Friday, August 31, 2012

1 Tavon Austin

Hometown: Baltimore, MD

Career: 2009-Present

Record: 28-11, Bowl Record: 1-2 including a BCS win

Tavon “Awesome” was the late Coach Bill Stewart’s finest recruit. He was made in the same mold as Jock Sanders before him. Austin though was much shiftier and elusive than Sanders was. He would get few opportunities to show off his athleticism as a freshman. He made the most of his few opportunities, scoring a rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown, and most notably, a kick return touchdown against Connecticut. Coach Stew realized the talent he had in Austin and made him a permanent fixture as a slot receiver his sophomore season. Austin was able to capitalize on quick bubble screens to make plays in the open field. Austin would pull in 787 yards and 8 touchdowns as a sophomore. With Coach Stew out of the picture this past season, Coach Holgorsen would find a variety of ways to get Austin the football. This past season Austin rushed, caught, and returned both punts and kickoffs. Austin quietly had a remarkable receiving season, becoming the fourth WVU receiver to catch more than 1,000 yards in a season (teammate Stedman Bailey also achieved the same fete last year). Austin totaled 1,186 yards receiving, 182 yards rushing, 1,206 yards in kick/punt returns, and 11 total touchdowns. Looking at how Austin has dramatically improved year after year, it would not be surprising for Austin to tally 1,300 yards receiving, 400 yards rushing, and 20 total touchdowns. While Austin will not sneak up on anyone this year, he is too elusive to be contained (averaging over 200 all-purpose yards a game in 2011).

Memorable Game: The game that put Austin on the map nationally and has been the catalyst for his dark horse Heisman talk is the 2012 Orange Bowl victory over Clemson. It was a miracle that the Mountaineers made it to this BCS game after narrowly defeating Cincinnati, South Florida, and Pittsburgh to win the Big East title. Many national pundits made the Clemson Tigers heavy favorites in the match-up. The game was an offensive shoot-out with both defenses looking wholely undeserving of being on the field. WVU’s defense looked slow and Clemson’s defense could not tackle. While WVU’s defense would work out their issues by the second quarter, Clemson’s defense only seemed to implode as the game progressed. Darwin Cook’s 99 yard fumble return touchdown ripped the soul out of the Tigers team and fanbase. Austin would only further embarrass the Tigers. He should have been tackled short of the endzone on three different occasions, but the Clemson defenders just would not wrap up. Dabo Sweeney must not coach tackling. Austin lit up Clemson for 163 total yards and 4 touchdowns. WVU trounced, straight up demolished Clemson from the second quarter on, winning convincingly 70-33. Clemson fans still have nightmares to this day of that game and are always on their toes, waiting to hear that WVU scored yet again.

Competition: Austin will retire as the best all-around offensive talent the Mountaineers have ever had. He literally can do anything with the football (well except for maybe passing). There are a ton of great #1’s in WVU history that are worth mentioning: Damon Codgill, Jerry Porter, Vann Washingotn, Kay Jay Harris, Johnny Holmes, and Grantis Bell.

Teaser: Well folks, that is it. There are no more players to count down. Well, there was one player that wore #00 for one season: Randy Swinson. I could not find much on this player and more importantly, no picture. So with no other player to preview, I leave you with a clip from my all-time favorite movie: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, Secret of the Ooze. This movie was awesome, from the new mutants to the Super Shredder to Vanilla Ice, TMNT II had it all.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

2 Rasheed Marshall

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Career: 2001-2004

Record: 28-21, Bowl Record: 0-3

Rasheed Marshall was the prototypical Rich Rodriguez quarterback. He did not have the biggest arm, but was mobile and able to make plays on the run. Marshall was forced to sit the majority of his freshman season in 2001, suffering an arm injury early on in the season. By his sophomore season, Marshall had become the starting quarterback for the Mountaineers. He would hold that starting position for the rest of his career, progressively improving each game. With Marshall at the helm, West Virginia had three consecutive winning seasons, leading to three straight bowl game appearances. Marshall finished his career with 54.5% completion percentage for 5,558 yards and 45 touchdowns. He was also quite talented rushing the ball for 2,040 yards and 24 touchdowns. Rasheed’s dual threat nature drew the eyes of NFL scouts, who would convince him to play as a wide receiver. His pro career never really panned out, unfortunately.

Memorable Game: The game that really stands out in Marshall’s career is his performance in the 2003 East Carolina game. WVU traveled down to Greenville, NC following a heart-breaking home loss to Wisconsin. The Mountaineers were in need of a quality win to get the season back on track. The Mountaineers controlled the tempo of the game with a quick rushing attack. Marshall would take advantage of East Carolina stacking the box to beat them through the air with roll out passes. Marshall only completed 11 passes during the game, but those 11 receptions were turned into 4 touchdown scores. West Virginia completely dominated ECU in every phase of the game, man-handling the Pirates 48-7.

Competition: A lot of talented Mountaineers have worn #2. They include Robert Sands, Darius Reynaud, Ellis Lankster, Dan Kendra, and Charles Emmanuel. Marshall got the nod as he was a big part of turning the Mountaineers program around in the early 2000s. Without such a talented quarterback running Rich Rodriguez’s up-tempo offense, the Mountaineers would not have been nearly as successful as they turned out to be.

