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Wilson returning to form

by Dan Shrensky

CORRESPONDENT

MORGANTOWN -- Tailback Quincy Wilson did not have eye-popping statistics or runs worthy of filling a highlight film, but in returning to the hard-nosed form he displayed before a knee injury in last year's spring game wiped out his season, it looks like "Q" is finally supplying West Virginia coaches with an "A."

Wilson, who will be a third-year sophomore next year after taking a medical redshirt, gained a modest 32 yards on seven carries as his Blues fell to the Gold, 37-27. After a few short gains, Wilson finally found open field on his fourth carry in the second quarter, running over left end for 19 yards, and setting up a 26-yard field goal.

"I felt like I was back in high school," the former Kennedy Award winner from Weir High said.

Even one-yard gains must have been a joy for Wilson, who lasted two plays before tearing an ACL in last year's spring game.

WVU coaches said Wilson, who ran for 156 yards as a freshman, ran tentatively this spring until the final week of practice.

"He had to feel his way through but since the spring break, which was a week and a half ago, he's really come on," coach Rich Rodriguez said.

"Today and the last few practices he's kind of let it loose and run full speed. He's going to be a very good football player for us."

Wilson's early trepidation may have been more a result of learning Rodriguez's offense than worrying about his knee.

He attributed his recovery to, "getting the offense better, learning everything."

The competition at the position hasn't hurt either.

Wilson is behind junior Avon Cobourne and senior Cooper Rego on the depth chart but may have separated himself slightly from Cassell Smith, who has been impressive this spring.

Smith, a sophomore, led the Gold with 88 yards and two touchdowns, although both scores and all but four yards were amassed in the game's final quarter.

"I think one reason the running backs have gotten so much better, obviously, is understanding what we're doing," Rodriguez said. "But I think we've got great competition. That has raised the level of play."

Wilson agreed.

"Everybody's pushing each other. Everybody out there is talented as you can see so you want to do well when you get your chance."

n A REAL SURVIVOR: Former Robert C. Byrd standout Luke Wallace sounded more like the winner of a reality TV show than a football player, but that should be expected from a walk-on who just finished his first spring practice session.

"The most important thing is I lasted through it. Those were the most intense practices I've ever been through in my life," Wallace said.

Wallace, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound cornerback, had three tackles and made a nice breakup on a pass to speedy wideout Harold Leath.

He also drew the assignment of covering Phil Braxton, one of the Mountaineers' most explosive offensive weapons, at times.

"He's a great player," Wallace said. "People don't understand that when you practice against guys like that every day, it makes us a lot better."

Wallace is working behind senior Lance Frazier and sophomore Brian King at the boundary, or short corner spot. Frazier and King each started games for the Mountaineers last year. Wallace's mission for the moment is to make the most of his opportunities.

"I tried to come out and show them what I could do this spring. Especially this game, knowing it was one of the biggest (spring) games, I knew I had to show them something. I hope I showed them that I can play," Wallace said.

n THE ENVELOPE PLEASE: The Mountaineers presented several awards to players at halftime.

Safety Shawn Hackett and David Upchurch received the Iron Mountaineer Award.

The award is presented to the players who have performed the best in WVU's off-season strength and conditioning program.

Hackett, a senior from Trenton, N.J., won in the "speed" category, which includes quarterbacks, tailbacks, wide receivers, defensive backs and kickers.

Upchurch, a junior from Hyattsville, Md., won in the "power" category, which includes offensive and defensive linemen, tight ends, linebackers and fullbacks.

Jeremy Knapp, a senior from Ridgeview, is the winner of the Tom Nicholich award, presented annually to the walk-on who impressed coaches with his attitude and work ethic.

Knapp, a product of Scott High School, saw most of his action on special teams last year.

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