Former WVU coaches: No time for sentimentality
HUNTINGTON - As JaJuan Seider entered the visitors' locker room at Mountaineer Field 12 months ago, he knew he had been there before.
Not as a visiting player - the former quarterback played most of his college career in Morgantown. And he didn't visit the room in a playing capacity, per se.
"That was our study hall when I was a freshman. It changed. It's a locker room now," said Seider, Marshall's running backs coach.
Seider has done his fair share of studying, and that never stops for a coach. After he finished his college career at Florida A&M, he coached in the Florida high school ranks before returning to WVU as a graduate assistant. As he received his master's degree, he received a tap on the shoulder by outgoing Mountaineer assistant Doc Holliday.
Both were heading south on Interstate 79, en route to Marshall.
Holliday recruited Seider out of talent-rich Belle Glade, Fla., and that relationship never ended. Seider's ties to south Florida have gotten stronger over the years, and he now owns the title of MU's recruiting coordinator.
As the Thundering Herd prepared to open the 2011 season, Seider wore another new title: Visiting coach at Mountaineer Field.
"Last year was definitely different; I'd be lying if I told you it wasn't," he said. "It was the first time I came into that locker room as a visiting coach.
"I had never been on that sideline. Even when we practiced, I was never on that sideline, never when working with the quarterbacks in the warm-ups."
This time, the trip will be different again for Seider, simply because he won't have that odd sensation of dressing in his former study hall. But one thing will be the same as last year: He will be dialed in on his position, on the Thundering Herd's game plan.
"If you're not locked in, you can't expect your players to be locked in," said Bill Legg, MU's offensive coordinator. "If you're not energized and looking forward to the challenges that athletics present, you can't expect them to be energized and looking forward."
Legg's football career has taken him to Morgantown, Huntington and back again. He came out of Poca to play at WVU, where he also served as graduate assistant. By 2001, he was coaching tight ends for Bob Pruett at Marshall.
After the 2002 season, he went to Purdue for five seasons and Miami-based Florida International for two more. He was lured back to Huntington by Holliday, continuing another old coach-player relationship.
Legg not only will return to his old playing grounds again, he will return to Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium on Sept. 29. Should he remain on Marshall's staff, he stands to return to FIU's expanding stadium.
On those road games, he tends to look around the venue, particularly if he hasn't been there before (he will make his Rice Stadium debut on Sept. 22). If he is returning to a stadium, he notes the differences from previous visits.
"The field itself hasn't changed," Legg said of Mountaineer Field. "The end zone toward the hospital has changed - when I was a player, it was a hillside, and then they added bleachers to that end zone, but now they have luxury suites and seats down there for the band.
"I haven't been in the building itself for a number of years, but I've heard there are a lot of changes on the inside. You don't necessarily see them from the outside looking in. Those are probably the two biggest changes."
Legg emphasizes that all sentimentality must be cut short. Really, really, really short.
"West Virginia University will always be a part of my life; I have two degrees that hang on my wall that say, 'West Virginia University,' and that will never change," he said. "But in this profession, loyalty will lie with where you're at. On that one day, on that given day, I'm all green and white, I'm all about Marshall.
"Now, the other 364 days a year, I root like crazy for the Mountaineers to be successful in whatever they're doing. It can be a little awkward, there's no question, but I have to lock in because I owe it to my kids and owe it to the staff to be on point and put our guys in the best position to be successful. That's my job, and I have to get my job done to the best of my ability."
Seider leaves no doubt where his loyalties lie.
"Hey, our blood is green and white," he said. "Their blood up there is blue and gold. And if anybody on that [staff] says they've got green and white blood, they're full of it. Just like if I said I've got blue and gold blood right now, I'm full of it. I am green and white; I am Marshall."
Holliday hung around Morgantown longer than Legg and Seider combined - he played or coached at WVU from 1976-1999, then again from 2008-09. He shows next to no sentimentality, but he's not given to that anyway.
"You walk in there, you may have a few thoughts," he said. "Once you get going, there's one thing on your mind - that's find a way to win the game, period. There are no issues with that."
In many respects, the Herd's trip this weekend will be much the same as scheduled journeys to Houston, West Lafayette, Hattiesburg, Birmingham and Greenville. The Herd will take the bus from its hotel to the stadium, unload players and equipment and make themselves at home in whatever visiting quarters. Barring weather delays - dare we bring up the 2011 marathon again - they will use that home for roughly five to six hours.
Before, during and after, Seider will put in some more study time.
"It's decent," he said of the locker room. "As I said, I remember that being a study hall. It's better than some places I've been, let's put it that way."
Seider's boss might beg to different.
"There's not a whole lot of good visitors' locker rooms anywhere, and that's including that one," Holliday said. "Especially when you spend about nine hours in there."
Penn State transfer Derrick Thomas, who is battling for a starting spot at cornerback, is changing his jersey number from No. 37 to No. 2.
Two things about the change: It avoids a conflict with Kevin Grooms, No. 37, but it also is Tron Martinez's number. That's a possible sign the leading rusher of 2011 could miss the season and redshirt.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.