Teaser: The final player in the countdown is arguably THE most talented Mountaineer to ever come through the program. This player can run, catch, and return the ball at any time for a touchdown. He showed off his wide arsenal of talents in a major bowl victory for WVU. I can’t wait to see this player down in Austin to show the Longhorns how we play ball. Also, I can’t help but think of this movie when I think of Texas. (WARNING: Strong Language)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

3 Quincy Wilson

Hometown: Weirton, WV
Career: 1999, 2001-2003
Record: 24-24, Bowl Record: 0-2
Quincy Wilson came to Morgantown in 1999 to play for Coach Nehlen. He would see limited playing time as a freshman, primarily backing up Avon Cobourne. He would suffer a season-ending injury prior to the 2000 season, forcing him to take a medical redshirt for Coach Nehlen’s final season. A healthy Wilson in 2001, caught the eye of Coach Rich Rodriguez, who found more carries for Wilson during the 2001 and 2002 seasons while Cobourne got the bulk of the carries. During his senior season, Wilson would get the opportunity to play as the featured rusher. Wilson lit up the score boards for the Mountaineers in 2003, punching 12 scores into the endzone. Wilson was best known for his 2003 run in Miami in which he trucked, and I mean trucked, the Hurricane defensive back on his way to the endzone. That play epitomizes Wilson’s style of play. Wilson’s statistics are not the best rushing stats in school history, but his physical running style and West Virginia roots, will always stick in Mountaineers fans memories.
Memorable Game: Wilson’s biggest game statistically came in the 2003 Backyard Brawl. I was at that game (or so I vaguely remember) and it was an exciting game. A few games removed from upsetting the Hokies, the Mountaineers were riding a winning streak coming into the home match-up with the Panthers. The game was nothing but highlights. Each team trading big scores early and often. West Virginia, behind the rushing of Wilson, pulled away in the second half of the game. Wilson ran past, through, and over Panthers for 208 yards and 4 touchdowns. West Virginia put away Pitt, 52-31.
Competition: Wilson is a fan favorite and one of the more recognizable players to have worn #3 for WVU. Some of the honorable mentions include: Paul Woodside, Larry Williams, and Mike Taffoni.
Teaser: I think the countdown needs one more quarterback. This player was a talented dual threat field marshal that led WVU to some impressive victories during his time in Morgantown.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

4 Jahmile Addae

Hometown: Valrico, FL
Career: 2001-2005
Record: 39-22, Bowl Record: 1-3 including a BCS win
Jahmile Addae was one of the hardest hitting safeties to play for the old gold and blue. Addae was excited about the possibility to play in Coach Casteel’s 3-3-5 odd stack defense. He knew that with three safeties on the field at all times, his chances of early playing time were exceptional. Following a freshman season of special teams play, Addae earned a starting safety spot for the Mountaineers. He provided solid deep pass coverage but really excelled in run support. Things looked bright for Addae coming into the 2003 season. Unfortunately, Addae would suffer a season-ending shoulder injury that forced him to take a medical redshirt. Many were skeptical that Addae would still be the same punishing hitter that he was prior to his shoulder injury. He silenced the doubters with one massive hit against the Hokies. Addae would have a successful 2004 campaign, stacking up 59 tackles, 4 pass break ups, and two interceptions. Addae‘s senior season was great not just for him, but also for the Mountaineers defense. The WVU defense was loaded with talent (Wiley, Gyorko, Lorello, McLee, Addae, etc) and primed to make it to a BCS game. Addae would quarterback the WVU defense to a 10-1 regular season. Addae culminated his college career with a solid performance in the 2006 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia (5 tackles). Addae’s career totals are 253 tackles, 27 pass break ups, 8 interceptions, and two touchdowns. While Addae was a really talented safety that was named All-Big East twice (2004, 2005, it still remains to be seen if he will make the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. He is certainly not a lock for selection, but he should at least be on the bubble.
Memorable Game: Addae showed off his big play potential in his last home game at Milan Puskar Stadium, in the 2005 edition of the Backyard Brawl. The Mountaineers were looking for revenge against a Pitt squad that narrowly beat them year before. West Virginia was pursuing their first ever BCS berth and were not going to let the Panthers stand in their way. The Thanksgiving time game was frigid, with temperatures reported near 7-degrees Fahrenheit. Both teams surprisingly started hot, trading scores en route to a 14-13 Mountaineers lead late in the second quarter. West Virginia’s defense then put a strangle-hold on the Panthers offense, keeping Pitt scoreless the rest of the game. Slaton and White piled on points to give WVU a big lead late in the game. Addae would put the final nail in Pitt’s coffin with a 40 interception return for a touchdown. WVU cruised by Pitt 45-13.
Competition: Other players that were under consideration for this selection included Steve Grant, Puppy Wright (who wore #1 as a senior), and Wes Lyons.
Teaser: The player selected at #3 hails from the West Virginia steel town of Weirton. This player is fondly remembered by his nickname “Weirton Steel.” He was a quick, hard-nosed runner that truly looked like WVU’s own man of steel.

