Nichols, a member of Mike Carey’s WVU staff from 2004-09, has returned as associate head coach. Nichols left WVU in 2009 to become an assistant coach at Central Florida, and he also coached two seasons at Kansas before helping the Wolverines to back-to-back postseason trips in 2013 and 2014.
- Women’s soccer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown will begin her 19th season at West Virginia University ranked among the nation’s top 20 winningest active coaches with a .702 winning percentage. She also ranks among the nation’s top 25 active coaches with 264 career victories.
The Mountaineer women kick off the 2014 season in less than three months when they take on Duke at Dick Dlesk Stadium on Friday, Aug. 29 at 7:30 p.m. That will represent the first athletic event of the 2014-15 season on the WVU campus, and it pits two NCAA tournament teams from a year ago. Last year, West Virginia and Duke played to a 1-1 draw in Durham, N.C.
- April Messerly, assistant athletic director for facilities, informs me that the new Big 12 logo will be painted on the Coliseum floor and the turf at Milan Puskar Stadium later this week.
- Last week, the Big 12 Conference announced its membership revenue distributions for the 2013-14 academic year and West Virginia will be receiving nearly $14 million this year, up from approximately $11 million a year ago. West Virginia earned a 67-percent revenue distribution this season and that total will increase to 85 percent next spring. The Mountaineers will receive full revenue distribution from the conference beginning in 2016.
WVU received less than $7 million in revenue distribution during its final year in the Big East Conference in 2011-12.
- Geoff Cameron, a former West Virginia soccer player who finished his collegiate playing career at Rhode Island, is participating in this year’s World Cup in Brazil for the United States. Cameron was a 2008 MLS draftee by the Houston Dynamo, where WVU Director of Athletics Oliver Luck was president.
The former midfielder scored two goals and had an assist for the Mountaineers as a sophomore in 2005 when West Virginia won 13 games and lost to Akron in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
He also played on West Virginia’s 12-win team in 2004 as a freshman.
- Some leftovers from Sammie Henson’s introductory news conference on Monday, May 19:
On how he plans to build his current roster moving forward … “You can get one or two guys that can get you some points. We’ll see what happens, but we do want to have a strong dual meet team. Dual meets are exciting for fans and that’s how you build your fan base. You have to build a team because it’s a team sport, too,” he said.
Henson said there a few wrestlers still out there that can help West Virginia in 2015.
“It gets a little frustrating because kids are signing late and you feel like you are missing deadliness, but it’s got to be a fit,” said the new West Virginia coach.
Henson has a reputation for being a great recruiter, twice helping land the nation’s No. 2-rated recruiting classes at both Missouri and Oklahoma.
- New men’s golf coach Sean Covich said he is more a manager of the entire golf program than someone who breaks down swings and makes dramatic changes to a player’s game.
“Every player that comes to us already has their swing instructor,” he explained. “Usually, if a college coach gets in the way of that then it can mess up a player. Certainly, I will be there if they want any help, but I always leave it up to the player to come to me.”
Covich said his No. 1 task is making sure his golfers get in the necessary work they need to prepare them for tournament play.
“For me, it’s all about how they practice, how much they practice and planning out their practice and then when we get to a tournament, let’s map that out,” he said. “I’m more of a caddie. On this hole we need to hit a 3-wood off the tee because if we hit driver the bunker comes into play. The wind is going to be coming out of the east today, so it’s going to change things.”
Covich says college golfers finish up their fall season in late October or early November, and December is typically reserved for amateur event play. The summer months of June, July and August are also a time for college players to play a heavy amateur event schedule.
He said when he was at Mississippi State his players would play a minimum of two amateur events a year during the off-season.
- And finally, a story to finish off your Monday afternoon.
Among my all-time favorite players was Todd Sauerbrun, one of the most prolific punters in NCAA history. Todd sometimes marched to the beat of a different drummer and once during a road trip to Syracuse he forgot to bring his sport coat.
Don Nehlen didn’t have too many rules, but one of the rules that he did require was that all players and staff members wear a jacket on road trips. The players also had to wear their jackets to the team’s pregame meal on Friday evenings.
On this particular occasion, Nehlen was milling around outside the hotel ball room talking to some of the players when Sauerbrun walked past him without his jacket. Nehlen abruptly ended his conversation and asked Sauerbrun where his jacket was.
“Coach, I forgot to bring it,” Sauerbrun said.
“Well, Todd, you know the rules,” Nehlen answered. “I can’t let you go in without your sport coat.”
Since Sauerbrun couldn’t go in to eat with his teammates, he asked Nehlen for $10 to go across the street and get some dinner at Burger King. Nehlen flashed a puzzled look at his punter and then put both hands deep in his front pockets and pulled out a pair of rabbit ears.
“Todd, I don’t have any money – I’m the West Virginia football coach!” he said.
I am told Sauerbrun still loves telling that story whenever he hooks up with his former Mountaineer teammates.
Have a great week!
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