The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

August 31, 2013

Plenty of uncertainty for WVU on opening day

MORGANTOWN — In a way, Dana Holgorsen feels a lot like the thousands of West Virginia University freshmen who will be attending their first Mountaineer football game today.

The WVU coach doesn’t know what to expect.

When kickoff against William & Mary of the Colonial Athletic Association comes at noon and a near-sellout crowd greets it with a roar welcoming in Holgorsen’s third season as head coach since replacing Bill Stewart, he knows it takes him off on a journey into the unknown.

He comes off a season in which he could do no better than 7-6 despite three record-shattering stars who would go in the first three rounds of the NFL draft on offense and faces a team that struggled to finish 2-9, yet there will be butterflies of anticipation.

What does his 2013 edition of the Mountaineers do well?

“No clue,” he answered.

He wasn’t lying. Heck, he wasn’t sure who his quarterback would be for the first play.

He’d narrowed a field of three fighting to replace Geno Smith down to two – Florida State transfer Clint Trickett and Paul Millard – but could get it down no further.

“Who’s going to start? I don’t know,” he said during the week. “Paul or Clint will start. They will both play. Potentially all three of them will play. At this point, they’ve done nothing to warrant not playing quarterback here.”

And nothing to win the job, either.

“It’s going to take some game reps and putting these guys in situations where they have to respond to really know what we’re working with,” Holgorsen said. “The guy that we’re going to give the most reps to is going to take care of the ball and make good decisions about handoffs, interceptions and all of that.”

It’s hardly a coach’s dream, but it’s reality.

“We don’t live in a perfect world. Would I rather have a three-year starter returning at quarterback? Yeah. What we’re dealing with right now is the same as what 30-50 other schools are dealing with. It’s college football and graduations (happen). That opens the door for the next star to be born. You lose a couple tremendous guys, but that opens up the door for some other guys to get some snaps in and make some tremendous plays, too.”

But there are so many other unknowns.

Can running back Charles Sims, the senior transfer from the University of Houston, live up to his billing?

Will Ivan McCartney, back after having quit the team a year ago, have matured into the player WVU thought it was getting when it brought him in from the high school that produced Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey?

Could Tyler Orlosky fill the bill at center, a new position for him in his first collegiate game?

Has new defensive coordinator Keith Patterson solved the defensive problems that took away any chance WVU had for a big season last year?

And the freshmen … oh, so many freshmen.

“There aren’t as many freshmen on the depth chart as there were last year,” Holgorsen said. “If you remember, we played eight or 10 freshmen defensively last year. Everyone wants to know why we were bad defensively last year — that’s probably one pretty good sign. Secondly, we were in the Big 12, which had five of the top eight offenses in the country. That makes it challenging. We didn’t lose a ton of personnel defensively to warrant concern. We did offensively.”

Indeed, the offense shows that Pat Eger, the backup tackle, has more starts any other offensive player, and only two of what started out as 20 wide receivers has started any games.

“We have a lot of inexperienced guys. Whether they’re guys that were or weren’t in the program, there aren’t a ton of guys who have taken college snaps,” Holgorsen said. “So it can be a concern to some, and it can be exciting to others. I take in the exciting part. I can’t wait to see those guys and see what they’ve got.”

Excited, but unsure. This is a game, yes, but also a test.

“(I want to) see which guys respond well to the atmosphere of 65,000 people in the stands and being on national television,” Holgorsen said. “Some guys will elevate their game, and some guys will get wide-eyed and not do what we want them to do. We have to identify that, and there’s only one way you can identify that.”

There are a lot of players who come under this heading, players like freshman running back Wendell Smallwood and wide receivers like Daikiel Shorts, players with qualities but without the experience on the big stage of college football.

Holgorsen will try to keep it basic and simple as he breaks in a new quarterback and a group of inexperienced players.

“We’re not going to reinvent the wheel here. Everyone knows what we do defensively and offensively,” he said. “You can turn the tape on from last year and figure out what we do differently.

“Is (defensive coordinator) Keith (Patterson) going to add some different wrinkles to it? Yes. Are we going to have some different wrinkles offensively based on who our personnel is? I would assume that will be the case.

“There’s probably a pretty good chance of change, and when you see what the product is you’ll be able to notice the distinct differences. As a fan in the stands, I doubt you’ll notice very much.”

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Watson tees off a new century at The Greenbrier

    You knew this was going to be one of those unpredictable, memorable days when you drove into the Greenbrier Resort and headed to the Old White Golf Course and found the best parking place in the joint.
    As Bob Uecker would say, right there in the front rooooow.

    April 20, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Jackie Robinson’s impact extends beyond baseball

    It is Jackie Robinson Day as I sit here writing this today, and I feel as though I am doing it in a world gone mad.
    Every player in Major League Baseball wore No. 42 on Tuesday in honor of Jackie Robinson, the man who took racism’s best shot and integrated the game that was known then as the National Pastime even though it was as white a Ku Klux Klan robe.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball

    The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.

    April 14, 2014

  • WVU baseball drops seventh straight game

    One’s athletic skills are tested on a daily basis but every so often other aspects of an athlete’s makeup are tested, often far more important aspects in the game of life.

    April 14, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads