MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Whether he’s lined up at fullback, tight end or inside receiver, Cody Clay’s first impulse remains the same: Hit somebody.
“I like blocking. I like hitting people,” said the wide-smiling Clay. “I’m just a football player, I guess.”
The rising sophomore from Alum Creek relishes his utility role, and the coaches relish him for it. Exhibit A comes in this assessment from running back coach JaJuan Seider:
“The guy I really like right now is Cody Clay. He is competing his butt off. He is doing a lot of stuff for us. The kid’s just doing everything — he is playing attached, detached, blocking and catching the ball. I am really impressed.”
That’s the brand of positive feedback Clay has been receiving since last fall, when his versatility began to show. In 13 games as a redshirt freshman, the 6-foot-3 Clay became a crucial lead blocker in the running game and even caught two passes working out of the slot.
“(Cody Clay) makes the running back room better, because those guys see him competing and laying it on the line every day. I say, ‘You don’t understand how privileged you are to have a guy in front of you to lay his body on the line like that.'” – WVU running backs coach JaJuan Seider
Not that Clay dreams of becoming the next 100-catch receiver in the Dana Holgorsen assembly line. He half-jokingly admitted he prefers to work in bunched packages at tight end because he finds the wide-open spaces at receiver intimidating.
“After I catch it, I don’t know what exactly to do, so I just hit the first person I see,” he said. “I’m not going to break away from somebody.”
Coming out of George Washington High School, where Clay starred at tight end and defensive line, most recruiters projected him as an offensive lineman. Among those was Seider, then a Marshall assistant.
“I felt he could play tight end in the right offense … but everybody knew what Cody was going to be — that he was going to be an offensive lineman,” Seider recalled. “He ran well and caught the ball well, but he was just big.”
Coaches originally wanted him to put on 30 pounds and shift to center, but the weight gain didn’t come naturally. No matter how often he pigged out at the training table, Clay couldn’t get close to the desired 290 mark. So instead of eating his way into a linemen’s physique, Clay saw an opportunity to contribute at the skill positions and began working to keep the weight off. In two-plus college years, he has made strength gains while managing to add less than five pounds.
“It’s a testament to him that he’s keeping the weight off,” said Seider, who sees a healthy dose of home-state pride in Clay, along with a willingness to sacrifice for teammates.
“He makes the running back room better, because those guys see him competing and laying it on the line every day,” said Seider. “I say ‘You don’t understand how privileged you are to have a guy in front of you to lay his body on the line like that.'”