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Mountaineer Minute: SEC - The Conference That Has a Need for Speed

September 22, 2011
By JIM ELLIOTT , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

MORGANTOWN - Generally, when a team from outside the SEC plays a team from the conference, they get to hear all week about ''SEC speed.''

What, exactly, is SEC speed?

It would seem a guy who can run a 4.3 forty in the Big East might well be able to do it anywhere.

''As a whole, if you look at that conference there's a bunch of guys who are long, fast, big strong,'' West Virginia cornerbacks coach David Lockwood said.

There are guys like that in the Big East, too. Just not as many. And they're not always as big.

''One of (LSUs) defensive linemen runs like a safety, a skill guy,'' Lockwood added.

Still, West Virginia's guys were recruited to a school that has won nearly 80 percent of its last 80 games. They didn't get those scholarships by being slow-footed, untalented castoffs.

Do they get tired of hearing about SEC speed?

''Yeah, we do all the time,'' linebacker Najee Goode said. ''The best thing we can do is put up or shut up. I trust all my boys and their abilities on offense because I know they're fast because I practice against them. I put (slot receiver) Tavon (Austin) and all those dudes in a race against anybody. And I put Bruce (Irvin), he's one of the fastest D-ends I've ever seen in my life,'' up there, too, he said.

Still, reputations are repu-tations.

Quarterback Geno Smith, a Florida native, thinks it has to do with recruiting grounds and competitive levels.

''I've seen all kind of speed,'' he said. ''I can remember playing (former LSU cornerback and first-round NFL Draft pick) Patrick Peterson in high school and he was as fast then as he was in college. It's not really going to be that much of a difference to me, but certain guys may have never have seen that type of speed or may think it's different. The difference between a 4.3 and a 4.5, there's a great difference. Those guys are fast, they have fast guys, and it's normally because they get guys out of the south in Florida and Louisiana and around those areas and they have speed. But the thing is, they just compete and they win.''

Three X 100

In last week's victory against Maryland, three different receivers - Ivan McCartney, Stedman Bailey, and Austin - each caught more than 100 yards worth of passes in a game. It was the first time in school history that's happened.

To hear Holgorsen talk, he'd like to see more guys doing it, plus a few of the running backs put up some bigger yardage.

''We're gaining,'' he said. ''I've been a lot of places where we've had 300-yards receivers. I'm happy with their production, but we need to get more out of the other two spots.''

But what did the receivers think?

'' The scheme is set up perfectly, it's just a matter of who is going to step up and make plays,'' Bailey said. ''The opportunity is out there for everybody. And we have playmakers all over the field.''

It was Austin's third career 100-yard receiving game, but the first for McCartney, who suffered through something of a lost freshman season, as he had just one catch for 4 yards.

(Holgorsen said Monday McCartney should have probably red-shirted).

Anyway, McCartney was buried on the depth chart throughout the spring and some of the fall, with Holgorsen begging for more consistency.

McCartney took it to heart.

''I really believe this was always me,'' he said. ''Last year, I really didn't have the opportunity to show my talent off. Since Coach Holgorsen came around with the offense that he has, he gives people opportunity to show a player's talent.

''Me and Ryan (Nehlen), we battled it out in the spring and fall and he brought the best out of me.''

Talley returns

West Virginia will honor former All-American linebacker Darryl Talley during the first quarter of Saturday night's game on his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, where he will become the 12th Mountaineer to be so honored.

A four-year starter at linebacker for the Mountaineers from 1979-82, Talley set a then school-record 484 career tackles.

For his career, Talley had 282 unassisted tackles, 202 assisted tackles, 28 tackles for loss and 19 quarterback sacks before going on to play 12 seasons in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills.

Gold Rush

Saturday night's game has been designated as a Gold Rush game. All fans are encouraged to wear gold. EZToUse.com has provided 55,000 rally towels for distribution to WVU fans attending the game.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: elliott@theintelligencer.net