Added Incentive

Greg Isdaner's path to facial-hair freedom is quite clear: just win the Big East.

Please pardon Greg Isdaner if he hasn't seemed like himself for the past couple of days. It's nothing personal, rather it is simply a part of the grieving process. You see, Isdaner had to part ways this past weekend with an old friend.

The worst part of the separation? He's the one that had to cut the relationship off…literally.

After spending the better part of two months growing out a distinctive red beard, Isdaner was asked by offensive line coach Dave Johnson to get out the razor and say goodbye to his facial hair.

"It was my camp beard," said a sullen Isdaner on Tuesday night, still coming to terms with the fact that his whiskers were no more. "(The beard) what got me through every day that I woke up and looked in the mirror. Then, I was told I had to shave it. I was disappointed at first, and I'm still a little bit disappointed to tell you the truth. It was heartbreaking."

Truth be told, he did everything in his power to fight Johnson's request, even volunteering himself for the cruelest of possible tortures imaginable for someone who tips the scales at more than 320 pounds.

"I even said I would run to keep it," Isdaner said. "When was the last time you heard a fat kid like me say that? I feel naked without it. I've been called a turtle without a shell.

"Its depressing thinking about it and what could have been."

Of course there are a number of other things you can call Greg Isdaner, including one of the best linemen in the Big East. As one of five returning starters up front for the Mountaineers, the third-year standout from Gladwyne, Pa. will once again provide a rock-solid foundation for West Virginia's explosive ground-oriented offensive attack.

In his previous three years as a Mountaineer, Isdaner has seen a pair of Big East titles and two BCS bowl wins. Even with a lot of transition in the offseason, expectations are once again high in Morgantown.

With less than two weeks remaining before the season opener against Villanova, Isdaner and his teammates are pushing through practice with their eyes on that August 30 date.

"This week is a little bit of a grind, but it's so important that we come out to practice and work hard every day because we're starting to get the game plan in," he said.

As with every season, there are plenty of goals for these Mountaineers. Chief among them, of course, is a fifth Big East title in six years. And while he knows the sweet taste of conference supremacy from his previous successes, there is even more incentive than ever for Isdaner to help lead the Mountaineers to yet another crown: a reunion with his furry old friend.

"(Coach Johnson) said if we win the Big East, we could wear whatever facial hair we want," Isdaner said. "I told him we already did (last year) and he said that didn't count. I'm ready to go. I'm ready to win the Big East to get my beard back.

"That beard…what intimidation it gave me," he continued. "It made me look even uglier than I do now. It was a great tool, and I miss it."

The ultimatum, for Isdaner and his fellow linemen, is simple. Win the conference, wave goodbye to the Yankee-esque moratorium on facial hair. And with the season opener just 10 days away, the path to freedom is quite visible.

"All you need to do is see an opponent on the calendar one week away, and that's all the motivation you need," Isdaner said.

Well, that and a little bit of stubble.

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