The Mountaineer football program is now fully in spring practice. Tuesday afternoon several players and assistant coaches were made available to the media in discussion of the team’s successes thus far.
Defensive coordinator/associate head coach Tony Gibson is again pleased with the progress of the team this spring, noting how sophomore Jovanni Stewart has been one of the players to stick out at safety this spring. “He is the kid who I am the most impressed with right now on the defensive side through spring that wasn’t known coming into the spring. I like the way that he is playing right now at safety. I think he can help if he can keep developing.” Coach Gibson is impressed with Stewart and his ability to move around positions, and will continue to move the sophomore around position-wise at this time.
Coach Gibson also addressed the need of defensive linemen at the moment, “Obviously the biggest need right now is d-linemen. We need to have some d-lineman step up and fill those voids. We are losing three starters there. With (senior linebacker) Xavier Preston at Sam replacing (Justin) Ardnt, Xavier has played so we know what we have there. The corners, (senior cornerback) Mike Daniels, (senior quarterback) (Elijah) Battle and (redshirt sophomore cornerback) Hakeem Bailey right now are doing some really good things. That is a concern. At safety, we feel good. We just don’t have a lot of guys right now depth wise. We are going to be counting on some guys in the fall and obviously, once (redshirt junior safety) Dravon (Askew-Henry) is back in action.”
Assistant coach and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital also spoke with the media, pointing out how the running backs have stood out to him thus far this spring. “That running back room, the thing that I haven’t had in a long time is that ability for the running back to hit those explosive plays of 50-plus yards . . . You are sitting in one practice and you have the one’s out there and (senior running back) (Justin) Crawford hits it for a 50 yard touchdown and the next set (sophomore running back) (Kennedy) McKoy hits it for a 50 yard touchdown. You are sitting there like, Wow, even the running backs that are going with the two’s are pretty dynamic guys that could easily be running with the ones. That running back room has probably been the most impressive to me up to this point, through the first six practices.”
Offensive line coach Joe Wickline was asked how big of a concern injured players such as Yodney Cajuste can be for the coach and the team. Coach Wickline’s answer put faith in the team’s athletic trainer David Kern, “I’d say, if I had a strength, I don’t know that I do, but if I had one, to worry about things that I can’t control is probably one of them. However the doctors and medical experts say he needs to do whatever (football athletic trainer) Dave (Kerns) says, whatever our strength and conditioning coaches say. I live with, but at the end of the day it’s the next man up for me. So what we do is we take the next guy and we put him over here, and as soon as this guy is ready, then I’ll be concerned about what we need to do. I’m not smart enough to figure out all of the different ACL’s and ligaments and cartilages, I can’t get it all figured out.”
Cornerbacks coach Doug Belk seems to be adjusting to his role in Morgantown, pointing out that it is just a little different from his time at Alabama, especially the atmosphere that Coach Holgorsen and his team operates in. “Coach Holgorsen is really laid back and really generous to the players, coaches them hard, and the relationship. The music at practice, the energy is obviously the thing that intrigued me the most. He’s (Holgorsen) very intense now as far as doing a lot of things, but the music at practice and meeting style and everything is a little different from where I’m coming from.”
Senior running back Justin Crawford sounds as determined as ever six practices in this spring. “I’m just working my butt off, trying to compete in every aspect. Push my teammates to get better, push myself to get better. I’m just trying to go all out this year.” Crawford was very short and succinct when asked about the changes in coaching staff between last season and now. Crawford’s reply of everyone takes different jobs and now is his time to get to know his new coaches shows how focused and mature the running back is. As he says, in regards to Coach Seider’s departure; ” . . . everybody has a life and it goes on. You can’t sit and whine and mope about it.”
Reese Donahue, sophomore defensive lineman, continues to enjoy his time as a West Virginia Mountaineer saying, “It is more than that. It is so much more than that. Going from being a fan and watching to playing on the field and kids coming up to you sometimes after the games and stuff like that, it is a dream come true. It’s more than that, I never thought it would be as sweet as it is,” when asked if being a Mountaineer is everything he thought it would be.
Junior wide receiver Jovon Durante has a very optimistic outlook on spring practice as of now. “Everything has been going great so far, but you know there’s always room for improvement. You have to go out every day and work hard. (Assistant coach (Receivers) Coach (Tyron) Carrier is coaching us to become better every single day, and you just have to apply pressure.” Durante also shared how much he loved getting his first catch in a Mountaineer uniform and that one of his off-season goals is working on getting bigger before the season.
David Sills V spoke with the media Tuesday as well, where he address leaving West Virginia and coming back this spring. “It feels like I left. I mean missing the season is definitely a big part that I missed, but you know no one treated me any differently. They treated me the same as if I never left. I think I came back with the same mindset, if not better to just be able to compete and contribute to the team. Obviously now I’m doing it with a clear mind at wide receiver now. I really feel comfortable being back, working with the guys, getting better and competing every day.”
Coach Holgorsen has made mention of his conversations with Sills and the junior wide receiver echoed his head coach’s sentiments regarding his year at junior college and subsequent return. Sills also made a point of talking about the growing relationship between the quarterbacks, wide receivers and Coach Spavital, noting that the groups would have a great relationship by the fall.
“We are all creating a very strong relationship together, which I think is very important for quarterbacks and wide receivers. I think we are really creating a good relationship. You can tell going into this spring we already have a lot of timing down with the quarterbacks. We are just going to keep going through spring like that and work on the timing, go out there and compete everyday going into the spring and fall camp.”
Both players and coaches alike are pleased with the progress of the team six practices into the spring. As it stands now, the team continues to carry the momentum of a successful season last fall. Fall gamedays in Morgantown will be here before anyone knows it!