MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - When Dana Holgorsen talks about West Virginia's talent and depth at running back, he does so in glowing terms.
And why not? Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie return as the leading rushers from 2011 and 2012, respectively. Junior college transfer Dreamius Smith is 215 pounds of power and skill and true freshman Wendell Smallwood is already on campus and getting a jump in spring drills.
All in all, that's a pretty good position into which JuJuan Seider has stepped. Hired just days before the beginning of spring drills last month, Seider is the running backs coach who has inherited a crop that Holgorsen insists is "probably our strength.''
Why, then, when Seider is asked his thoughts on his group midway through the spring, he mentions those four hurriedly, as if he can't wait to get to the real point he wants to make?
"The guy I like right now who's competing his butt off is Cody Clay,'' Seider said. "That's the guy that excites me the most. He's doing a lot of stuff.''
A lot of stuff, indeed. Talk to Seider and he'll tell you how Clay has impressed him with his blocking and toughness. Switch gears and talk to receivers coach Lonnie Galloway and he can't get through a discussion about his group without throwing out the name.
"And don't forget about Cody Clay,'' Galloway said. "He's a guy we can use in a lot of ways.''
The common thread between the two coaches, of course, extends beyond working with Clay. They are also two of West Virginia's five first-year coaches - a couple of guys who, although neither is a stranger to WVU, are complete strangers where Clay is concerned. In other words, he's managed to impress them sight unseen prior to just the past month or so.
Well, in Seider's case that's not exactly true.
"I tried to recruit him at Marshall,'' Seider said.
That Seider didn't succeed while he was the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Marshall is now not only West Virginia's gain, but his, as well. He tried in vain to get the 6-foot-3, 252-pounder to Huntington, even though Clay and some of his teammates at George Washington spent a lot of time there.
"Those guys were so close down there that they were always coming around,'' Seider said. "And he's the same player I saw in those seven-on-seven camps. He always wanted to win, going a hundred miles an hour, giving you everything he's got. He's doing the same thing now.''
Well, Clay isn't exactly the same player. Or, to be more precise, he's not the player Seider thought he would be. Truth be told, he's not the player now that anyone thought he would be.