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bored of education
07-04-2007, 12:46 PM
West Virginia's Slaton testing his Heisman stature
By Erik Brady, USA TODAY
STEVE SLATON IS MODEST about his abilities as a running back. But ask him about his West Virginia football team, and modesty goes out the window.
"The biggest thing we want to do," Slaton says, "is go out there and win every game and play with no flaws."

Um, that's all?


THIS PIG CAN FLY: Arkansas' McFadden not letting pressure get to him

If his Mountaineers win every game, even with a few flaws, they might well win the national championship.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: West Virginia | Reggie Bush | Heisman | Mountaineers | Troy Smith | Steve Slaton | Pat White | Jason Bridge
"Definitely," Slaton says. "That's the big picture that we're all playing for. I think it's possible to do."

It's also possible for Slaton to win the Heisman Trophy. "That would mean everything," he says. "All the hard work that I put into college, all the drills I did to better myself."

Slaton finished fourth in the voting last season behind Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, the winner, Arkansas running back Darren McFadden and Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. Of the three, only McFadden returns.

Slaton rushed for 1,744 yards last season, third best nationally. Only one returning back ran for more, Rutgers' Ray Rice, who had 50 more yards on 87 more carries.

All of which is why Slaton is prominently mentioned on the preseason lists of Heisman hopefuls. Still, for all that, you won't catch him practicing the Heisman pose for end-zone celebrations.

"No, not at all," he says.

That's not his understated style.

"He's a little uncomfortable talking about himself too much," says Juanita Tiggett-Slaton, his mother.

"I think it's a great honor" to be included in the lists, he says, "especially this early before we start playing. It's a lot of respect."

ONE OF THE OTHERS often mentioned is Slaton's best friend, West Virginia quarterback Pat White. That would seem to put Slaton and White at a disadvantage in that they might split ballots. But the two winners before Smith quarterback Matt Leinart (2004) and running back Reggie Bush (2005) were teammates at Southern California.

Slaton is sometimes compared to Bush for his ability to change direction at full throttle. Does Slaton see the similarities?

"Somewhat," he says. "Reggie Bush is still ahead of the game. He is more known than I would be. He's a good person to watch and to mold myself after."

All this is heady stuff for a player who came to West Virginia as a lightly recruited back from suburban Philadelphia. Maryland offered a scholarship but rescinded it before signing day. Slaton says several schools were interested in him more as a defensive back because he is only 5-10.

"West Virginia was the right choice for me," Slaton says. "The fans are real supportive because we don't have any (major league) professional teams" in the state.

He played sparingly in his first four games as a true freshman in 2005. Then against Virginia Tech he had 90 yards on 11 rushes. The next week he got his first start (139 yards against Rutgers). By season's end, he had 1,128 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns (plus 95 yards and two more TDs on catches), including a Sugar Bowl-record 204 yards rushing in a 38-35 upset of Georgia.

"It's kind of unreal how it all unfolded," his mother says. "I'm still surprised when I hear people say he's one of the best. It still hasn't hit me yet because I still look at him as just being Steve."

LOOKING BACK, she says, she should have known her son was born to run: "When he was little, you couldn't let go of his hand or he would just take off. He liked the chase. And he was hard to catch, even then."

Last season, as a sophomore, he ran for 1,744 yards and 16 touchdowns and added 360 yards and two TDs on 27 catches. But an accumulation of injuries (eventually including both wrists and a deep thigh bruise) caught up with him toward the end of the season. He had only 11 yards on three rushes in the Gator Bowl victory against Georgia Tech.

A pin was inserted in Slaton's right wrist in January, and he missed spring practice. But Slaton says he is ready to go now. "I'm getting back to where I was," he says, "getting cleared into lifting weights again."

West Virginia runs a spread offense. That's usually associated with passing, but the Mountaineers use it to find seams for their speedy running back and quarterback to dash through.

"I like it a lot," Slaton says of the spread. "I think that's what all running backs enjoy doing, running the ball. And West Virginia does enough of it."

So much and so well that Slaton often hears cheers ringing in his ears, which is important to someone who was nearly deaf at times as a child.

"I was real young, so I don't even remember too much about when it happened," Slaton says. "I guess I was a little hardheaded and I didn't really listen."

That wasn't it at all, his mother says. He couldn't hear well because his adenoids often swelled from allergies and he got bad infections, she says.

"His hearing was like he was under water," she says. "I worried about what it would do to his speech."

She says he got immediate relief when he had his adenoids removed at 6.

"Maybe it's been a plus for me," Slaton says. "I can listen without hearing."

THE MOUNTAINEERS WERE 11-2 last season, with losses to Louisville and South Florida. But Slaton says he doesn't circle dates on the schedule.

"All of them are big games," he says. "Once we get started and get rolling, every team is going to go after us. We're going to have to play our game every day."

Slaton's ultimate goal is the NFL. What team he plays for doesn't really matter, he says. "My favorite team has been the Cowboys since I was little. But I wouldn't mind playing for anybody. I definitely want to play two more years at West Virginia."

Slaton grew up in Levittown near Philadelphia but always cheered for the Dallas Cowboys because his favorite player was Emmitt Smith. If he follows in Smith's fancy footsteps, he could end up as a Dancing with the Stars champ, not to mention the NFL's leading rusher.

"That's a little far down the road," Slaton says, laughing. "We'll see."

Smith made the cover of Sports Illustrated 11 times, eight solo, according to a searchable database at SI.com. Slaton made a regional cover last August along with White and fellow running back Owen Schmitt.

"That was a big deal," Slaton says. "Sports Illustrated has been around a long time, and since I was a little kid I saw a lot of different people on the cover."

If Slaton follows his game plan win every game, play flawlessly and perhaps collect the Heisman along the way he could be a cover boy again.

"Anything is possible," Slaton says. "If we play the way we can, a bunch of guys could get on the cover."

jbeans187
07-04-2007, 03:50 PM
Im hoping for a WVU vs USC national championship game

elway777
07-04-2007, 03:59 PM
SC's linebackers vs. WV's backfield would be epic.

jbeans187
07-04-2007, 04:45 PM
SC's linebackers vs. WV's backfield would be epic.

Agreed, it would be a fun game

simms2clayton
07-04-2007, 04:47 PM
Agreed, it would be a fun game

Yeah, USC would kill WVU.

The Trojan offense would put up something like 40+ points.

I think USC's defense could hang with White and Slaton, but not be as dominant on offense.

ATLDirtyBirds
07-04-2007, 05:20 PM
See sig. Slaton is a OG.

bored of education
07-04-2007, 09:44 PM
Slaton my fav player + rep

familyguy555
07-04-2007, 10:25 PM
slaton is beastly... he might be better than mcfadden

Sniper
07-04-2007, 10:29 PM
slaton is beastly... he might be better than mcfadden

No possible way. He's faster than McFadden, but is nowhere near McFadden in overall talent.

HoopsDemon12
07-04-2007, 11:16 PM
Im hoping for a WVU vs USC national championship game

to bad its gonan be a USC vs LSU game with 23-20 victory... but to whom:)

Namy
07-04-2007, 11:52 PM
Yeah, USC would kill WVU.

The Trojan offense would put up something like 40+ points.

I think USC's defense could hang with White and Slaton, but not be as dominant on offense.

Truth.

USC D = WVU O
USC O >>>>>>> WVU D

jbeans187
07-04-2007, 11:53 PM
USC would probabally win i just think it would be the most entertaining match up

Sniper
07-05-2007, 12:05 AM
USC would probabally win i just think it would be the most entertaining match up

It would be entertaining to watch the WVU offense against the USC defense. It would be just ridiculous when USC's offense took the field against that bunch of scrubs.

Sniper
07-05-2007, 12:06 AM
to bad its gonan be a USC vs Michigan game with 23-20 victory... but to whom:)

Fixed that for you ;)

bored of education
07-05-2007, 07:31 AM
Actually I think WVU's defense might be above average. They have alot of young talent on that squad and they have become aware of their surroundings and jobs in that odd defensive setup.

Quinton Andrews, So, DB
Eric Wicks, Sr, DB
Reed Williams, LB
Bobby hathaway, LB
Keilen Dykes, DL, 6'5, 295 solid dude up front
Johnny Dingle, DE
Antonio Lewis, DB


I think they are goign to be better than last year. They gave up an average 336 yrds per game last year and averaged apprx 470. I think They will average about the same this year on O and average about 30-40 less on D.

Sniper
07-05-2007, 07:33 AM
Actually I think WVU's defense might be above average. They have alot of young talent on that squad and they have become aware of their surroundings and jobs in that odd defensive setup.

Quinton Andrews, So, DB
Eric Wicks, Sr, DB
Reed Williams, LB
Bobby hathaway, LB
Keilen Dykes, DL, 6'5, 295 solid dude up front
Johnny Dingle, DE
Antonio Lewis, DB


I think they are goign to be better than last year. They gave up an average 336 yrds per game last year and averaged apprx 470. I think They will average about the same this year on O and average about 30-40 less on D.

It wouldn't be that hard for them to be better than last year. I still think USC's offense would carve them to pieces.

scottyboy
07-05-2007, 12:11 PM
i know ima huge Rutgers homer, but still, Mike Teel shredded that D last year in the final game of the season. Granted, Pat White was hurt that game, and WVU's O is very explosive, but i dont see them having a realistic chance at the NC game. Their D just isnt that good.

oh, and as a runner, Rice>Slaton.

Slaton is a tremendous athlete, but in the NFL, will be kinda like Reggie Bush, utilized out of the backfield as a reciever, and even a return man, but wont have much sucess running the ball.

HoopsDemon12
07-05-2007, 03:35 PM
Fixed that for you ;)

because the score was so close last year... and if im not mistaken... michigan lost WAY more than USC

Sniper
07-05-2007, 04:39 PM
because the score was so close last year... and if im not mistaken... michigan lost WAY more than USC

Hey man I'm not allowed to be optimistic? Michigan's offense could be good enough to get them to the national title game. LSU had a game last year where they scored all of 3 points with the #1 pick at QB and two first rounders at receiver. They lost Landry too.