Call it what you may – a chip on his shoulder, proving the doubters wrong, or more simply put: Something to prove. Andrew Buie heard it all when he decided to depart the WVU Football program prior to the 2013 season.
Even the word ‘transfer’ was tossed around amongst the media.
But if you ask Buie for yourself, that was not the case whatsoever. In fact, Buie had intended to return to West VirginiaUniversity all along.
“When I was home, I was home,” Buie said in a straightforward response. “I wasn’t [talking to the coaching staff], I was home with my family. That’s what I was doing.”
Following the release of the 2013 running back depth chart last August, Buie was listed as the fifth tailback behind Charles Sims, Wendell Smallwood, Dreamius Smith and Dustin Garrison. That ignited his withdrawal from the university.
Sims proved to be as good as advertised, resulting in a job with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But after him, last year’s WVU running back rotation seemed to show its youth against some of the more aggressive Big 12 defenses.
As Buie makes his return to the Mountaineer rotation, Sims is nowhere to be found, but the running back depth chart is just as crowded as before.
Smith, Smallwood and Garrison all return to the rotation. Not to mention, former four-star recruit and Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell has given the group a major boost. Additionally, freshman four-star recruit Dontae Thomas-Williams has impressed the coaching staff with his physicality through the first week of fall camp.
With all that being said, one would probably be led to believe that Buie is entering a more difficult situation than last year. But he has no concerns about playing time. Actually, he said he’s approached the competition with a plain and simple perspective.
“I’m just trying to be versatile – being able to do more than one thing,” he said. “That’s how you get yourself on the field.”
That’s how Buie got himself on the field in the first place. As many WVU fans may remember, Buie was the Mountaineers’ leading rusher in 2012 during the team’s first year as a member of the Big 12 Conference. That year, he led the team with 851 rushing yards.
However with a season away from the program, one would think there would be an adjustment period.
When the question was presented to Buie, he maintained his stance on the matter: What adjustment?
“I’m a veteran,” he urged. “I’ve been playing college football for four years. I mean, there’s not much more to learn. If I don’t know what’s going on by now, then I’m not going to know what’s going on. So it’s nothing special. Plus I played in the spring, so it’s not like I’ve been gone a whole year and I just got back this summer. I’ve already played spring ball, so I’m good.”
Buie’s level of confidence was shining through during Tuesday’s interview session. He seemed to have a chip on his shoulder – almost as if he felt he was a forgotten asset to the running back rotation and knew something that the media did not.
According to WVU running backs coach JaJuan Seider, that’s what makes Andrew Buie, Andrew Buie.
“It’s night and day just from spring to camp,” Seider explained. “You could see him taking a backseat trying to figure out where he fit back in. But now I think he’s been gravitating to being at running back and being in the slot, and moving around a little bit. He knows there’s a role for him here now. Somebody has got to play him and we’re going to play a lot of guys.”
Once a four-star high school recruit on his own, Buie knows how to play at a high level. While starring at TrinityChristianHigh School in Jacksonville, Fla., he was regarded as an all-purpose back, capable of running between the tackles while also lining up at receiver.
With several big backs already on WVU’s roster, Buie may be better utilized in the slot where he can operate in space. In reference to his stance on catching passes, he said he’s fine with that, too.
“I mean, I played wide receiver in high school, so it’s not too much of an adjustment to go run out in the slot,” he confessed. “I always had naturally good hands, so it’s not an adjustment. It’s just about playing football and being an athlete.”
And in case anyone is wondering about the relationship between the running backs, which are all vying for the luxury of being named the starter, Buie said they’re about as close as it gets.
“We’re all tight,” he said. “All we do is joke and laugh, and play all day. Then when we hit the field, it’s all business. Then when we walk off the field, it’s back to the same old joking and laughing all day.
See, [Dustin] Garrison just hit me with a joke right there,” Buie said as Garrison walked past the interview while making a funny face. “That’s how he is.”
The truth of the matter is that Andrew Buie does not believe he has anything to prove. He’s an upperclassman, talented enough to make a difference on the 2014 version of the Mountaineers.
However the other truth of the matter is that the running back depth is about as loaded as WVU has ever seen. Buie can either get in line, or emerge as a reliable back.
For Andrew Buie, getting in line is not in his psychological makeup. He plans to get back to his old ways, making defenders miss and scoring touchdowns, while maintaining the confidence that allowed him to become a star in the first place.