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Is WVU's Cody Clay molding into an NFL commodity?

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Cody Clay no doubt paid some attention to the NFL draft last month. And why not, given that he spent so much time last season working in the same offense with Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

Clay might also have been thinking what it would be like to hear his name called. After all, what college football player doesn't?

For the time being, though, it's not something that preoccupies him.

"I've got a lot of time before I have to think about that,'' the West Virginia sophomore said this spring. "But yeah, sometimes I think about it and wonder where I'd fit in.''

Indeed, one of the most intriguing things about Clay, the former George Washington tight end, is what his football future holds. Perhaps at this stage of the game it is premature to consider a career in the NFL for a player who has been on the field for just 13 games and switched positions multiple times.

The truth is, he still has a lot of work to do just to master the college game.

Then again, athletic 6-foot-3, 252-pounders who can play in the backfield or at tight end have become a commodity in the NFL. Once was the time when Clay might have been considered too short to be a tight end or too tall to be a fullback - a tweener. Now, though, the league craves just those types because of their versatility on a small, 53-man roster.

And don't think that Clay hasn't noticed.

"I look at a guy like Will Johnson with the Steelers,'' Clay said of the former WVU player, who was a fullback, a hybrid back and even a tight end at times in college, the kind of utility man Clay is becoming. "He's found a place. A lot of guys like that have.''

Clay made his debut last season as a redshirt freshman playing primarily fullback for West Virginia. Dana Holgorsen's offense doesn't often use a tight end, but Clay can line up there, too. He even lined up as a slot receiver at times.

Where Clay goes from here, of course, is a great unknown. After all, he was recruited as a tight end by Bill Stewart, turned into a slot receiver by Holgorsen, switched to center during his true-freshman season, then to fullback with a bit of receiver and tight end to mix things up.

"If you would have told me my senior year in high school that I'd be playing fullback and tight end and inside receiver, yeah, I'd have been surprised,'' Clay said. "It's not that I didn't think I was capable of that, but my body didn't seem to fit that at the time.''

No, at the time Clay's body seemed to fit the mold of a tight end who might have to become an interior lineman once he began a college weight training program. That he didn't was a bit of a surprise, witness the coaching staff's decision to move him to center and then have to move him off the line again.

"I thought coming out of high school that he could play tight end in the right offense,'' said running backs coach JuJuan Seider, who recruited Clay while Seider was at Marshall. "When I played, we used those types of tight ends. Anthony Becht was that type of guy.''

And the truth is, what happens to Clay as far as his body type and where he fits in might continue to change.

"Remember, when John Thornton came in he was a tight end who grew into a D-lineman. Warren Sapp was a tight end who grew into a D-lineman,'' Seider said. "If you've got a guy like Cody, maybe not as fast and quick-twitch as those guys who became D-linemen, you know he can play on the offensive line.

"But then look at the offensive tackle this year coming out of Oklahoma [Lane Johnson]. He was a quarterback and he [was the No. 4 overall draft pick] at offensive tackle. You just don't know how guys' bodies are going to develop.''

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

 


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