A Different Look This Fall?
What you saw out on the field at Milan Puskar Stadium during last Saturday’s Gold-Blue Spring Game may or may not resemble what you see this fall. And that’s the problem when people attempt to draw too many conclusions from what they witnessed last Saturday.
But there are plenty of questions that will need to be answered:
Who will be the starting quarterback?
Can the offensive line block effectively?
Do the Mountaineers have enough playmakers?
Can the secondary stick to wide receivers?
Are the linebackers fast enough?
Can the defense stop high-powered Big 12 offenses?
Those and many other questions will remain unanswered until the games start counting in the fall.
“The team we field in September is going to look a lot different,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said after the game. “We have so many new guys coming in, and we have so many young guys that are going to develop. I left it with the team … this is phase two and it’s over. Phase three is incredibly important and that’s the next 14 weeks. A lot needs to happen in the next three and a half months going into August camp.”
Indeed, it will.
Offensively, it’s pretty clear that the coaches can’t wait for the arrival of junior college wide receivers Mario Alford and Ronald Carswell, as well as Cleveland prep standout Shelton Gibson and Florida speedster Jacky Marcellus. Those four guys should give the Mountaineers more playmakers to go with a receiver corps that currently includes Kevin White, Jordan Thompson, KJ Myers, Daikiel Shorts, Devonte Mathis and Connor Arlia.
West Virginia already appears to have some playmakers in the backfield with returners Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison teaming up with winter additions Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood. All four bring different skill sets to the table.
“We’ll have guys that can make plays,” said Holgorsen. “I’m very confident of that. Each and every year that we’ve lost great players the initial reaction is how are we going to score a point? And then other guys step up. We’ll have guys that will step up. We have a whole bunch of receivers who will be competing their butt off all summer and all camp so we’re going to have guys step up and make plays. They may not even be here yet.
“We’ve got guys coming in who are pretty good playmakers, so when you add those guys into the mix - and sometimes it actually takes some competition for guys to emerge - those are the guys that we are looking for.”
The same goes for the other side of the football on defense where a number of lanky, athletic playmakers could make the Mountaineers more of a disruptive force at the line of scrimmage. Specifically, junior college players such as Brandon Golson, D’Vante Henry and Dontrill Hyman could make what looks to be an improved pass rush even better.
“We’ve improved defensively rushing the passer and we’ve probably regressed a little bit protecting the passer, but it hasn’t been our emphasis,” said Holgorsen. “We’ve really emphasized running the football and we’ve gotten better at it. You can’t get better at everything during the spring, but we’ll assess where we’re at and we will come up with a plan in August.”
Holgorsen indicated that he wanted to become a better running football team this spring and he believes that objective was accomplished. Becoming a more physical running team has a two-pronged effect: one, it gives the offense an attitude and a swagger and, two, it better prepares the defense for that style of play when they are going to face it against power running teams such as Kansas State and Texas.
“One of the reasons (offensive line coach) Ron Crook was hired was the fact that he’s pretty good at teaching those guys how to come off the ball and smack people in the mouth and we wanted to get better at that,” Holgorsen said. “I’ve talked to Coach (Keith) Patterson about that during the off-season of having that help us defensively too.”
Of course the most prevailing question will be who is going to be under center when the Mountaineers open the season on Aug. 31 against William & Mary? That question will likely remain unanswered for a while.
“Not only are we not ready to name a starter at quarterback, we’re not ready to do that at about 20 other positions,” Holgorsen said.
Junior Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress had similar stats on Saturday afternoon, both having their good and not-so-good moments. Millard threw three touchdown passes but took four sacks and made a couple of ill-advised throws that could have been picked off. Childress hooked up with Jordan Thompson for a pretty 65-yard touchdown pass but he also badly underthrew a ball down the middle of the field that was intercepted by Travis Bell. He also was sacked twice.
“They’ve got to keep getting better,” noted Holgorsen, who indicated last Saturday that he is opposed to playing both. “Every time we came out with a leader after the spring it’s been a battle in camp and usually three weeks into camp somebody usually separates themselves.”
Hopefully that will happen once again for the Mountaineers this fall, whoever it turns out to be.
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia Mountaineers, WVU, Big 12 Conference football
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