Feb. 2, 2005
By Rachel Olsen
Campus Correspondent, West Virginia University
Special to CollegeSports.com
The West Virginia Mountaineers had a season of highs and lows, just like any other program. They started out strong with big wins over Maryland and UConn, but slumped away in the end with tough losses to Boston College, Pitt, and Florida State in the Gator Bowl. So even though WVU maybe have ended on a low note, 2005 shows great expectations for the Mountaineers, thanks to some excellent recruiting from the football staff.
The end of January saw commitments from two top-ranked athletes: kicker Patrick McAfee of Pittsburgh, PA and punter Scott Kozlowksi of Royal Palm Beach, FL. Both are number one in the nation at their respective positions, and could add to a kicking game that has been lax in the past. But yesterday, the icing was spread on the cake when Jason Gwaltney, a five-star running back from North Babylon, NY, gave his commitment to West Virginia, passing up chances to play at USC and Ohio State.
Of course, hard-core Mountaineer fans were beyond excited when they heard the news. Losing top players like Rasheed Marshall, Kay-Jay Harris, and Adam "Pac-Man" Jones, amongst others, was going to leave a void in the Mountaineer squad. But what do the students think about all of this?
"I'm extremely pleased to see that Gwaltney has decided to be a man of his word, and honor his original commitment to us," says Jason Noll, a senior Communications major. Noll feels that having a young running back with lots of talent will help take the pressure off the quarterback trying to fill Marshall's shoes.
Michael Minnich, a junior News-Editorial major, agrees, but questions why they recruited another running back, "We don't need a running back. We have plenty. I'm more worried about wide receiver and, to a lesser extent, quarterback next year."
Lucas Coffey, an International Studies major, thinks that this is a great move for West Virginia, and predicts that Gwaltney joining other running backs like Jason Colson and Pernell Williams will help the Mountaineers' running game be noticed by all. "Our running game will be the best in the conference and be on top of the national scene."
With the Big East conference changing next season, some think that West Virginia will take the championship, especially with this new edition to the Mountaineer squad.
"I can see West Virginia having a final record of 10-2, with both losses in the Big East somewhere," says senior pre-journalism major Blake Price.
But others don't want to jump the gun so easily.
"I'm not going to make a prediction for next year until I see what we've got at quarterback, receiver, and defensive back, but we'll at least go to a bowl game," adds Minnich.
In the end, it seems that students have the same opinion on Jason Gwaltney; he's going to do well for the Mountaineers. So for those predicting West Virginia to fall by the wayside next season, with growing programs at UConn and Pittsburgh, and newcomers Louisville and Cincinnati, think again. This new Mountaineer class will have something to prove -- not only to the Big East, but also to the nation -- that West Virginia can have one of the top football programs in the country.