MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University head football coach Dana Holgorsen addressed the media today in the team room at the Milan Puskar Center.
We had a light practice out there this morning. I was going to do it yesterday, but with Fan Day yesterday it kind of zapped them, especially after three or four practices in row. I was a nice guy yesterday and let them go home early to get some rest. We got started early today. We did a lot of special teams stuff and an hour of offense and defense each. We’ll have a full practice this afternoon where we’ll work on a lot of red zone, score zone live drills and tackling. That’s kind of where we’re at right now.
On the return position
(Freshman quarterback) William Crest is in the mix. He’s got great ball skills. It’s going to depend on what his role is offensively, which we haven’t figured out yet. We trust (junior wide receiver) Jordan (Thompson) out there. He’s fielded a lot of punts. He’s had a phenomenal camp. It’s been well documented that he’s had great practices and great spring games. He needs to be more productive in games, but he looks really good on offense. He might be able to make some plays in games this year. Last year, he’d catch the returns, but he wouldn’t get any yards. (Senior wide receiver) Mario Alford
looks much more comfortable fielding punts. We kind of gave up on him early last year, when he dropped a couple punts. (Redshirt sophomore wide receiver) Vernon Davis
is catching them well. It’s a competition between those guys right now. I don’t know how you can gage catching them and making people miss it right now, so that competition may go into the season.
We have a bunch of bodies for kickoff. We watched them field a bunch of kicks today, and a variety of them. People start spreading them everywhere. Mario and (sophomore running back) Wendell Smallwood
, we liked what they did last year. I didn’t feel like our blocking was very good last year, but we’re getting a lot better at that. We have a lot of bodies that are very capable of that. We’re much more comfortable with the schemes. We have a good plan and plenty of bodies. Those two guys are capable. (Sophomore cornerback Daryl) Worley, (redshirt freshman wide receiver Shelton) Gibson, and (freshman cornerback Dravon) Henry can all do that as well. They can do it. It’s more about the blocking up front. Punt return is different. You have to have a special dude that can make them miss.
On the running back position
(Redshirt sophomore running back) Rushel Shell
looks great. He had two or three runs where you can see why the hype is there. He’s getting much more comfortable and his ball security is good. He runs people over. Wendell is the most versatile guy we have, and he continues to break runs and get good short yardage. His receiving skills have improved. He looks good. (Redshirt junior running back) Dustin Garrison
has had a solid camp. (Redshirt junior running back Andrew) Buie has been a little bit banged up. He’s a physical guy and always has been. He always puts his body in harm’s way. We expect him to get back out there this afternoon.
We have to get him going. There are a lot of bodies at his position, so we’re going to put him in a situation this afternoon and see if he can carry the load. He’s coming from a knee scope about a month ago. We did this on purpose and fed the other guys the ball early so that he could get his legs underneath him. This afternoon is a big day for him.
On the wide receiver position
(Seniors) Kevin White
, Mario (Alford), (junior) Jordan (Thompson) and (sophomore) Daikiel (Shorts) look good. (Redshirt senior quarterback) Logan Moore
has also been looking good. He’s going to be able to give us some depth. We’re looking for two wide outs. It will be a combination of (redshirt junior) KJ Myers
, (redshirt sophomore) Devonte Mathis
, Shelton (Gibson) and Vernon Davis
. It will be an on-going evaluation process to see who those guys are.
On true freshmen redshirting
We’re in the position to redshirt a lot of them. My best guess would be that we aren’t going to redshirt Dravon (Henry) or William (Crest). That’s a good position to be in. There are 13 or 14 of them that will be good candidates. We won’t need those bodies, which is a good place to be. It’s much better than the past two or three years. (Freshman running back) Dontae-Thomas Williams, we will continue to evaluate. Physically he could be fine, but you don’t want to use up that year if he’s not ever going to play.
He may have the best ball skills. He has tremendous hands. He runs angry. He can surprise you in the open field. I’ve been very please with what I’ve seen out of him.
As long as you can maintain depth on the offensive and defensive lines, then you can play a lot. We’ve been getting 70 to 80 reps a day as a team, and that’s great. There are plenty to go around. Because we have enough bodies, we can run as many plays as we can handle. There have been times in the past when we’ve only had one or two bodies deep on the lines, but now we have four or so, so we can handle that.
We’re able to give them just about everything that they’re going to see because of the number of guys that we have. We can go empty and give them empty, we can go two tight end, one tight end, etc. We can do just about anything. We have the capabilities offensively to do all that. We will game plan that for specific games.
On scout teams
We won’t get into scout team work until next Tuesday. We will also be able to add about 20 to 25 guys on Monday or Tuesday of next week. That will give our scout teams depth. We’re kind of working on who our scout teams will be, but we’re still going against each other. We will continue to do that through Saturday. Next week, when school starts, we will start preparing for Alabama and figure out the scout teams.
On stacking depth charts
It typically works itself out. We have to have information. We have to see good and bad plays and see who is picking it up and who is not. We get to see a lot of reps and spend a lot of time with them. We’re not restricted on that. It tends to sort itself out. Calling them in and telling them is a different story. Developing them isn’t hard, but telling them sometimes is.
On areas of concern
There aren’t any specifically yet. We still have a long way to go. The next week and the first week of school are extremely important. Game week is all about preparing for whom we’re playing. There will be concerns, but we’re still relatively healthy and looking good. I like where we’re at right now.
On practice weather
I thought today was perfect. I reminded them of Maryland last year. I thought today was good. You don’t have to go inside unless it’s lightning, and it didn’t today. I was ecstatic, because you’ve got to be able to practice in that. We will make do.
(Redshirt freshman) Elijah Wellman
, we put him at tailback. We were working on some short yardage stuff, so we put Eli, (redshirt junior) Cody Clay
, and (junior) Garrett Hope
back there. Eli looked really good. He’s not just a meathead tight end that doesn’t have skills. Cody and Garrett have developed their receiving skills. I can’t say that about Eli at this point, but they have really improved. I think they can both be viable options to take the ball down field. Eli is a more skilled back. We want to hand it to him so he can go and score pretty quick.
Eli is that kind of guy. Owen had tremendous ball skills, and he was pretty talented, but Eli runs like that. He’s a big, tough kid. Owen had a great career so I can’t compare anybody to him, but Eli is tough and is cut from the same kind of mold. I hope he turns out like Owen. That would be awesome.
On new NCAA rules
We won’t go out on the road and recruit until the off week after the Oklahoma game. When we do that, it’s all evaluation. There’s no communication. We will get into the rules when the recruits start coming to campus for unofficial and official visits for games. There will be a lot of talk as far as what we’re going to be able to do. People will use this to their advantage in recruiting. I think the next step is to have some sort of situation where everyone is doing the same thing. There are a lot of questions, but we will figure it out. It's more about what reality is. You lie in recruiting a bunch, and that's just part of it. You become a salesman. What are we actually doing? What are we actually feeding these guys? Our job is to get guys on campus. Once they’re on campus, our players do a lot of recruiting. They spend a lot of time with the recruits, and I encourage them to tell the truth about what we give them and how we treat them. Administratively, I think that will either work to our advantage or to our disadvantage. We have set aside an amount of money that we will spend on food, but other than that my hands are tied. We need to have food available to our guys, and we can do that, so I think we will be fine. We don’t have a central athletic facility here. We’re fortunate to have our own kitchen here, so we don’t need to worry about it, because we have everything we need right here.