MORGANTOWN - When Cody Clay arrived at West Virginia University last summer and was given his orders for how to begin his career with the Mountaineers, he discovered he could eat whatever he wanted.
"Steak, lots of eggs, anything with protein," said the redshirt freshmen from George Washington High School. "I was eating more ice cream at that point, as much as I wanted, because that's what they told me. That was nice."
Clay was a 6 foot, 3 inch, 260-pound tight end who had caught 27 passes for 389 yards and four touchdowns in 2010 as he led the Patriots to the top seed in the Class AAA state playoffs.
Yet at WVU, there was an offense that had no room for a tight end. Clay started preseason camp as an inside receiver and impressed coaches enough as a blocker that he was asked to move to center - and gain 30 or so pounds.
He wound up as the scout team's offensive player of the year, though as a tight end playing the role of the opponent's tight end.
"I ate a lot, but I don't know what happened," Clay said. "I just couldn't gain the weight I needed to. I thought it would be easy, but I tried."
The coaches had seen Clay's size and frame and figured he could grow into an interior lineman, but they also knew some of those experiments just don't work because some players can't gain weight.
At WVU, where the team always is working on strength and conditioning, it can be especially difficult. Clay was eating a lot, but working out the required amount for a player scheduled to redshirt made it hard to pack on pounds. Nothing outside of a lengthy couch potato sabbatical was going to fix that.
"If that was an option, I'm sure I would have taken it," he said.
He remembers gaining only 4 or 5 pounds before the Mountaineers came upon the first open week in their schedule. The team had some self-scout scrimmages with the offense going against the defense. Clay was asked to play inside receiver against the defense.
"I guess I did it pretty well because they told me to stay there," Clay said. "When the second one came around, I just did it again."
He wasn't upset or even confused because playing at WVU had long been his dream and he was willing to do, or to eat, anything to make it happen. Yet he realized early on making the move to the offensive line was going to take time.
As he struggled to gain the weight and understood it would be even longer until he could adjust to his expanding frame, he figured the transition there would take more time than it would to become an inside receiver.