Things were rolling along with West Virginia University's football team last week. Fall camp was coming to a close and there was evidence that the Mountaineer defense was making strides. WVU was ranked sixth by the coaches and the sportswriters ranked them third. Sports Illustrated came to the newsstands with WVU running back Steve Slaton on the cover. The same cover showed that publication had ranked the Mountaineers fourth.
Well, if you are one of those "half empty" people you had to be wondering what would be the first thing to go wrong. It could be argued that linebacker Marc Magro's mononucleosis, or wide receiver Wes Lyons' swollen knee which caused them to miss much of camp was bad news, but not as of now.
An incident early Sunday may have even more of a negative impact. While it is way too early to know what happened, we do know that two WVU players were arrested for possession of stolen property. At this early stage the facts could prove to be favorable for Ellis Lankster and J.T. Thomas, though reports on Monday would suggest otherwise.
Thomas and Lankster were each very likely to be named as starters on the revamped WVU defense. Setting of the initial depth chart is expected this Wednesday. Thomas, a redshirt freshman, has been touted as a potential All American at WVU. Lankster was a junior college All American "corner back" at Jones County Junior College in Mississippi last year and had worked his way into a possible starting spot next Saturday.
Starters or not, they were definitely being counted on for extensive playing time on defense, but their futures as Mountaineers are very cloudy as of Monday. According to police reports Morgantown police received a report of a burglary from a house where a party was taking place on University Avenue. The resident said there were two men acting suspiciously and that a laptop and a 32 inch TV were missing. A description of the men and their car was given.
About 45 minutes later police pulled over Lankster's car which matched the description given police. The missing laptop was in the car, the TV was not.
Thomas, the son of former Mountaineer J.T. Thomas Sr., told police that he had bought the laptop secondhand and did not know it was stolen. To further complicate matters for the players is the 11 p.m. curfew head coach Rich Rodriguez had imposed following the team's final scrimmage of fall camp last Saturday.
It is tough to resist the temptation to speculate, but even if these two stay out of jail, they will be in a certain coach's doghouse for awhile. A guess here is that if the felony charges stick, Rodriguez will almost have to be looking at dismissal. The team is in the spotlight now and players guilty of felonies probably shouldn't be around the program.
For now Rodriguez is investigating the incident and will reserve judgement until he has all the facts. During a press conference on Saturday Rodriguez spoke of the importance of off field behavior for his team. Then he placed the 11 p.m. curfew.