Monday, August 27, 2012

5 Pat White

Hometown: Daphne, AL
Career: 2005-2008
Record: 42-9, Bowl Record: 4-0 including two BCS wins
Pat White’s career is one of the most memorable careers of any quarterback in college football history, period. Coming out of high school, Pat White received a lot of attention from southern schools like LSU. Most of the southern programs wanted White to play as a defensive back. Pat White, like Major Harris before him, was steadfast in his desire to play quarterback at the collegiate level. White would have to fight for his right to play quarterback at West Virginia. During his freshman season, he would split time with Adam Bednarik before winning the starting job outright midway through the season. He would launch to stardom during the 2005 season, especially following the 2006 Sugar Bowl. As a sophomore, White would take his game to the next level, becoming a stronger passer to match his exceptional ability to scramble. He would lead the Mountaineers to a Gator Bowl Victory following the 2006 season, in which West Virginia had to weather many injuries. The Mountaineers, led by White, were in search of a National Championship in the 2007 season. While WVU did not reach their goal for 2007, they did achieve a resounding victory over Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl amidst the Rich Rodriguez drama. White would cap off his stellar career with a fourth consecutive bowl victory in the 2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl. White finished his Mountaineer career with 6,049 yards passing, 56 passing touchdowns, 4,480 yards rushing, and 47 rushing touchdowns. He is sixth on the NCAA’s all-time wins list amongst quarterbacks and is the only quarterback in NCAA history to win 4 bowl games. What is astonishing, is the fact that White was never named an All-American. His dual threat nature must have played into his being passed over for All-America all those seasons.
Memorable Game: We could easily discuss a whole host of memorable performances by Pat White, but today we look at Pat White’s last game at Milan Puskar Stadium; the 2008 South Florida game. Pat White meant so much to the West Virginia football program that the school decided to honor him with the school’s first “White Out” game. Fittingly, the game was a snowy night game in Morgantown, building a magical ambiance for White’s home finale. White would move the ball well against the Bulls defense during the first quarter, building a 7-0 lead on a touchdown pass to Tyler Urban. The game would settle into a defensive match as the snow picked up, making the game a very low scoring affair. White would pass and run to give the Mountaineer’s good enough field position to convert a pair of field goals. West Virginia would give Pat White one last win in front of the home crowd, 13-7 over USF.
Competition: No competition here. Some would mention the late Chris Henry as a great to wear #5, but would then realize that there is no rationale argument in which Chris Henry wins this selection over Pat White.
Teaser: Tomorrow we observe the career of a punishing strong safety that helped to put the 3-3-5 odd stack defense on the map. This player, out of Valrico, FL, could always be counted on to deliver the big hit.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

6 Grant Wiley

Hometown: Trappe, PA
Career: 2000-2003
Record: 27-12, Bowl Record: 1-2
Grant Wiley was a major defensive recruit for Coach Nehlen in 2000, his last recruiting class at West Virginia. Wiley was rated as the 8th best linebacker in the East when he came to Morgantown, WV. He became an instant starter at linebacker for the Mountaineers. Wiley compiled 94 tackles as a freshman to earn Big East Rookie of the Year in 2000. With Nehlen leaving the program after the 2000 season, Wiley was asked to learn how to play linebacker in the 3-3-5 odd stack defense. He would excel in the new defensive system, putting up more impressive statistics than in the 4-3 system. Wiley would lead the Mountaineers defense through a tough 2001 season, to build towards impressive defenses in the 2002 and 2003 seasons. Wiley would help the 2002 and 2003 defenses become top 25 defenses and help the Mountaineers make it consecutive bowl games. Wiley also earned some personal accolades along the way; All-Big East 2002 and 2003, and Consensus First Team All-America in 2003. His time in Morgantown was certainly memorable and should earn him a place in the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in the near future.
Memorable Game: Coach Don Nehlen announced to the West Virginia football team that 2000 would be his last season in Morgantown. WVU started the 2000 season with a 3-1 record and were in pursuit of one last bowl game for Coach Nehlen. The season also held special significance because the Mountaineers were closing in on the program’s 600th victory. They would go for win 600 against Idaho. The Mountaineers defense would be challenged by the Vandals high flying passing attack. Idaho jumped out to a 9-0 first half lead. Wiley and the WVU defense would rally around each other to bring the Mountaineers back in the 2nd half. Wiley punished the Vandals with 7 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, and a defensive touchdown. West Virginia rallied to a 28-16 win to secure the program’s 600th victory.
Competition: This was a tough choice to make. There are two great Mountaineers that wore #6: Wiley and David Saunders. Wiley’s impressive statistics as one of the best linebackers in West Virginia history. Saunders is arguably the best receiver in WVU history. When it comes down to it, I went with Wiley because I personally lean towards defensive players.
Teaser: Tomorrow we look at the career of the best offensive playmakers in WVU history. He has one of the more popular names in West Virginia, or at least that’s what many outsiders think. This dual threat quarterback was wild and wonderful.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

