This is a tale of two quarterbacks. …
o o o o o o
Barry Brunetti remembers his last defeat as a starting quarterback … sort of.
“It was eighth … no, seventh grade,” the freshman quarterback from Memphis said. “Yeah, Snow Middle beat us. I think we were 1-9 that year.”
It was the last game he would play at that school, transferring out to a better program and going on to Memphis University School, where he finished his career by winning two consecutive undefeated state championships while earning Parade All-American honors.
Asked what it was like losing that game, he replied:
“I don’t know what it feels like to lose.”
He modestly admits “it wasn’t all me,” and anyone who knows anything about football knows that it isn’t all the quarterback’s doing, even if in his senior season he does pass for 2,257 yards, throwings 23 touchdowns and – get this – only one interception in 241 passes.
Oh, don’t forget the 513 yards he gained rushing, three of which he will never forget.
Speaking to the West Virginia media for the first time since coming to school, Brunetti recalled his “Major Harris moment” as one of the highlights of his career.
Memphis University High was playing Nashville’s Father Ryan in the semifinal of the state tournament, clinging to a 2-point lead in the closing minutes and facing a fourth and 3. Spurning a punt, University opted to go for it.
The memory is vivid in Brunetti’s mind. The play that had been called had him carrying the ball to the left. Known more as a thrower than a runner, Brunetti can get yardage using his legs … and his head.
“I came out and changed my mind,” Brunetti said, taking the snap and going in the opposite direction.
It was much like Major Harris’ run again Penn State that came to be known as “The Play,” Harris forgetting which way the play was called and taking it the wrong way, weaving through the entire Penn State defense to score form 26 yards out.
Well, Brunetti didn’t score. He didn’t gain 26 yards.
“I wasn’t even sure I got the first down,” he admitted. “But you got to do what you go to do. If I hadn’t gotten that first down we would have lost that game.”
He needed 3, got 3 and was able to run out the clock, avoiding his first loss as a starter since the seventh grade.
o o o o o o
Barry Brunetti was not the only top-line quarterback recruited by WVU this year. There was also Jeremy Johnson, who came out of Silsbee High in Texas.
He is a dual threat quarterback, a runner and passer who, if he doesn’t beat out Brunetti could find himself moved to another position.
That is, if he’s still at WVU. As of Monday morning that was at doubt, Johnson suffering home sickness, having missed two practices.
Coaches were working with him and his family, trying to convince him that things would change once he got settled at WVU, but when asked directly if Johnson were still on his team, even though he was still in Morgantown, “I’ll let you know when the time is right.”
Not a yes, not a no, not a maybe.
Getting homesick is nothing new for a freshman, especially one from as far away as Texas.
It happens every year, research showing as much as 20 percent of the freshman class from out of town suffers some form of homesickness.
“Jeremy Johnson is a long way from home. Hopefully we can nurture him through this,” coach Bill Stewart said on Monday.
Asked about him on Tuesday, Stewart said, “He’s fine. We’re talking. I’m talking to him and he’s talking to me. You’ll know when we get this thing settled what direction this will go.”
The indecision puts a lot on hold and, should Johnson leave, it will change a lot about the WVU football team.
To begin with, any plans to redshirt Brunetti almost certainly go down the drain, for he becomes the lone backup and probably would need some early season experience. Plans to play Coley White at slot receiver also probably would have to be ditched as the Mountaineers would need him at quarterback again.
And recruiting plans would be changed, too, for the Mountaineers are terribly thin at quarterback as it is and would certainly need to go out and get another in next year’s class.
The word of Johnson’s dilemma broke first on what is represented as his Facebook page, although you never really know what to believe on the social media as anyone could have started a Jeremy Johnson page and been playing a prank.
What’s more, most of the WVU players are on Facebook, which can be a good or a bad thing. Some coaches across the country are limiting their players from Twitter or Facebook.
Stewart, at present, has no such plans. How can he? He has his own Twitter account.
Asked his position on the matter, Stewart at first said, “I don’t know.”
He went further, however, noting that while some coaches have taken to banning agents, he brought in the NFL Players Association to speak to his players and teach them about agents.
“If all I do is teach these guys to block and tackle, I’ve failed miserably as a football coach. We try to teach these guys all aspects,” Stewart said. “I don’t if it’s my right (to stop them from using the social media). I don’t want to put my guys under such a harness that they’re afraid to look left and look right. It’s maturity. You have to learn how to speak to the media.”
o o o o o o
And so Johnson was in limbo as of Tuesday, leaving Brunetti as the center of attention, and that well may be a good thing.
He is an intelligent, thoughtful kid who is determined, and may destined, to become a star.
Destiny sometimes has a lot to do with it. For example, was it destiny that made former Florida Heisman winner Tim Tebow choose Brunetti’s high school this off season for his pre-draft workouts, allowing him to pick Tebow’s brain, check out his workout process.
In many ways, the two are similar, as neither really is supposed to be a college or professional star due to some limitations but both have gotten as much as they can out of their skills.
Brunetti made his mind up early that he wanted to come to West Virginia sold on Stewart, sold on offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen and sold on the fact that the quarterback position was thin and there would be opportunity.
“No quarterback in the country wants to come in and sit for three or four years,” Brunetti admitted, which is in a way opening up a challenge to Geno Smith for the No. 1 job somewhere along the way.
It didn’t hurt, either, that Brunetti became friendly with Ivan McCartney, a high school wide receiver who played with Geno Smith and was headed for WVU, along the way. They saw each other first during a visit for the Marshall game last year, made other visits at the same time but did not speak, then became teammates in the All-American All-Star game and talked about WVU and what it had to offer.
o o o o o o
Brunetti says he hasn’t spoken with Johnson about the decision Johnson is going to have to make.
“That,” he said, “is between him and the coach.”
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brunetti will be affected by Johnson’s decision
This is a tale of two quarterbacks. …
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