Dual Challenge

Chris Beatty

New West Virginia assistant coach Chris Beatty will be handling the running backs and slot receivers, and faces the challenge of coordinating the teaching and gameplanning of both positions. How will he approach the tutoring of players that run with the ball versus those that catch it?

In West Virginia's offense, there are certainly similarities between the two positions. Running backs will sometimes line up in the slot on pass plays, and slot receivers can catch screens, which are really just an elongated version of a toss sweep. The slots can also take the ball on reverses, so some of the skills required for the positions are certainly the same.

A year ago, West Virginia took the slots away from the wide receiver coach and gave them to the running backs coach, and while both of those coaches are now gone, head coach Bill Stewart decided to continue this arrangement with Beatty. That might appear to be a heavy workload for the first-time Division I assistant, but Beatty has some experience to fall back on as he enters the somewhat unusual assignment.

"I've thought about how I'm going to approach it, but it's not something I'm really worried about," he said recently. "Having been in high school, where you coach everything, it's something that I've done before. I think with the guys we have, that have a lot of experience and have had the opportunity to play, I think they understand it. And I will figure out how to fit into the whole thing as well.

"Coaching in high school is a different deal than college, but it helps in having to work with every different position," he continued. "You work with every group and coach every position. It allows you to get into every aspect of the game. I think it helps, even though it's a different game."

The ties between running back and slot receiver will likely be strengthened in this year's offense, as coordinator Jeff Mullen implements some aspects of his Wake Forest attack into West Virginia's scheme. Slots will go in motion and run through the backfield formation more frequently, which will give rise to more runs from that position. Different methods, including more screen passes, will likewise involved the running backs in the passing game. And it won't be a surprise to see players such as Noel Devine, Brandon Hogan and Jock Sanders line up in both the backfield and the slot.

With such a crossover in assignments and positions, there will also be an emphasis on a wider skill set. Receivers will get more instruction on carrying the ball, while backs will receiver more tutoring in the passing game. While these aspects were part of West Virginia's practices a year ago, it figures they will be emphasized even more in 2008. Beatty will work with wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway, among others, to make sure that everyone gets the instruction they need in order to be successful.

"Whoever I work with, and whoever helps me out, we will get a system to divide those things up as we need to and then bring them together," Beatty said of the process. "I don't worry too much about that. It's something I am comfortable with, so I don't think it will be a big problem."

After diving into and devoting much of his time to recruiting in the early weeks on the job, Beatty is now working on the process of putting together some of the modifications to the West Virginia offense.

"We are just trying to get all of us on offense on the same page," he noted. "We have five different guys with five different backgrounds, and five different offenses that we came from. We have to make it one collective group. That's the most immediate thing right now.

"I have seen some of [West Virginia's] stuff as a fan, but we didn't have a chance to do too much of it during recruiting. And with some of the changes and some of the things that will be different, we are in the process of looking at some Wake Forest stuff now, some of Coach Mullen's stuff. I think it will work itself out as we go along."

Even though Beatty is just beginning to work on the revised offense, he notes that there are some things that can be picked up from casual TV viewing.

"The camera angles and things are a little different, but as a coach you watch it a little bit differently," he said of the process. "You think, ‘Oh I see this, or they have so many in the box or we should be throwing against that.' You still look as it as a coach, but you don't have the same camera views. And obviously there's no pressure on you," he added with a laugh. So, you can watch it and relax a little bit, but there's no question that you pick things up you can use. I think every football coach does that. When they see things they like, it makes you want to investigate a little more to see what they are doing. When I watched West Virginia in the game against Oklahoma, I saw some of the different things they were doing, and if I had not come here I would have wanted to get a copy of that film."

The pre-spring practice time will also be devoted to getting to know his charges, and vice versa. With so many different coaches on the staff, that might be just as critical a part of the spring season as on-the-field work, which begins in mid-March.

"Being on the road for recruiting, I haven't gotten the chance to get to know my players [until recently]," Beatty confirmed. "Just to sit down and get to know them a little bit, and have them get to know me, is a big part of it."

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