7 Noel Devine

Hometown: Fort Myers, FL
Career: 2007-2010
Record: 29-16-2, Bowl Record: 0-2
How Noel Devine ended up at West Virginia is beyond comprehension. Being a Floridian, he was lined up to become a Seminole, Hurricane, or a Gator. Deion Sanders was his close, personal mentor and was no doubt steering him towards Florida State. Devine came to West Virginia to follow in the foot-steps of Steve Slaton as the next featured rusher in Coach Rodriguez’s offense. Devine got limited carries as a freshman, but made the most of them. In the Maryland game, he would go for 136 yards on just 5 carries. After sitting behind Slaton for a season, he assumed the role of starting running back for Coach Stewart’s new look offense. Coach Stewart’s more pro-style offense did not really fit the skill set of Devine, and he often looked like he was out of place during his sophomore season. Devine would settle into the new offensive system and tally some impressive rushing totals. He finished his Mountaineer career with 4,315 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns. Devine’s excellent performances earned All- Big East honors in 2009.
Memorable Game: Noel Devine had a knack for stepping up his performance in big games, and he did just that when SEC powerhouse Auburn came to town in 2008. Milan Puskar Stadium was rocking that night as the fans were anxious to help the Mountaineers to a major victory. Pat White and Noel Devine looked to keep Auburn guessing in the zone read option running game. The Mountaineers would start slowly, giving up an early 10 point lead to the Tigers. Devine would give the Mountaineers a solid rushing performance, keeping Auburn’s defense on its heels. West Virginia, behind Devine’s rushing and White’s passing, would take control of the game in the second quarter. The Mountaineers cut Auburn’s lead to 17-14 at half time. Devine put up 207 yards rushing and a touchdown in powering the Mountaineers to a 20 point romp in the second. Auburn just could not make a tackle in the second half. West Virginia finished off Auburn with a 34-17 final score.
Competition: Devine was an easy selection for #7 on the countdown. He is easily the highest profile prospect to commit to West Virginia in recent history. It’s not like a player like Brandon Myles could have unseated Devine here.
Teaser: Tomorrow we look back to the outstanding career of one the most ferocious defenders in West Virginia history. This player was a dominant linebacker that stood out on good Mountaineer defenses. Unlike Wile E Coyote, this guy killed his targets.

Friday, August 24, 2012

8 Danny Buggs

Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Career: 1972-1974
Record: 18-16, Bowl Record: 0-1
Too often, West Virginia fans forget about the great all-purpose players of the past. Many are quick to point to Tavon Austin, Jock Sanders, Pat White, etc as the best all-purpose players to come through Morgantown. How many WVU fans point to Danny Buggs? Certainly the younger generation does not remember his career, but the more seasons Mountaineer fan can tell you that Buggs was an electrifying force for the Mountaineers in the 1970s. Buggs was listed as a wide receiver on the depth charts, but was used as a receiver, rusher, kick returner, and punt returner. After sitting out freshman year with academic issues, Coach Bobby Bowden gave Buggs the chance to play as sophomore. Bowden would use Buggs to do everything during the 1972 season. Buggs scored rushing, receiving, and returning. After exploding onto the scene in 1972, Buggs would continue to make plays for the Mountaineers in 1973, earning first team All-American honors. Buggs, like the rest of the Mountaineers, would struggle in 1974. He had a difficult time staying on the field and the entire team struggled to produce. The 1974 season was the catalyst to WVU firing Bowden, following the 1975 season (biggest mistake in program history). For his career, Buggs totaled 2,729 all-purpose yards and 24 total touchdowns. It is said that Buggs scored a touchdown every 5 touches, which is just insane. He literally was a threat to score every time he touched the ball, which is why he was drafted by the NFL. Buggs would not have the same success in the pros as he did in college, ending up out of football without a memorable career. His college career, though, was more than qualified to be inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.
Memorable Game: Danny Buggs got many teams off guard during the 1972 season. One of the teams that seemed to be caught completely by surprise was the Syarcuse Orange. The Mountaineers welcome Syracuse to Old Mountaineer field in November of that year to renew their rivalry. West Virginia was seeking to avenge the 1971 loss at Syracuse. Coach Bowden was looking to unleash his new weapon, Buggs, on the Orange defense. Both teams would trade scores in the first half, with WVU taking a 14-12 lead into half time. Buggs would take over the second half of the game, helping the Mountaineers blow the game wide open. Buggs carried the ball 4 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns. He would also add a pair of receptions for 80 yards and a receiving touchdown. The Syracuse defense had no answer for Buggs’ speed. West Virginia completely owned the Orange in the second half, leading to an easy 43-12 victory.
Competition: Buggs was an easy pick for this spot on the countdown. He is one of the most dynamic players to have suited up in the old gold and blue. There were some other decent players to have worn #8. They include: Quinton Andrews, Thandi Smith, Keith Tandy, Khori Ivy, and Trusty Tallman.
Teaser: Tomorrow, we look at another smaller, shiftier Mountaineer. How this player ever made it to Morgantown, is beyond comprehension. This player had his pick of any school in the country, yet he chose WVU. It must have been divine intervention (certainly not Deion intervention). What really happened with his recruitment will probably remain a secret.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

