MORGANTOWN - You know those people who always insist that newer isn't better, that no matter how good something is these days it has nothing on what came before?
Sure you do. You might even be one of them. In some respects, so am I.
Take today's athletes, for instance. We get so caught up in remembering how things used to be that we tend to dismiss the advances made in things like training and specialization and nutrition, even natural evolution.
Are, say, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the 21st century better than Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath in the 1950s and '60s? Were Namath and Unitas better than Y.A. Tittle or Otto Graham in the 1940s and '50s?
To some, it's not even a contest. The ones we remember from our youth hold such a high place in our memories that no one will ever be better.
Steve Dunlap isn't necessarily like that, and perhaps there's no one more qualified when comparing football players from different eras at West Virginia. Dunlap watched the Mountaineers of the 1960s, played for the school in the 1970s and has coached nearly 30 years worth of Mountaineers since.
So, along those lines, Steve, how about this one: Tavon Austin vs. Danny Buggs, special teams only?
"You know, I've been here a long, long time and I've never seen a player have such an impact on games as Tavon,'' Dunlap said. "On offense and special teams he's really a special guy.''
More special than Buggs was?
Dunlap had to think for a moment. After all, he played with Buggs in the early 1970s, even had the misfortune of having to try to tackle him a few times in practice while Buggs was playing wide receiver and returning kicks and Dunlap was setting school records that still stand (for tackles in a game and a season) as a linebacker and on special teams.
"Tavon's a pretty special guy,'' Dunlap said. "He can be a running back, he can run the slot. Danny never really did anything like that. It was just passes and maybe a reverse.
"And then think about the sophistication in the coverages now and the speed. It's a different game. That's not to take anything away from Danny because he was a sensational player. He had a great combination of size and speed.''
Indeed, at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Buggs was a far different physical specimen than the 5-9, 174-pound Austin. In truth, Buggs might actually have been faster, too.
"The guy ran a 9.3 100,'' Dunlap said. "Granted, that was 100 yards, not meters, but even the fast guys back then were running what, 9.5 or 9.6? He could fly.''
Given that Austin has never much fooled with track while Buggs actually trained and ran for the school's track team - he was the 1973 track athlete of the year in West Virginia - indeed, Buggs might have been in-the-blocks, flat-out, straight-ahead faster than Austin. The shiftiness of both is simply a given and impossible to quantify, so have at it in that debate.