The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

July 28, 2013

Five keys for WVU this season

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia opens coach Dana Holgorsen’s third season as coach on Thursday of this week in an atmosphere of almost starting over.

A year ago much was set as the Mountaineers went into camp, coming off 10-3 season that included an Orange Bowl victory and a star-studded offense.

“Probably the biggest difference going into this year as opposed to last year is everything that we dealt with last year is pretty much the opposite this year,” Holgorsen said during Big 12 Media Day. “Had a lot of good things coming off a big bowl game and had some star power on offense and all the experience on offense and very inexperienced on defense. It’s the exact opposite going into this year.”

Indeed it is.

There are questions everywhere, but here are the top five things that must come out of camp if this is to be an improved season.

1. Holgorsen has three quarterback candidates – Florida State transfer Clint Trickett, Geno Smith’s backup Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Travis Ford. He must decide upon one and groom him so he can run his offense.

“We’ve got Clint Trickett coming in, who has probably as much experience in the college game as anybody in the Big 12, just because he’s been a starter in some big games. He’s a very smart kid, graduated at Florida State in three years, backed up two first-round draft picks at Florida State in three years.

“He’s been around it his whole life (as son of former WVU offensive line coach Rick Trickett) and is a good player. And didn’t tell him that he was going to start either. He’s got to come in and beat an experienced Paul Millard out, who has taken more reps than anybody on our campus. He’s taken 50 percent of the reps for a long, long time in practice. So he knows the offense better than anybody.

“And then you’ve got Ford Childress, who’s going to continue to get better and better. He may have more potential than any of the other guys. He’s just young, with four years remaining.”

2. Holgorsen and new defensive coordinator Keith Patterson have to work a number of junior college players into a defense that was the worst in WVU history last year, cutting opponents’ production in half if WVU is to have a decent season.

The most important area of the defense is in the pass rush, and two JUCO players were brought in directly to address that in Brandon Golson and d’Vante Henry. At the same time a fire must be lit under senior defensive end Will Clarke for pass rush and leadership.

“I’d like to become more of an impact player in the offensive backfield. I want to be more of a force,” Clarke said. “I want quarterbacks to hate me for the 60 minutes.”

3. An offensive line must be patched together after losing center Joey Madsen and guards Jeff Braun and Josh Jenkins.

A new offensive line coach Ron Crook has joined the staff from Stanford with some different blocking thoughts and with the idea of being more aggressive as WVU will have to run the ball much more this season with the strength of the offense lying in its running backs.

“I do feel good about where we’re at running back-wise,” Holgorsen said. “When you look at Dreamius Smith, one of the more sought-after running backs in the JUCO ranks last year, was with us in spring practice. We have transfer Charles Sims in from Houston. Dustin Garrison was a full-time starter as a true freshman, and Andrew Buie was a guy that had 200 yards against Texas last year. So we’ve got capable guys, as deep there as we’ve ever been, that’s for certain.”

But Crook has to develop a line that gives them some running room.

“It’s probably a little bit more important up front, if you want to establish the run game, you’d better have an O-line that’s able to get that done, and I think we’ve got some quality guys up front,” Holgorsen said. “Quinton Spain is a four-year starter, and he’s massive. If we can get other kids to do what he’s able to do, I think our run game will be just fine.”

4. Holgorsen believes his offense has to have a receiver who catches 100 passes. He lost two who did so from last year’s team and has very little returning in the way of experience.

“I haven’t lost any sleep over Tavon (Austin) and Stedman (Bailey) moving to the NFL,” Holgorsen said. “We don’t hold anybody back. That’s not the first time we’ve lost receivers to the NFL and be able to line up next year and execute our offense.

“It gets me excited of being able to get out there and face the challenge of being able to take 10 strong guys and coach them and be able to develop them.”

Jordan Thompson, the diminutive one who dominated the spring, may prove himself to be the key, but Ivan McCartney returns after quitting the team and has huge potential, while freshman Shelton Gibson, redshirt sophomore Dante Campbell and sophomore K.J. Myers all have the potential to be a force in the offense.

Junior college transfer Kevin White comes with the reputation that he might be best of all.

5. Perhaps the nicest problems are trying to figure out how to work versatile newcomer Charles Sims, a dangerous runner and receiver who transferred from Houston and has been named Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the year, and tight/fullback Cody Clay into the picture.

Sims makes WVU a different team with his ability to play the slot or running back, and Clay does the same, although he’s more a bruising player than Sims, who is a skill player.

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

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU needs White to follow in former receivers’ footsteps

    A year ago Clint Trickett took a lot of grief as the once potent West Virginia offense came unraveled, but there is more that than meets the eye.
    The criticism was not unfounded, of course, although behind each incomplete pass there was the pain Trickett was suffering through to throw it, his rotator cuff in need of surgery.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.
    He intrigued the media far more than Bob Stoops, the coach of preseason favorite Oklahoma, and more than Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, the preseason player of the year.

    July 25, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Saban, family happy at Alabama

    Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

    July 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Quarterback child prodigy’ comes to WVU amidst very high expectations

    Has West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen finally put the arrow he needs in his quiver with the commitment received Wednesday from high school quarterback David Sills, who is a rather extraordinary story and may also just be a rather extraordinary quarterback?

    July 18, 2014

  • WVU kicker Molinari ‘All-American boy’

    West Virginia kicker Mike Molinari may not be an All-American but he is an All-American boy.
    He was honored for that on Wednesday when the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association announced the West Virginia redshirt senior kicker/punter Michael Molinari is a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

    July 16, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads