BEHIND SUPER SOPH
STEVE SLATON, THE MOUNTAINEERS ARE CRANKED UP FOR A RUN AT THE NATIONAL
2005 RECORD 11-1
(7-0 in Big East)
KEY RETURNEES DT
Keilen Dykes (Jr.) Led team in sacks (five) and tackles for loss (eight) S Eric
Wicks (Sr.) Lone returning starter in the secondary had 61 tackles LB Kevin
McLee (Sr.) All-conference pick was second on team in tackles (78)
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS
When offensive line coach Rick Trickett was recruiting quarterback Pat White
three years ago, Trickett told his players, "If we get him here, he's going
to win the national championship for us." The 6'2", 190-pound sophomore
is an electrifying runner (7.3 yards per carry last season) whose passing
should benefit from more experience and a better receiving corps than he had
last year. White has already shown improvement; in the Gold-Blue Game last
spring he completed 23 of 30 passes for 215 yards.
One day during
the off-season, not long after the Mountaineers had beaten the big, bad
Bulldogs of Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, 14 West Virginia players lined up inside
the Caperton Indoor Facility to settle the question, Who's the fastest player
on the team? Sixty yards and six seconds later they had their answer: running
back Steve Slaton. "Not a lot of people," coach Rich Rodriguez says,
"can run with that guy."
sparingly in the first five games last year as he learned the offense, the
5'10" freshman ran for 1,128 yards and 17 touchdowns. He scored six
touchdowns in a triple-overtime win over Louisville and gashed Georgia for a
Sugar Bowl-record 204 rushing yards, including touchdown runs of 52, 18 and 52
yards, as the surprising Mountaineers finished off an 11-1 season and got their
already-crazed fans thinking national championship in 2006.
Asked what he
enjoys most about being a running back, Slaton says, "Embarrassing
somebody. When people try to tackle you and they can't, I like that."
Slaton runs the
40 in 4.37, but he is more than a one-dimensional speedball. "He's a fast
guy with surprising power," Rodriguez says. In fact, in the spring Slaton
won the Iron Mountaineer Award as the top performer in the winter workout
program, and he has added 10 pounds since last season (he's still a svelte 195)
to better absorb hits. "The exciting part is that he's still learning the
ins and outs and some finer points of the offense," Rodriguez adds.