MORGANTOWN - In so many ways, Ivan McCartney is no different now than he was during his first tour of duty with West Virginia's football team.
He was an enigma then and he is an enigma now.
For three seasons - well, 21/2 as it turned out - he was the guy with all the tools. He had the size and the speed and the athleticism. He even had the connections, having been spawned from the same Miramar program in Florida that had delivered Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey.
For some reason, though, he just never lived up to his four-star hype as a wide receiver.
Sure, he had his moments. As a sophomore in 2011 he caught 49 passes. No, those weren't exactly Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey numbers, but it was a start, especially after he'd caught just one pass in 12 games as a freshman.
His junior season last year was a step back. Through the first eight games, he'd caught all of nine passes. And it wasn't as if there were no passes out there to be caught. Smith, after all, was on pace to throw more completions and more touchdowns in a season than any quarterback in school history.
And then McCartney was gone, pretty much without explanation. One day he was starting his first game of the season against TCU last November. The next day, literally, he was on his way out. It would take a week before he actually left, but then he was gone - out of sight, out of mind, out of school and out of the program.
It wasn't particularly earth-shaking news because, well, McCartney hadn't been an earth-shaking player.
And now McCartney is back. He explained that his absence and withdrawal from school were necessary because of the health of his grandfather back in Florida. It didn't seem as if he had much trouble gaining his way back onto the team, so give McCartney the benefit of the doubt on that one.
"A lot of people hear different things and don't really know what's going on," McCartney said over the weekend. "There were things I was dealing with I didn't want to put out. I never took myself away from the West Virginia team.''
Indeed, during his absence McCartney apparently kept in touch first with Austin and Bailey and then others in the program. He also worked out back at home in Florida, hoping that there would be another chance.