MORGANTOWN--J.T. Thomas is the most decorated Mountaineer on this year's team when it comes to awards presented by his coaches and the media.
In order (2009-10), Thomas has been awarded the Whitey Gwynne and Grid Iron honors by the WVU coaching staff; '09 Rivals.com first-team All-Big East, and All-Big East preseason ('10) by Yahoo!Sports and others.
Whitey Gwynne was a U.S. Olympic trainer who cared after some of the biggest names in Mountaineer sports during a long career doing similar at WVU. The award goes to the "Best Overall," in the minds of the staff. The Grid Iron speaks for itself.
He also happens to be the son of J.T. Thomas Jr. (1994-95), an all-time great for Hall of Famer Don Nehlen, a Morgantown businessman, and one of the best leaders ever in Gold & Blue.
When he talks, as the old TV commercial said, people listen. Particularly the younger members of this 5-2 overall, 1-1 Big East team which takes on UConn on national television Friday night.
Thomas--along with adding to his 36-tackle, 6-TFL, 3-pass block, and 1-sack season under the lights of Rentschler Field--was doing damage control in the locker room after Saturday's souring loss to Syracuse, 19-14. Here is a piece of his sermon.
"We're going to need some guys to step up to show the young guys that, hey, everything we want is still in front of us. Everything we want is still on the field. You gotta keep guys believing, and I'm pretty sure you'll get some teed-off guys Friday night. Some guys playing with an even bigger chip on their shoulder.
We gotta go out and have a good night Friday night,' he told reporters Tuesday night.
"I'll tell you what. Syracuse showed us last week that you need to be ready every week, every week," he reiterated. Unlike the NFL, in college, every game is like a playoff game. You need to win all those if you need to end where you want to be now."
With the loss to Syracuse WVU dropped a game behind undefeated Pitt (2-0) in the Big East loss column, but still holds its chance for a league title in its own hands. Still, that was not what JT III was selling to the underclassmen Mountaineers in practice and after practice in recent days.
"Everything's not in our hands now. We're going to need a little bit of help to do what we want to accomplish. We got to take it one game at a time. As you can see I've put that game behind me. So has the rest of the team. Now we look forward to playing our best on a Friday night," he said.
UConn is 3-4 overall and 0-2 in the Big East. Head coach Randy Edsall will start redshirt freshman Mike Box for the Huskies. The Suwanee, Ga. native will be making his second collegiate opening when the ball goes up at 8 p.m. Junior Jordan Todman is the Huskies' calling card. The running back has led Connecticut in rushing in all six games this season, posting 105 yards and a touchdown vs. Michigan.
The nation's fifth-leading rusher (140.17 yards per game) was held to 80 yards on 19 carries by a Louisville team than ran up a 26-0 victory Saturday.
The defense has been inconsistent starting six sophomores in each of their past four contests. It ranks seventh overall in the Big East, allowing 357.1 total yards a game against opponents. It allows almost 23 points a game, also next-to-last in the eight-team league.