9 Major Harris

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Career: 1987-1989
Record: 25-10-1, Bowl Record: 0-3
Major Harris is easily the most recognizable icon of West Virginia University football. Harris came to West Virginia in the late 1980s. Harris, starting quarterback at Brashear High, was originally interested in the University of Pittsburgh. Coach Mike Gottfried recruited Harris as a defensive back. Harris, firm in his commitment to being a college quarterback, decided to commit to Coach Don Nehlen. The 1980s really saw the dawn of “athletic quarterbacks.” Major Harris was a prime example of a quarterback that was just as talented rushing the ball as he was passing the ball. Harris would show the nation, and Pitt especially, that he was one of the best athletes in the nation. In 1988, Harris would pass for 1,915 yards, rush for 610 yards, and score 20 total touchdowns in leading WVU to an undefeated regular season. Harris led WVU to the Fiesta Bowl, in what was dubbed the National Championship game. Harris would follow up his phenomenal sophomore season with an even better junior season. He would amass 2,058 passing yards, 936 rushing yards, and 23 total touchdowns. Harris would finish his Mountaineer career with more than 2,000 yards rushing, finishing in the top ten of WVU’s all-time rushers. Rather than complete his senior season in Morgantown, Harris opted for the NFL draft. Coming out of school early would prove to be a terrible mistake as Harris would never play a snap in the NFL, spending his professional career primarily in arena leagues. While Harris’ pro career is forgettable at best, his collegiate career is one of the best in the history of college football. That is why, in 2009, Major Harris was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Memorable Game: When you think of Major Harris as West Virginia icon, you inevitably think to the Dale Sparks shot (featured above) of Harris scampering into the end zone against Penn State in 1988. The game against the Nittany Lions was always circled by Mountaineer teams, primarily because they knew that the Penn State game would be difficult and usually end in defeat. Coming into the contest in 1988, Penn State had won 27 of the previous 29 (including one tie) against the Mountaineers. Major Harris, having watched Penn State edge WVU the year prior, was out to prove to the nation that his Mountaineers were not going to let Joe Pa get the best of them again. The Mountaineers, led by Harris, jumped all over Penn State in the first half, building a 31-8 lead. Harris dismantled Penn State with his legs and his arm. He ran for 58 yards and a touchdown while also throwing for 230 yards and two touchdowns. West Virginia would hold off a late Penn State rally to preserve a 51-30 win. The win is often regarded as one of, if not the, biggest win in the program’s history. The game put Coach Nehlen and the Mountaineers in the national spot light, setting WVU up for National Championship consideration in 1988.
Competition: Major Harris was an easy pick for #9. He is synonymous with #9 in Mountaineer Nation. Besides, there was zero chance that this selection would go to a disgrace like Pacman Jones. Don’t get me wrong, he is a fine football talent, but his off the field issues cast an ugly shadow on the West Virginia program.
Teaser: Tomorrow we honor an under-sized shifty playmaker. This player was an incredible talent, able to receive, rush, and kick return. His ability to change direction on a dime left opposing defenders with broken ankles and grasping at thin air. This Mountaineer star moved like a water bug across the field.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

10 Steve Slaton

Hometown: Levittown, PA
Career: 2005-2007
Record: 33-5, Bowl Record: 3-0 including two BCS wins
This countdown would be remiss to not include West Virginia’s all-time leading scorer: Steve Slaton. The fact that Steve Slaton made it to West Virginia in the first place is amazing. Coming out of high school, Slaton wanted to play for Maryland and Coach Ralph Friedgen. The Fridge passed on Slaton, who would wind up in Morgantown in 2005. Slaton entered the season as the fourth string running back behind Jason Gwaltney, Jason Colson, and Pernell Williams. To say that Rich Rod overlooked Slaton’s talents would be a tremendous understatement. Slaton was easily the quickest, shiftiest, and toughest rusher of the group. Slaton would not get a chance to shine until the Virginia Tech game where he ran for 90 yards against one of the nation’s best defenses. He would become an instant star two games later, rushing for 6 touchdowns against Louisville. The rest is history. Slaton ran for 1,128 yards and 17 touchdowns in half a freshman season, including a Sugar Bowl record 204 yards rushing and two touchdowns. As a sophomore, Slaton only upped his game, rushing for 1,744 yards and 16 touchdowns. Slaton’s junior season coincided with Noel Devine’s freshman season, taking carries away from Slaton and reducing his statistics marginally. Slaton was still able to amass 1,051 yards and 17 touchdowns. After winning two BCS games in three seasons, Slaton declared for the NFL draft. WVU success during this time is due in large part to Slaton’s rushing ability. Without the threat of Slaton in the zone read rushing offense, Pat White and Owen Schmitt would not have been able to put up the numbers that they did. Slaton’s 55 career touchdowns (50 rushing, 5 receiving) stand as the West Virginia career scoring record. With WVU’s heavy reliance on the pass under Coach Holgorsen, I highly doubt there will be another running back of this caliber in Morgantown for quite some time.
Memorable Game: Many people are probably expecting to see the 2005 Louisville or 2006 Georgia game featured here. While both games are quite impressive, many people forget the tremendous performance he gave during the 2006 Maryland game. Slaton did not get to rush against Maryland as a freshman, so this game marked the first time that he would get the opportunity to show the Fridge the errors of his recruiting strategy. Slaton was focused on embarrassing the Terrapins, and he did just that. Slaton demolished, I mean absolutely pummeled, the Maryland defensive front in the first quarter as he rushed for 149 yards and two touchdowns: in the first quarter alone! West Virginia, behind the rushing of Slaton, jumped all over Maryland to lead the game 28-0 after one quarter of play. Slaton and the Mountaineers went on cruise control for the rest of the game, easily beating the Terps 45-24. Slaton finished with 195 yards and two touchdowns.
Competition: This was far and away the toughest selection to make. Marc Bulger is one of the best quarterbacks in school history, having held multiple passing records until Geno Smith broke them all this past season. Bulger is also a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. Some other notables at #10 include Adam Lehnortt, Tony Reda, and Greg Hertzog. Current freshman Jordan Thompson wears #10 and looks like another fantastic receiver in the making.
Teaser: Tomorrow we honor one of the most iconic Mountaineers in the program’s history. This player was an incredible dual threat athlete for WVU and was a major pain to opposing teams.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

