The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

May 3, 2011

WVU receiver Nehlen wants to avoid being ‘that guy’

MORGANTOWN — Nobody has to explain it to Ryan Nehlen. The 6-foot-2, redshirt junior out of nearby University High is all too well aware that he doesn’t want to be “that guy.”

You know “that guy.” The one that is a spring standout whom you never hear from again.

Whatever happened to Mike Portier, who once led the Mountaineers in rushing in the spring game?

So, Nehlen does not want to be that guy, especially after catching five passes for 79 yards in Saturday’s Gold-Blue game.

“No, sir. I’m going to keep working hard this offseason and keep getting better,” Nehlen said.

Yes, his name, synonymous with Mountaineer football, makes it obvious that he is the grandson of Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen and the son of longtime equipment manager Dan Nehlen.

Not that he brings it up.

“My grandfather and dad really try to stay out of it,” Nehlen said. “They support me and they love me, but they try to stay out of the whole football situation.”

But they had to be thrilled when he decided to cast his lot with the home team.

“Oh yeah, he was probably thrilled,” Nehlen said.

Dana Holgorsen, the Mountaineers’ new offensive coordinator, who will succeed Bill Stewart as the head coach in 2012, is thrilled Nehlen is there. Enough to say he’ll go into the fall camp as a starter at wide receiver, ahead of the ultrataltented Ivan McCartney.

“Yeah. Heck yeah, unless I was watching something (else),” Holgorsen said when asked if Nehlen was a starter at wideout. “Who made more plays? One guy made a bunch and one guy (McCartney, one catch for four yards) didn’t. So guess what? I was happy to see him do that.”

His only drawback seems to be a correctable one. The exercise physiology major actually enjoys class.

“He might be our best receiver and we just don’t know it, based on him being too good of a student, liking class too much,” Holgorsen said. “If he was here more, we probably would have seen what we saw today earlier. He did some good things.”

Nehlen intends on being around a lot more this summer and fall.

“They keep hassling me about it every day,” Nehlen said, laughing. “I told them today before the scrimmage that I had to leave in 20 minutes. Coach Holgorsen actually thought I was serious for a minute.

“I definitely did a good job of scheduling my classes this fall and I don’t have any classes this summer, so that should be good.”

The offense lends itself to reliable guys like Nehlen, who had 16 touchdown receptions as a senior at University.

“I think it’s a little bit of everything,” Nehlen said. “It’s the system. I kept on working hard and kept on trying to mature physically so when that opportunity did come it wasn’t a waste. I definitely feel like I have the ability to go out there and make plays and help this team.”

His quarterback, like his offensive coordinator, certainly believes he can help the team.

“Ryan has been performing good all spring,” QB Geno Smith said. “He got the chance to start tonight and he showed up pretty good. He made some great catches and made plays out there. We look for big things from Ryan because we understand what he has in him and we understand his capabilities.”

And Smith’s ability makes it easy for him, Nehlen said.

“Geno does a good job of spreading it around and he is going to get it to whoever is open, whoever is making plays,” he said. “And we did that tonight. This was a big step for us tonight.”

Not bad for a guy who wasn’t a recruiting service star coming out of high school.

“I don’t think I had a star,” Nehlen said. “But I always wanted to come here and play at WVU. This is my dream.”

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Offensive lineman Josh Jenkins suffered what was described as a sprained MCL in Friday’s game and will be out six to eight weeks.

— E-mail: demorrison@

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