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Original Issue

20 West Virginia

The Mountaineers’ skilled and experienced offensive line will clear a path to the Big East’s BCS bowl bid

When Tim Brown collapsed on the turf of the Mountaineers’ indoor practice field in August 2003, four days before the season opener against Wisconsin, he knew he was done for the year. The 6'5", 305-pound senior right tackle had been practicing a play when he ruptured his left Achilles tendon. Following surgery Brown spent the next nine months rehabbing the leg. “It was one of the worst times of my life,” says Brown, a three-year starter before the injury. “I wasn’t allowed to stand [for six weeks], so I couldn’t be with the team on the sideline. It was the most removed I’ve ever been.”

Brown, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, is expected to make a complete recovery and will be a cornerstone of one of the best offensive lines in the country. As a rejiggered front came together last fall, the Mountaineers reeled off seven straight wins to end the regular season, and the rushing attack ranked 13th in the country. In addition to Brown, all five of last year’s starters return, led by senior All–Big East guard Jeff Berk. Left guard Dan Mozes and center Jeremy Hines, both sophomores, are all-conference candidates. “I’ve been coaching 32 years, and this is the hardest-working group I’ve seen,” says line coach Rick Trickett. “They’re very strong and good on their feet.”

That will be a plus as the Mountaineers work in a new starting tailback: Senior Kay-Jay Harris (524 yards as a backup last year) takes over for the graduated Quincy Wilson. Other positives are speedy double-threat quarterback Rasheed Marshall, who threw for 1,729 yards and 15 touchdowns and ran for another 303 yards and four scores, and junior wideout Chris Henry, who averaged 24.5 yards per catch and scored 10 touchdowns in a breakout season. “With Rasheed, you don’t have to be perfect up front,” says Trickett. “When something breaks down, he escapes.”

With plenty of options on offense, the Mountaineers would have high hopes even if Miami--which dealt West Virginia its only two Big East losses in the last two years--were still in the conference. Now, as the most powerful team left in a Big East diluted by defections to the ACC, West Virginia takes its turn as a BCS player. --M.B.


2003 RECORD 8–5 (6–1, T1 in Big East)



KEY RETURNEES (2003 stats)

QB Rasheed Marshall (Sr.)

Has passed or run for 46 TDs in his career

WR Chris Henry (Jr.)

Big East rookie of the year caught 10 TDs

G Jeff Berk (Sr.)

Started eight games at RG and five at LT

LB Adam Lehnortt (Sr.)

139 tackles, tops among returnees; five sacks

RB Kay-Jay Harris (Sr.)

Averaged 5.8 yards on 91 carries



Percent of Mountaineers completions that went for TDs last season, the second-highest rate in the nation after Pitt’s 15.1%.


As a redshirt freshman backing up nosetackle Ben Lynch last year, Craig Wilson weighed 270 pounds; in 11 games; he made 18 tackles and had one sack. Now carrying 285 pounds on his 6'1" frame--he won the Iron Mountaineer Award for his winter conditioning work--Wilson will be the starter, with Lynch moving to defensive end.



        11 at Central Florida

        18 MARYLAND

        25 JAMES MADISON

Oct.   2 at Virginia Tech

        13 at Connecticut

        21 SYRACUSE 30 at Rutgers



        25 at Pittsburgh




Harris will have plenty of help up front as he takes over the tradition-rich West Virginia tailback spot.