11 Fred Wyant

Hometown: Weston, WV
Career: 1952-1955
Record: 31-7, Bowl Record: 0-1
Fred Wyant was at the helm of the West Virginia Mountaineers during the Golden Era of WVU football. As a freshman, Wyant would take control of Coach Pappy Lewis’ offense. Once Wyant became the starter in 1952, he would be the starting quarterback for the rest of his career. Wyant was a capable rusher as well as a passer in Coach Lewis’ option offense. He also had a knack for playing defensive back, collecting 5 interceptions for his career. Wyant was an impressive offensive player, giving opposing defenses problems. For his career, he totaled 3,426 all-purpose yards and 33 touchdowns. Wyant also is the only West Virginia quarterback to beat Penn State three times (WVU only has 9 total wins against Penn State). Fred Wyant was also an adept learner, earning Academic All-American honors in 1953, 1954, and 1955. Following graduation, Wyant would play one year in the NFL and one year in the CFL before becoming an official. His most notable game officiated was the 1981 AFC playoff game between the Dolphins and Chargers, known as the “Epic in Miami.” Wyant was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.
Memorable Game: Fred Wyant showed his ability to take over games in the 1954 contest against the South Carolina Gamecocks. The road game was West Virginia’s season opener on October 2. The original opener against Washington & Lee was canceled after W&L de-emphasized football. West Virginia traveled to Columbia in search of a big win over a good Gamecocks squad. The Mountaineers offense, powered by Fred Wyant, outgained USC on the ground by a 446-94 margin. Wyant accounted for two rushing touchdowns and a passing touchdown to dominate the Gamecocks defense. West Virginia coasted to an impressive season opening win over South Carolina by a final score of 26-6.
Competition: There are plenty of notable Mountaineers to have worn #11. Just a sampling of some of the notables: Bruce Irvin, Sidney Glover, Adam Bednarik, Dick Longfellow, and Gary Thompkins.
Teaser: The choice for #10 is a very difficult one. On one hand, we have the school’s second all-time passing leader and on the other, the school’s all-time leading scorer. While the decision was the most difficult one of the countdown, we have arrived at a selection. This player was super and the offense was focused on his special talents. For this writer, it’s all about Steve.

Monday, August 20, 2012

12 Geno Smith

Hometown: Miramar, FL
Career: 2009-Present
Record: 28-11, Bowl Record: 1-2 including a BCS win
No other Mountaineer has received as much preseason hype as quarterback Geno Smith. He was named the preseason Big XII Offensive Player of the Year and is widely regarded as a dark horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Smith has received all the love from the media due in large part to his break out junior campaign. Geno flourished in Coach Dana Holgorsen’s air raid offense after spending two seasons playing in Coach Bill Stewart’s pro-style offense. Those first two seasons, Geno completed 64.8% of his passes for 3,072 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. Those statistics pale in comparison to this past season in which Geno completed 65.8% of his passes for 4,385 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. Geno’s junior season earned him a second straight All-Big East selection. Geno was also named the Most Outstanding Player of the Orange Bowl (an honor that probably should have gone to Tavon Austin). Geno Smith also set WVU records for passing in 2011, with most pass attempts in a season, most pass completions in a season, and passing yards in a season. When you look at the fact that Geno will have his top three wide receivers back this season, he could be poised to have the greatest passing season in school history, even better than his record setting 2011 season.

Memorable Game: Geno Smith had so many great performances last season, it was difficult to pin point just one. The game that really stands out though (and this may be a surprise) is the home match with Connecticut. The Mountaineers were riding high coming into the game with a 4-1 record on the season. UConn was still trying to figure out what their team identity was in the post-Edsall era. The Mountaineers offense started the game a little slow, only leading the Huskies by a score of 10-6 at half time. Geno Smith would air it out in the second half, leading the Mountaineers on three scoring drives in the third quarter. Smith would throw a fourth touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to salt away the blow out of the Huskies. Geno completed 27 of 45 passes for 450 yards and 4 touchdowns in WVU’s 43-16 win.

