By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
Don Nehlen, the most successful football coach in West Virginia University’s football history, admittedly has a very good feeling about this year’s team.
“Geno Smith is a great quarterback, and a great kid,” he said. “If we can keep him healthy, we’ll have a great year.”
The Mountaineers start the season at noon Saturday against Marshall at Mountaineer Field/Milan Puskar Stadium. A sellout crowd of more than 60,000 is assured.
“This is a perfect time for West Virginia to start playing in the Big 12 Conference,” said Nehlen, who’s in the College Football Hall of Fame. “The Big 12 is down a little bit this year.
“Oklahoma lost five players this summer. Texas can’t find a quarterback. Oklahoma State graduated some really good players, so I think we’re in really, really good shape.
“We just have to hope that our quarterback doesn’t get hurt. He’s a big key to this team.”
Nehlen, whose 1988 team played Notre Dame for the national championship and his 1993 finished 11-0 in the regular season, believes Smith and wide receiver Tavon Austin will be first- or second-round selections in the National Football League draft.
Nehlen, who had an overall record of 149-93-4 as a head coach at WVU, thinks both of those seniors are “special.” Smith is from Miami and Austin is from Baltimore.
Both seniors are considered solid candidates for the Heisman Trophy.
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That’s quite an honor WVU extended to Ed Pastilong, the retired athletic director of 21 years, last week.
His name will be on the new MVP Award which will be presented each year to each football squad’s Most Valuable Player.
In all, Pastilong served 37 years in an administrative role for his alma mater. He’s proud of the achievements his staff posed while he was the athletic director.
Pastilong, a native of Moundsville, was a quarterback on Mountaineer teams of the 1960s.
Getting WVU into the Big East Conference still is among his favorite accomplishments.
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Scuttlebutt making the rounds is that a new Mountaineer Field/Milan Puskar Stadium could be in future construction plans.
If true, according to such scuttlebutt, the new location would be in the vicinity of Milan Park.
And the current stadium site would be an addition to WVU’s Medical Center complex.
As I said at the start, though, this is strictly scuttlebutt.