WVU notebook: Linebacker might be K-State's best player
MORGANTOWN - When Kansas State football comes up these days, the name that is usually attached to any conversation is Collin Klein.
And why not? He could be the Heisman Trophy winner. At the least, he'll get a great chance to make a case for the award tonight when he goes up against the early-season favorite, West Virginia's Geno Smith.
But the truth is, Klein might not even be the best player on his team, much less the entire country.
West Virginia also has the matter of Arthur Brown to deal with in today's 7 p.m. game at Mountaineer Field.
"Arthur Brown is a special football player,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said of the 6-foot-1, 231-pound senior linebacker. "He's as good as I've ever seen at linebacker from an effort standpoint, a playmaking standpoint and a physicality standpoint.''
Brown is in just his second year as a starter at Kansas State because he spent his first two seasons at Miami. He was the Hurricanes' top recruit in a class that was ranked No. 1 in the nation in 2007, but played primarily on special teams his two years there before transferring back home. He's from Wichita, Kan.
Already Brown has been named to at least one mid-season All-America team. He was also on the preseason watch lists for - deep breath now - the Bednarik Award, Butkus Award, Walter Camp Award, Lombardi Award and the Nagurski Trophy. No word yet on his place on the most awards watch list, but it has to be high.
But Brown isn't the only talent on the Kansas State defense. That group hasn't given up more than 21 points this season. That figures to be a test for a West Virginia passing offense itching to get back on track after a poor performance a week ago in a 49-14 loss at Texas Tech.
"They don't have many holes in their secondary. There's not going to be a whole bunch of space to get a ball in there,'' Holgorsen said. "We have to do a good job of blocking up front and fitting the ball into tight spaces. They don't miss any tackles and they play with great effort.''
With Will Clarke sidelined last week at Texas Tech - his status for tonight's game is unclear - West Virginia used even more freshmen than normal along the defensive line. Eric Kinsey started and Kyle Rose, Christian Brown and Korey Harris all played.
The result? Well, call it mixed.
"They don't know how to play hard yet,'' Holgorsen said. "They're trying and slowly coming along, but they're not ready to be difference makers.
"They're all good kids, but we're not interested in putting just good kids out there. We're interested in putting nasty guys that get after people's tails and make plays and are disruptive. They didn't do that.''
No position on the team is relying more on true freshmen than the defensive line.
"We had four freshmen on the D-line that were there and need to continue to get better,'' Holgorsen said. "We have to keep coaching them and continue to get better. It's not a situation that's ideal, but what are we going to do about it?''
Shawne Alston's status continues to be up in the air. The senior tailback started the first two games of the season before suffering a thigh bruise. He played a handful of plays the third game, but none since.
He did travel with the team to Texas Tech, but didn't dress.
"It is frustrating, but what can you do? You want me to cry about it?'' Holgorsen asked. "We'll put the other running backs in and try and get them better. Dustin [Garrison], we played him more last week then we had and he looked a little bit better. We'll keep playing them.
"I can't do anything about it. I can't put them on waivers and bring somebody else in here. We coach what we have and that's how we've always approached it. We're not going to use it as an excuse. We're going to line them up and coach them and try and get their mindset right."
Garrison got most of his work in the fourth quarter last week after Andrew Buie had his 207-yard rushing game the week before at Texas and then was the primary ball carrier the first three quarters against Tech. Buie finished with 21 carries and 71 yards, Garrison nine for 42.
That was Garrison's heaviest workload of the season. He'd carried just eight times in the previous three games after sitting out the first two. Last year's leading rusher had reconstructive knee surgery in January.
"It looks like he's handled it fine,'' Holgorsen said. "He's not where he was last year, but he continues to get better.''
The plan going into the week was to have 6-6, 245-pound freshman tight end Will Johnson play the part of the 6-5, 226-pound Klein with WVU's scout team, but Johnson injured his back and couldn't do it.
So the job went to 6-1, 219-pound freshman wide receiver Devonte Mathis. But that really wasn't much of a simulation.
"If you can find a 6-foot-5 guy that is big, strong and fast,'' Holgorsen said, "he's probably not going to be on the scout team.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.