MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–The West Virginia University spring game is a week away and head coach Dana Holgorsen met with the media on Saturday afternoon to discuss how the spring was shaping up.
Holgorsen likes how senior quarterback Skyler Howard is developing.
“He looks like a senior,” Holgorsen said. “He looks like a starting senior quarterback to me. Everything makes sense. The signals and communication looks good. His checks are outstanding. You are starting to see timing with the receivers improve. He and (redshirt junior wide receiver) Shelton (Gibson) had a deal last year. He is developing that with (redshirt junior wide receiver) Ka’Raun (White), (senior wide receiver) Daikiel (Shorts Jr.) and some of these running backs as well.”
With Howard maturing and the development between him and the wide receivers, the offense should be clicking. But Holgorsen believes the lack of depth at receiver is the one component holding them back.
“We need depth at receiver,” he said. “We are missing some guys that I think can potentially change the game. You have good solid starters with Shelton, Ka’Raun and Daikiel but you need guys that can change the game. Those guys will be here in August. I would like to be able to do what we need to do.
“If that’s running the ball a whole bunch, then we need to be able to do that. If that’s passing the ball a whole bunch, then we need to be able to do that as well. I really like where we are at o-line wise as well. It is not just Skyler and his rapport with the receivers. The o-line has something to do with that. Our pass protection was very spotty at times last year, so (assistant coach) coach (Joe) Wickline has really done a good job with improving that area.”
Holgorsen believes that for the first time in several years the passing game can be as effective as it once was when Geno Smith was in charge.
“We haven’t had continuity since Geno coming back after that first year,” Holgorsen said. “We had a little bit of it with Clint (Trickett). Clint’s first year. Wendell’s (Smallwood) first year. Kevin’s (White) first year. Mario’s (Alford) first year. Charles’ (Simms) first year. That was a dynamic that I hope I will never have to deal with again. There was a little bit of continuity with those guys coming back the next year. Over the course of a couple years, you are now looking at Shelton, Daikiel and Skyler. Those guys have been throwing together for three years now.”
Holgorsen believes the offensive line is coming together nicely this spring. Overall, everyone is healthy and getting better every day.
“We are in a pretty healthy spot,” he said. “A lot of people have been asking me why I hired two o-line coaches. I tell them that there is 20 kids over there. It is hard for one guy to keep track of. There are so many. The NFL has two. Everybody has two. Those guys are really working well together. The tackles and the tight ends are getting a lot of individual attention with coach Wickline and then coach (Ron) Crook has strength. The reason I brought him here was because what he could do with the interior o-line. He can get those guys playing pretty nasty in the run game, and hopefully, in the pass game as well.”
While some players are pretty solid candidates for starters, the offensive line has several guys fighting for spots.
“I think (redshirt sophomore offensive lineman) Yodny (Cajuste), (redshirt senior offensive lineman Adam) Pankey and (redshirt senior offensive lineman) Tyler (Orlosky) are pretty solid right now,” Holgorsen said. “There is some competition at the right side, and it has nothing to do with how (redshirt junior offensive lineman Kyle) Bosch or (redshirt sophomore offensive lineman) Marcell (Lazard) are doing. It has everything to do with how (redshirt freshman offensive lineman Colton McKivitz) Colt and (redshirt senior offensive lineman) Tony Matteo are doing. Those guys are fighting for a job right now.”
Sophomore quarterback David Sills has been taking reps with the wide receivers but he is not quite ready to give up on being a starting quarterback down the road.
“He is still working on quarterback stuff, so he is not focusing on receiver,” Holgorsen said. “He is not getting better at receiver. He will play receiver. He is not Deion Sanders, where he kind of just goes in there and does some things. He is a young kid with a lot of eligibility left. Until he focuses on a specific thing, he is not going to be great at it. He is focusing on quarterback, but you will see him get in there, because we have no depth at receiver right now. He needs to help us out. He is a team player, and we appreciate that.”
With the spring winding down, the defense is not quite game ready but Holgorsen is pleased with their development so far.
“They are doing well,” he said. “I can’t tell you how happy I am with the coaching staff. I am just happy with the way (defensive coordinator) Gibby is running it and the rapport that he has with his assistants is really good. Those guys are going to be as good as they were last year, before it is all said and done. A lot of older guys have playing experience. We are not replacing a lot of these guys that graduated with new guys. I think they are in pretty good shape. There are a lot of four and five-year guys out there that know the system. Going into the third year, they should know what they are doing.”
The Gold-Blue game will take place on Saturday, April 23,2016 at 12 p.m. at the Greenbrier.