Scooter Berry looking to atone for lost '09

Go ahead and poke some fun at Scooter Berry's age. His coach does it, and Berry doesn't mind.

"I'm actually 37," Berry joked. "My birthday is next week."

He's not that old, but Berry -- who recently turned 24 -- is the elder statesman on West Virginia. He joined the Mountaineers way back in 2006.

"It's weird watching young guys coming in who are 18, 19 years old," he said. "But at the same time, I think I can show them and teach them a lot. I have a lot of knowledge and consider myself a coach on the field."

Unfortunately, Berry spent far too much time on the sideline with the coaches in 2009. And he didn't always set the best example for others to follow.

The 2008 All-Big East defensive linemen had a forgettable junior season. He missed five games because of suspension and injuries and had to sit out the Gator Bowl because of academics.

He tore up his shoulder early in the season against East Carolina, setting him down the wrong path.

"I wanted to get surgery right away, but they talked me into playing hurt," he said. "It's fine, because guys play hurt and I did it. But I wasn't used to it."

Berry hurt his knee while hitting Marshall running back Darius Marshall and says overcompensating for the shoulder injury was to blame. But there was no one else to blame for his other troubles. He was arrested Oct. 18 for public intoxication and disorderly conduct, drawing a suspension from Bill Stewart.

"I dropped the ball," he said. "You've got to be a man about something like that. It was like there was a fork in the road, and I went straight. But it's all about how you bounce back from something like that."

The way he approached it was to embrace his age and stop partying like a college student. Now, he says, he tries to focus on football and not much else. And after sitting out this spring to heal his injuries, he's in great shape and raring to go for Saturday's opener against Coastal Carolina.

He should be a stalwart on what looks like one of the best defensive lines in the Big East. Senior Chris Neild anchors the middle, with sack artist Julian Miller on the other side. The Mountaineers also have Josh Taylor, who saw time last year, and promising newcomers Will Clarke and Bruce Irvin.

"[Defensive line] Coach [Bill] Kirelawich always talks about depth on the defensive line, but since I've been here we've never really had that," Berry said. "Now, it's not just one deep or two deep. There are people behind that who can come in and play well. It's good for the defense to be able to rotate a lot of guys and keep them fresh."

An old guy like Berry might need a few breaks here and there to stay healthy. But he's also ready to make up for the disappointment of last season.

"I feel like I have a lot to prove," he said. "Not to everyone else, but to myself. I feel like if I leave everything on the field, then at the end of the day, I'll be happy with the outcome."