Competition: This was a tough selection process. West Virginia is known for two tremendous quarterbacks at #12: Geno Smith and Oliver Luck. The current AD, Oliver Luck, is a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame and has some impressive statistics. Geno got the nod at #12 due to his incredible statistics this past season and the expectations of a monumental 2012 season that should cement Geno’s future inclusion in the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.
Teaser: Tomorrow we honor another tremendous Mountaineer quarterback. This player was a key member of West Virginia’s success in the golden era of Mountaineer football. He was a dual threat passer and rusher that terrorized opposing defenses. There are surely some defenders who still have nightmares about this player. He may not be Freddy, but if you are a defensive back, he is certainly a nightmare.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

13 Mike Vanderjagt

Hometown: Oakville, ON
Career: 1991-1992
Record: 11-9-2, Bowl Record: 0-0
Mike Vanderjagt took a long an interesting road to Morgantown, WV. He initially began his college career in 1988 at Michigan State, originally playing as a quarterback and place kicker. Vanderjagt was not going to win the starting quarterback job for the Spartans, so he transferred to Allan Hancock Community College. After playing a year of lower level football, chasing his quarterbacking dream, he decided to focus on punting and kicking. Coach Nehlen plucked up the talented kicker in 1991. He would play the 1991 season as a punter and then as a place kicker in 1992. That 1992 season, Vanderjagt would make 15 of 20 field goals. His conversion rate was decent, yet not noteworthy. The NFL would pass on Vanderjagt for the next 6 seasons. He would find work in the CFL and AFL for the next six seasons, honing his accuracy. He would get his chance to play in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts in 1998. While with the Colts, Vanderjagt would become widely known as the most accurate kicker in the league. He was one of the most reliable scorers in the NFL up until that fateful 2005 playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers where he missed an easy field goal that would have sent the game to overtime. From that point on, Vanderjagt’s career would take a nose dive. While Vanderjagt may not ever make the Pro Football Hall of Fame (or any other kicker for that matter besides Jan Stenerud), he should have a decent chance at the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. Time will tell.

Memorable Game: Mike Vanderjagt was a key scorer for the 1992 Mountaineers. He flexed his scoring muscle in an early season match-up with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. The Mountaineers ran all over the Bulldogs, but had a difficult time punching the ball into the endzone. Vanderjagt stepped up to the plate for the Mountaineers, converting three field goals. Once the Mountaineers were able to get into the endzone, he would add a pair of extra points to bring his scoring total to 11 points for the afternoon.  Vanderjagt’s scoring alone was enough to put away the Bulldogs, as WVU easily won 23-3.
Competition: Again, I understand that some people don’t think too highly of kickers, especially one that did not always play for WVU. There is something to be said though for being the alma mater of one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. Perhaps this selection was made more on the total career merit (pro and college) than just his collegiate accolades, but I think it is important to remember the careers of your famous alumni, even if they are just a kicker.
Teaser: Fortunately for all you readers out there, I have no more kickers in line for this countdown. The remaining dozen are all high profile, extremely talented players. Tomorrow, the pick at #12 is a tremendously talented quarterback. The only question is, which quarterback is it? Luck? Smith? Maybe Sowards? I guess you’ll have to tune in tomorrow to see who makes the cut at #12. No matter who I pick, it is sure to start a Mountaineers family fued, like that of Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

14 Mike Sherwood

Hometown: Bellaire, OH
Career: 1968-1970
Record: 25-7, Bowl Record: 1-0
Mike Sherwood came to Morgantown following in his family’s footsteps. Sherwood would get a chance to start for Coach Carlen’s Mountaineers squad in 1968 as a sophomore. During the 1968 season, he would dazzle WVU coaches, earning the starting spot at quarterback for the rest of his career. Sherwood would power the Mountaineers to a 7-3 record as a sophomore, following that up with a 10-1 record as a junior (including a Peach Bowl victory). As a senior, Sherwood would have his most impressive statistical year, completing 60.6% of his passes for 1,550 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. Sherwood would stay on at WVU after graduation to complete a Master’s degree and serve as an assistant to Coach Carlen and Coach Bowden. Sherwood’s career would be honored in 1997 with induction into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.
Memorable Game: Mike Sherwood proved his talents to the Mountaineers coaching staff in only his second start in 1968, against the Pitt Panthers. Sherwood led the Mountaineers into Pittsburgh, seeking a big road victory early in the season. The Mountaineers offense, anchored by Sherwood’s play, dominated the Panthers defense. Sherwood completed 73% of his passes against the Panthers secondary for 416 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He added a pair of rushing touchdowns, giving the Panthers defense a multi-dimensional attack that they could not handle. West Virginia cruised to a 38-15 victory over Pitt. The win showcased Sherwood’s talents, setting him up to become the starting quarterback for years to come.

Competition: Sherwood is the only WVU Sports Hall of Famer at #14. He had the statistics and the name recognition necessary to blow the other candidates out of the water. Other distant competitors for #14 include Brad Lewis, Darren Studstill, and Brad Starks.
Teaser: Tomorrow we honor the most accurate kicker of all-time in the NFL, that is until he turned into a head-case. This player held it all together in college, giving WVU an accurate, big leg. It wasn’t until this kicker got to playing for the Colts that he lost his mind. Speaking of losing your mind, you should watch Psycho.

