MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Prior to today’s spring football practice on the brand new Steve Antoline Family practice field, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen gave members of the media a quick update on his teams progress.
Headlining Holgorsen’s briefing was the announcement that redshirt-junior running back Jacky Marcellus has decided to transfer elsewhere in order to increase his chances of playing time.
“He’s (Marcellus) decided to transfer to go somewhere where he’s gonna have a better opportunity to play,” said Holgorsen. “A kid that’s done everything right, academically he’s in good standing, he’s a great kid. I will always support a guy that just wants to try to go play somewhere so I fully support that.”
Holgorsen also announced the absence of a few usual starters who weren’t on the field due to some off-field issues. Those include sophomore WR Jovon Durante, senior DL Larry Jefferson, and redshirt-senior kicker Josh Lambert.
“Jovon Durante, Larry Jefferson and Josh Lambert are all suspended for the entire first spring practice for a violation of team rules,” said Holgorsen. “We anticipate having all three of those guys back for summer, but you won’t see any of those guys out there (for spring).”
Holgorsen also announced that redshirt-sophomore running back Donte Thomas-Williams has been suspended for spring practices as well citing “conduct detrimental to the team” as the cause. He added that Thomas-Williams’ future with the team has yet to be determined.
Two of WVU’s early enrollees, Marcus Simms and Cody Saunders, were also absent at practice. Holgorsen noted that they were taking care of things back at home and will return to spring practice later this weekend.
In terms of health, Holgorsen noted that sophomore WR Gary Jennings will be wearing a green (injury) jersey for the next few practices due to a wrist situation. He also added that redshirt-senior safety Jarrod Harper will sit out spring practice’s for the second season in a row due to a lingering shoulder problem.
“He’s (Jennings) got a wrist situation, he’s gonna be full go next week but he won’t be full go today,” said Holgorsen. “Jarrod Harper, as we know, had shoulder surgery so he’s not gonna be ready to go until the summer.”
After a three-minute brief, Holgorsen began answering questions. The first question of the day regarded the status of the Mountaineers’ newly open wide receiver coach position.
“I am (coaching the WR’s). Who do you think’s been coaching them?” said Holgorsen in regards to the departure of Lonnie Galloway. “I got a pretty long history with coaching receivers so I’m excited about this group…There’s a lot of interest in this job. I’m pretty confident that we’ll get a guy in here that can help make us better.”
Holgorsen noted that the football program is currently in the process of making a new hire for that open position, stating that a hire could “potentially” be made before the end of spring practices.
Six practices into spring football, it appears as though the obvious candidate for the starting QB role is senior Skyler Howard. Holgorsen praised Howard’s progress and expressed his happiness with what the Mountaineers have been doing up front so far.
“He’s pretty comfortable, I mean the last time he played live football (the Cactus Bowl) he threw for 506 yards, second all-time in the history of West Virginia football with it’s storied past,” said Holgorsen. “He’s pretty good. I’m really happy with what we’re doing up front with Coach Crook and Coach Wickline. Those guys are working well together and it’s improving our pass protection, which in turn makes Skyler a little bit more comfortable.”
With the departure of junior Wendell Smallwood, the WVU running back situation had Holgorsen a little bit nervous as of January. However, with the addition of some talented signees (like Kennedy McCoy) to backup projected starter Rushel Shell, Holgorsen is gaining confidence in the Mountaineers’ running game with every practice.
“Rus (Shell) looks better than I’ve seen him,” said Holgorsen. “He’s in a good place. He’s healthy, feels good, and he’s in a good place. Kennedy McCoy is way, way better than expected. He’s wearing No. 4 out there, and it resembles the other No. 4 (Smallwood), so he’s on track. He’s a smart kid and he’s picking things up and he looks good.”
Even though WVU lost quite a few talented defenders including Karl Joseph, Nick Kwiatkoski and KJ Dillon, Holgorsen says Tony Gibson’s defense looks almost the same as it did last season.
“It looked the same to me,” he said. “We’re in year three of the same scheme. Those guys are flying around and doing a great job. You look at the first-team defense right now and it’s loaded full of juniors and seniors… we’re replacing guys with juniors and seniors so it looks like the same defense to me.”
In terms of special teams, Holgorsen stated that redshirt-junior Mike Molina will be taking over the suspended Josh Lambert’s kicking duties throughout spring practice. He also expressed his excitement for the addition of John Young.
“Billy Kinney is doing some of that (kicking) as well,” said Holgorsen. “We’re gonna add John Young so we’re gonna have another body to add to that. Those guys are doing fine now but it’s about their development and it’s about progression.”
Overall, Holgorsen seems fairly confident in the overall health and progression of the 2016 WVU football roster. With a brand new practice field and the addition of drones to capture new angles for better film, Mountaineer football is on the rise.