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WVU'sNastasi/GREG FOR WEB

by Greg Talkington

SPORTS WRITER

MORGANTOWN -- Situated in the very heart of Penn State country, Bedford, Pa., sits just about in the middle between State College, Pa., and Morgantown.

Although there aren't many West Virginia fans in the Bedford area, A.J. Nastasi decided to cast his lot with the Mountaineers three years ago, and he has no regrets.

"What it all came down to was three things," Nastasi, a sophomore wide receiver, said. "Don Nehlen, (former assistant) Doc Holiday and the spread offense WVU was using at the time.

"Plus, they have a good winning tradition established here."

Nastasi was recruited by several big-name schools.

In addition to Penn State, Georgia, Wake Forest, Pitt and Nebraska came calling as did Colorado and Arizona State.

With his brother, Joe, already at Penn State, it seemed likely A.J. would go there, too.

But WVU's spread offense, triggered by record-setting quarterback Marc Bulger, appealed to Nastasi.

"Penn State runs more of that two-back, two-wide receiver offense and that wasn't what I was looking for," Nastasi said. "I loved what WVU was doing with the passing game."

Unfortunately for Nastasi, when Bulger graduated, the spread offense was put in mothballs, and the Mountaineers returned to the more traditional multiple-I formation.

Now, instead of five receivers seeing a lot of playing time, only three get most of the work during game situations.

Nastasi has made the most of his limited opportunities, however.

He made two clutch third down receptions in the 29-24 win over Temple early in the season. In WVU's most recent game, a 42-28 loss to Notre Dame, Nastasi hauled in a 51-yard pass to set up a second half score.

For the season, he has five receptions for 87 yards.

"It's been tough, and running the kind offense we run has limited everyone's opportunities," Nastasi said. "I think I've played well when given the opportunity.

"That's pretty much all I can control."

For Nastasi and his fellow wideouts, a chance for more opportunities may be on the horizon.

With opponents gearing toward stopping WVU's running game, the Mountaineer coaching staff is considering reverting back to the three- and four-wide receiver sets.

"Teams have been loading the box on us, and it's tough to complete passes with only two guys in pass patterns," Nastasi said. "We did a little of that against Notre Dame and hopefully, we'll keep leaning in that direction."

Wide receivers coach Frank Kurth hopes, too.

"A.J. has done a fabulous job when we've put him in," Kurth said. "But with all the wide receivers we have, it's hard to keep everyone happy.

"If we use more of these sets to spread out the defense, then you'll a lot more of guys like A.J., Phil Braxton and Sean Terry."

Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at gtalkington@exponent-telegram.com.

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