MORGANTOWN - News has been gushing concerning West Virginia University's football program.There's been word of stadium improvements. Geno Smith was named the Big 12 preseason offensive player of the year. The Mountaineers were selected to finish second in the league behind Oklahoma, according to a poll of media representatives.But a key player to WVU's fortunes sat quietly in the team's meeting room on Wednesday. At 6-foot-2, 295 pounds, senior nose tackle Jorge Wright didn't look all that imposing. But he's hoping to impose his will on the Big 12 - with a little help from his friends."I think what's going to help this year is the depth along our defensive line," Wright said. "That's been an issue the last couple of years. But there's great competition among our three-deep [depth chart]."
That was helped when fellow senior Shaq Rowell was moved from defensive tackle to nose in the spring. Also, freshman Imarjaye Albury made an immediate impact. The numbers should help with WVU's schedule upgrade and the Southwest heat.But keep in mind Wright won't be playing a familiar style with the Mountaineers' move from a 3-3-5 scheme to a 3-4 that can transition into a 4-3."I wouldn't say things have changed tremendously," Wright said. "But I always played [the opponent] head-up. In this, I will never be head-up. I will always be shaded to the side."The Miami native said that should allow him to make more plays."It's more responsibility," Wright said. "You're asked to make plays rather just take up one guy."nn
Notes from Touchdown City:Wright will be familiar with the opposing coach when the Mountaineers take on Marshall to open the season. Herd coach Doc Holliday, a former WVU assistant to Bill Stewart, recruited the senior to Morgantown.
"It won't be that big a deal," Wright said. "Maybe if I'd got to know [Holliday] more, but it was only for a year."One Mountaineer player who took summer training to heart was Chidoziem "Dozey" Ezemma. The defensive end/linebacker looks noticeably more fit and muscled than he did at the end of spring.
"I'm at 228 pounds," he said. "I put on about 20 pounds, mostly with protein shakes. The big challenge now, though, is to keep the weight on at the Buck position. That's not always easy. I'm happy about it though."
WVU redshirt freshman Dante Campbell is at the Y, or inside slot, receiver position behind standout Tavon Austin. If you're wondering about Campbell's game, he provided this self-scouting report.
"I have big size [at 6-4, 215 pounds]," he said. "I'd say I'm a possession receiver. Speed is something I'm working on."Playing behind Austin, he said, is a blessing and curse."You have to be hungry for the ball in every practice when you play behind Tavon," Campbell said. "But he helps me. He tells me what to do on every play."Campbell is excited for the opener against Marshall."I'll be nervous because I've never played college football," said the freshman. "I just know it will be loud - and fun."
WVU's coaches have asked linebacker Doug Rigg, now a junior, to become more of a vocal leader. The problem is, during summer workouts, Rigg isn't quite sure himself of how to play in the new defensive scheme.
"The freshmen will ask me a question and I don't want to steer them the wrong way," Rigg said. "I just try to give them an idea of what I think is right."And finally . . .
While some WVU players (see above: Ezemma) have worked to gain or lose substantial weight, true sophomore linebacker Jared Barber is the exception to the rule. He weighs 233 pounds heading into fall camp."Yep," Barber smiled. "I gained one pound."Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.