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CURRENT STORIES


WVU begins search for backup to Wilson

by Greg Talkington

SPORTS WRITER

MORGANTOWN -- It's pretty much a no-brainer as to who will take over Avon Cobourne's spot as the centerpiece of West Virginia's rushing attack in 2003.

Senior-to-be Quincy Wilson is poised and ready after backing up and sharing time in the same backfield with WVU's all-time leading rusher last season.

The more pertinent question is: Who will take on Wilson's role of 2002?

Many observers point to junior college transfer Kay Jay Harris, a hulking 6-2, 240-pounder with 4.5 40-yard dash speed, as the heir apparent. But he's ineligible for spring drills and will have much catching up to do when August rolls around.

While several are vying for the position this spring, it appears versatile junior Hikee Johnson and speedy freshman Jason Colson are the best bets.

Johnson, recruited as a tailback, spent most of last season backing up Mo Fofana at fullback. The 5-11, 207-pound Johnson rushed for 61 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown in limited action.

Now, he has a chance to become a more integral part of the offense.

"The coaches told me when I moved to fullback that I would still get the chance to play the superback spot when the time came," Johnson said. "With Avon graduating, this is my chance.

"I thought I had been doing pretty good, but I didn't play to my capabilities in the scrimmage (Saturday)."

Johnson said he's still adjusting to the different positioning of the back, which is much closer to the line of scrimmage and standing next to the quarterback in the shotgun.

"When I was in high school, we ran the I," Johnson, who originally signed with Virginia, said. "So you have to make some decisions more quickly.

"But I feel my two biggest attributes are I run hard and I can catch the ball. And those are two things you definitely need to do in this offense."

Colson came to WVU last fall from Rochester, N.Y., where he was a renowned sprinter. Colson was timed at 10.6 in the 100-meter dash his senior year of high school.

"My speed is probably my biggest asset right now," Colson said. "I've had to learn a lot about running since I got here."

Colson showed off his speed on a 21-yard sweep during Saturday's scrimmage. He also shown the ability to stutterstep to momentarily slow a defender, and then burst past him.

"Coach (Calvin) Magee is always after me to keep my legs high so defenders can't take me out and that has helped me out a lot," he said. "But I think the thing I've most improved is my vision of the field.

"I seem to have a better feel for where defenders are coming at me."

Neither player appears to have an edge of yet, but both have caught head coach Rich Rodriguez' eye.

"Hikee has been doing a real good job and having a good spring, although he didn't play that well (Saturday) and maybe that's not all his fault," Rodriguez said. "But he will help us at running back and fullback.

"We've been real excited about Colson so far. We think he has a chance to contribute this year if he keeps progressing."

The Mountaineers will practice again this afternoon, as they begin their second full week of spring drills.

West Virginia will conclude spring drills with its annual Gold-Blue game on April 26.

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