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Linebackers, fields and All-Americans

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ye olde notebook:
  • When you coach a major-college football team that allows Syracuse to rack up 38 points in something called the Pinstripe Bowl, you've got problems.
  • When you allow an Orange player named Prince-Tyson Gulley to rush for 208 yards and his teammate, Jerome Smith, to run for 157 more in said Pinstripe Bowl, you've got many problems.Especially at linebacker. Especially in a 3-4 scheme.So it's the charge of WVU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson to solve some of those problems this spring.And he's working on them.Gone are Terence Garvin and Josh Francis. Back are bowl starters Isaiah Bruce and Doug Rigg. But Patterson is seeking a different look for the 2013 season."Isaiah Bruce had a great freshman season, but he's got to become a better tackler," Patterson said. "He'd have led the Big 12 in tackles [last season] if he wouldn't have missed some, over-pursued or if he'd have taken some proper angles. Then he got banged up toward the end of the year and we probably played him too much."If Isaiah becomes a more physical, better tackler, he's going to be a really, really good football player."Patterson, however, seems comfortable with his projected inside linebackers."Nick Kwiatkoski has come on by working as hard as anybody in the offseason," said the defensive coordinator. "He's pushing 6-foot-2 and is 230 pounds. So now you have two inside linebackers that are athletic and 230 pounds."I'll be honest with you. When you look for an inside linebacker ... [Kwiatkoski] is physical; he's a good tackler. All the guy does when you put him on the field is make plays. I question myself and ask, why didn't I play him more?"Patterson also has experience returning in Rigg and Jared Barber."They've been here longer than the other two, but they're trying to adjust," Patterson said. "Jared was a 3-3 stack [middle] linebacker. Doug has played in the 3-3. So they're trying to transition and figure out the run fits. I think a year of experience is going to help those guys." Here's the twist.
    "I'm trying to convert Shaq Petteway and Sean Walters [from outside] into inside linebackers," said the coach. "Both are 230 pounds. So now you're sitting here with athleticism, size and strength. Now, Sean and Shaq are a little farther away from a size and strength standpoint, but they're better athletically. They can move extremely well in space."Patterson also likes freshmen Hodari Christian and Al-Rasheed Benton.The larger problem, he said, is WVU's outside linebacker situation."That's probably the deficiency we have," Patterson said.The defensive coordinator has players like Garrett Hope, Dozie Ezemma, Tyler Anderson and injured Wes Tonkery there, but it seems all need to prove they're more than situational fits.Hope will be useful against teams that want to line up and try to bull WVU. He's a guy who can set the edge. Ezemma is explosive, but not an every-down player. Anderson can provide depth.
    It will be interesting to see if freshmen can help."To get more athletic, we brought in [Brandon] Golson and d'Vante Henry, who are extremely fast, 4.5-type guys," Patterson said. "They bring a completely different dimension."
  • If you're following WVU's attempt at building a new baseball field, understand much of it is tied to Senate Bill 125. The purpose of that is to allow Monongalia County to levy a special district excise tax for the benefit of Morgantown's University Town Center, which has approximately 1,450 contiguous acres of land. On that land is where the new field would go.
  • The bill has passed the Senate and now has to pass through the House of Delegates and be signed by the governor. It's been sitting in the House for a week.
  • As you may know, the Gazette has published my Associated Press Top 25 basketball poll vote each week this season. What you may not know is part of the duties include voting on the All-America teams.
  • Throughout the years you've read and heard me gripe that honors are voted on too early. Why not wait until all the information (i.e. the postseason) is in? Why is there such a rush?However, based on the available information and my deadline, my votes went like this:First team - Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga; Ben McLemore, Kansas; Victor Oladipo, Indiana; Mason Plumlee, Duke; and Otto Porter, Georgetown.Second team - Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State; Trey Burke, Michigan; Cody Zeller, Indiana; Shane Larkin, Miami; and DeShaun Thomas, Ohio State.Third team - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia; Russ Smith, Louisville; Allen Crabbe, California; Doug McDermott, Creighton; and Jeff Withey, Kansas.I voted for Olynyk for player of the year (which he should get, but won't) and his coach, Gonzaga's Mark Few, for coach of the year.
  • And finally . . .
  • Condolences to WVU director of football communications Mike Montoro.After a battle with cancer, Montoro's mother, Marilyn, passed away in Irvona, Pa., this week. May she rest in peace.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, or follow him at      
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