"You have to run behind your pads and use your center of gravity,'' Buie said. "You learn that [by watching] film. Last year I'd run high, not really aware of what's going on around you and take big hits. When you know what's going on around you, you can start preparing your body for a bigger shot.
"You learn that it's more than athletic ability.''
Indeed, the difference between high school and college football for a running back is significant. As a high school back in Jacksonville, Fla., Buie could use his muscle to bowl over people, even at 170 pounds. That doesn't work when defenders all are much bigger and stronger.
"You can put Buie's high school tape on and see he was a physical guy for his size,'' WVU running backs coach Robert Gillespie said. "The first tape I ever saw on him was him taking an outside play and just flattening the safety.
"Once he got to this level, he had to understand that you can't always just run over guys. But he has that mentality. You can't change the kind of dog that he is. That's what makes him who he is, really. But it's our job to put some weight on him so he can run that big.''
Buie has done that, gaining nearly 20 pounds since he arrived, but he's also learned how to be a smarter runner.
"By the time he leaves here he'll probably be 200, 205 and he'll be able to run like that,'' Gillespie said. "You can't change his mentality, but you have to teach him when to do it and how to try and make guys miss.
"I tell him all the time that great backs never take direct hits. He has to learn when to get skinny, when to bend his body, what the down and distance are, what kind of run is required and what kind of finish he needs on every run. That's why we watch film every day, so he can look at those little parts of his game and get better.''
The effects of those early hits Buie took a year ago are all gone now, but the lessons learned remain.
"I can't say that you'll ever learn how to never take a big shot. You don't really dictate when a big shot is delivered on you,'' Buie said. "But I can say I've gotten better in how to read defenses and have myself more prepared [before the snap] versus just getting into the play and guessing what's going on the whole time.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1