Not Standing Pat

Pat Lazear

On paper, West Virginia's Thursday night tilt with Maryland looks like a homecoming for freshman linebacker Pat Lazear. However, if you were to ask Lazear, he would tell you that his homecoming happened weeks ago.

"I've always considered West Virginia my hometown team," Lazear said earlier this week. "I wouldn't consider Maryland my hometown team."

If you think about it, Lazear's view certainly makes sense. Both of his parents grew up in the state's northern panhandle, and attended Brooke High School. While he was born and raised in the Bethesda, Md. area, the 6'1" 235-pound ‘backer is a Mountaineer through and through.

Bethesda sits approximately 15 miles away from the University of Maryland's main campus in College Park. Having spent his formative years in such close proximity to the Terps, it would be easy to understand if Lazear had spent a lot of time in Byrd Stadium. Believe it or not, he's only been to the UM facilities twice: once on an unofficial visit, and once during a camp following his sophomore year of high school.

"They were my first offer, so I liked that, but it was just an offer," he said. "I never really thought (about being a Terrapin)."

In the season's first two games, Lazear has had the unique opportunity to play right away as a true freshman, which shouldn't come as a surprise considering his college-ready physique. While he hasn't gotten too many snaps on defense yet, Pat has seen plenty of action on special teams on both sides of the kickoff wedge. When West Virginia kicks off, Lazear lines up just to the left of kicker Pat McAfee as a wedge-buster. On the kickoff return team, he finds himself trying to create the wedge for speedy returners such as Darius Reynaud, Vaughn Rivers, and fellow frosh Noel Devine.

"I'm having fun with that. I love those positions actually," said the well-spoken exercise physiology major. "I just hit people, which is what I'm best at."

In the opener against Western Michigan, Lazear endured both the good and bad of a big-time college football collision. On the game's opening kickoff, he pancaked the first WMU blocker to cross his path. Later in the game, however, it was Lazear feeling the effects of a big hit.

"My chinstrap broke, I ran down the field, hit another guy, my helmet fell off, and then I got clipped," Lazear recalled of his ‘welcome to college football' moment. "I took a helmet to the back of the head."

The talented special teamer would require five stitches in the back of his head as a result of the hit, but has since fully recovered.

Like most freshmen, the Whitman High product has had to adjust to several aspects of the college game. But unlike many first-year players, adjusting to the speed of the game has not been an issue for the speedy defender.

"Speed was never really a factor," he said. "I got so much faster working with Coach Barwis (during WVU's summer workouts). Speed and size I've adjusted to pretty well.

The biggest adjustment he's had to make has been the volume and technicality involved in film study at the Division I level. Whereas his high school film study would consist of popping in the tape and watching a few key plays, Lazear has learned the importance of attention to detail in Morgantown.

"When you watch film here, you're told how to watch it," he explained. "You watch it with your coach and sometimes in your free time. In high school, I would pretty much lead the film session sometimes just picking out little things on offense and defense."

All in all, it's been a pretty smooth transition for the big-time prospect turned big-hitting contributor. He's certainly pleased with all that he has been able to accomplish so far, but at the same time looks forward to learning and contributing more as the season progresses.

"I'm just learning the plays," he said. "I understand the defense a lot better now. I definitely don't have it down pat by any means, but I'm learning it. Coach Casteel has done a good job of teaching it to me."

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