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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

RB Gwaltney ends the speculation: He’s gone

RB Gwaltney ends the speculation: He’s gone

By Dave Morrison
Sports Editor

MORGANTOWN — The news that highly-hyped freshman running back Jason Gwaltney has left the West Virginia football squad comes as no surprise.

The most hyped player in the history of the program is leaving Morgantown and will attend Nassau (N.Y.) Community College on Long Island.

Did I say hyped?

Make that super-hype.

Remember the ESPN News appearance to announce he was coming to WVU.

Or the fact that he said he would start this fall and wanted to be the next Adrian Peterson (the Oklahoma star who burst on the scene as a true freshman last year).

Coach Rich Rodriguez told reporters Monday “He was not in position to confirm” Gwaltney’s impending transfer but “I know he’s talked about it. His options are really limited.”

Gwaltney won’t be able to play for a Division I team before the spring of 2007, although if he attends a junior college, he can play at that level next season. He will have to graduate from a JC before he will be eligible to play Division I football.

The Charleston Daily Mail reported that a WVU source said USC and Ohio State have told the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Gwaltney they are still interested.

Gwaltney is the latest failed big-time recruit at West Virginia.

What happened with Gwaltney, the only true freshman in the history of the school to have his jersey on sale at the WVU bookstore?

He seemed to be rounding into shape — scoring twice against Maryland and rushing for 57 yards at Rutgers before he suffered a knee injury. After that, he missed some rehab assignments and even more class.

That put him directly in Rich Rodriguez’s doghouse. And he took to that like putting a square object through a round hole.

And then there’s the fact that classmate Steve Slaton has become a household name in the state, rushing for 924 yards and 16 TDs.

And so Monday, he announced what everybody knew was coming. Ladies and gentlemen, Gwaltney has left the facilities building.

Seems like West Virginia never has success with highly-touted recruits.

Just look back:

Basketball’s Jonathan Hargett was hailed as the next coming of Jerry West. He turned out to be Jerry Lewis, because it was a comedy of errors with Hargett from Day 1. After all, he missed a team bus for WVU’s first road trip. Said he overslept. He scored the first 11 points of WVU’s season that year and it was downhill after that. He was nearly single-handedly responsible for the end of the Gale Catlett era at WVU.

Football’s Raymond Williams never made it to campus. The Ohio Mr. Football was involved in a gun incident and ended up getting a prison sentence instead of a scholarship.

WVU has more success with guys like Steve Slaton, Rasheed Marshall and Jeremy Sheffey — guys who aren’t getting looks from places like USC and Ohio State, and making them players. That is the sign of a good program. Don Nehlen did it for years. And Rich Rodriguez is following suit.

I know a lot of people who were fired up about Gwaltney’s arrival, and marked him a savior of sorts. But until they do it at the college level, you just don’t know.

Seems to me Mountaineer fans would be more proud of the fact that the program has built players instead of jumping on the back of a highly-touted recruit. Given what you now know, would you take Slaton or Gwaltney?

Simple question.

Simple answer.

Gwaltney’s final WVU stats are this: 45 carries for 186 yards and three touchdowns and four receptions for 15 yards.

Gwaltney will surely resurface somewhere. You have to wish the kid well and it’s certainly too bad it didn’t work out. But it’s not a surprise. It’s a shame.

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