Friday, August 17, 2012

15 Jeff Hostetler

Hometown: Hollsople, PA
Career: 1982-1983
Record: 18-6, Bowl Record: 1-1
During his time in Morgantown, Coach Don Nehlen was very adept at recruiting transfer players for the Mountaineers. One of those transfers was quarterback Jeff Hostetler. The Hollsople, PA native originally selected Penn State coming out of high school. Hostetler would start two games for Coach Joe Paterno, before Joe-Pa decided to make Todd Blackledge the starting quarterback. Down, but not out, Hostetler decided to transfer to a school where he could show Joe-Pa the error he had made. Hostetler decided to come to Morgantown in the spring of 1981. After sitting out the 1981 season due to transfer rules, Hostetler was given the task of leading the Mountaineers in a huge road game against Oklahoma. That game would show that Hostetler was the real deal and launched his successful Mountaineers career. In his two seasons in Morgantown, Hostetler would complete 51.6% his passes for 4,261 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. Hostetler’s impressive statistics underscored his importance to the Mountaineers program. He propelled the Mountaineers to two bowl games and was key player in elevating the national perception of West Virginia. His success in Morgantown led to a long pro career in the NFL, playing for the Giants, Raiders, and Redskins. During his NFL career, Hostetler would win two Super Bowls, starring in SB XXV in a nail-biter against the Buffalo Bills. While he will never make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he did make the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.

Memorable Game: Hostetler’s most impressive performance for the Mountaineers was his first, in a road game against Oklahoma. The game in Norman, OK was the 1982 season opener and came 4 years after the Mountaineers were embarrassed their by a score of 52-10. Coach Nehlen’s squad was looking for a monumental upset of the 9th ranked Sooners. Oklahoma, under Coach Barry Switzer, was expected to be in the mix for the National Championship while the Mountaineers were expected to be a middle of the road team. The heat that day played a factor in West Virginia falling behind early, 14-0. Hostetler led the Mountaineers on late scoring drives in the first half to take a 20-14 lead into halftime. Early in the second half, Oklahoma would block a punt for a touchdown to knot the game at 27-27. The fourth quarter would belong to the Hostetler. He would engineer two touchdown drives to help the Mountaineers pull away from the Sooners. The Mountaineers defense would clamp down on Oklahoma, preserving a 41-27 victory for WVU. The win is regarded as one of the biggest upsets in West Virginia football history.

Competition: While Hostetler was the choice for this spot on the countdown, there was one other stellar #15 available: James Jett. He was a talented receiver that had the goods to play in the NFL. A couple other notables to wear #15 include Charles Pugh and Sedrick King.
Teaser: Tomorrow we honor the career of another Mountaineer legend. He made his career taking wins from big programs and gave the Mountaineers many more wins. His exploits were like that of Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest (if Robin Hood were a quarterback that is).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

16 Todd Sauerbrun

Hometown: Setauket, NY
Career: 1991-1994
Record: 29-16-2, Bowl Record: 0-2
As I have said before during this countdown, the West Virginia Mountaineers program is built on the back of skill players and special teams players alike. One of the greatest special teams players to come through Morgantown, or any college campus to be honest, is Todd Sauerbrun. Arguably the best punter in school history, Sauerbrun is an often overlooked Mountaineer (mostly because he is in fact, a punter). Sauerbrun first saw snaps as a freshman in 1991. He would go on to become the starting punter and also served as the place kicker. Sauerbrun had an incredible boot on him, able to fire off some of the longest punts in schools history. He was also pretty accurate with his kick placement, able to pin opponents deep in their own ends of the field, helping WVU win the field position battle. Sauerbrun was such a talented punter, he set an NCAA record with a punt average of 48.4 yards/punt. He earned a consensus 1st Team All-America selection in 1994. He would also garner All-Big East honors in 1992, 1993, and 1994. Following graduation, Sauerbrun went on to play in the NFL, being drafted 56th overall by the Chicago Bears. Sauerbrun would spend the next 13 years playing in the NFL, earning 4 All-Pro selections. Sauerbrun proved on both the college and professional levels that he is one of the greatest punters to ever play the game.
Memorable Game: Now that we have established the fact that Todd Sauerbrun has one heck of an ability to punt the ball, we now will take a look at a game in which he showcased his ability to put the ball through the uprights. No game exemplifies this facet of his game, better than the 1993 showdown with Louisville. As we have been discussing the past two days, 1993 was a good year for WVU. The Mountaineers won all their games, including the game against Lousville. The game was a shoot-out between two powerful offenses. Louisville, under Coach Howard Schnellenberger, featured a top notch passing game that gave the WVU defense fits all day. The deciding factor in the game would be special teams. Louisville could not punt the ball well, giving West Virginia an edge in the field position battle. The Mountaineers would need to rely on Todd Sauerbrun to keep the Mountaineers in the game. Sauerbrun would convert 3 out of 5 field goal attempts on the day (one of them was blocked). Sauerbrun’s 36-yard field goal with a little over 10 minutes left in the game was the game deciding score in a tight 36-34 win for the Mountaineers.

Competition: I’m sure many of my readers are upset with the selection of a punter here at #16. The other options like Jarrett Brown and Shaun Foreman are clearly fan favorites. Both players had solid success as Mountaineer players. Both players are sexier picks than Sauerbrun, but there is no way that I was going to pick either of them over such a talented punter. I know, many people discredit this pick because it is a punter, but when you are one of the best of all-time at your position, you are going to win your spot on this countdown.
Teaser: Back to skill players tomorrow! The selection at #15 is a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, hailing from Pennsylvania. He was quarterback for a team that won arguably the most exciting Super Bowl ever. The way that Super Bowl ended, reminds me of the story of Ray Finkle from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.