It comes out of nearly every coaches’ mouth. Any sport. Any time of year. “Next man up.” WVU’s football team is no different, and Dana Holgorsen is on the lookout to replace what he called the team’s “best player” as fall camp gets underway. With linebacker David Long — the aforementioned, Holgorsen-proclaimed “best player” — out with a knee injury for likely the entire non-conference portion of the season’s schedule, it could be an in-state product’s time to shine.
When asked Sunday in front of the team’s outdoor practice facility prior to the team’s first official fall practice who would replace Long, Holgorsen pointed to one name in particular.
“That gives guys like Dylan Tonkery an opportunity to step in there,” Holgorsen said. “He tested out as an elite player.”
The in-state product was a dominant running back and linebacker/safety at Bridgeport High School, and his brother, Wes, was a standout linebacker for WVU. He’s got the pedigree, the hybrid size and the backing of a hardworking attitude to boot. Holgorsen’s taken notice.
“He doesn’t look anywhere near what he looked like a year ago. He redshirted a year ago, but he looks like a completely different guy,” Holgorsen said Sunday. “He’s smart like Wes was, but physically, he’s already better than what Wes could have ever imagined to be. He looks good right now at Will (linebacker).”
Holgorsen said redshirt freshman linebacker Brendan Ferns is also progressing nicely after missing last season with a torn ACL. Speaking of injuries, Holgorsen said Long’s knee shouldn’t keep him out long and he expects to have him back for Big 12 play.
PROJECTIONS? WHAT PROJECTIONS?
Holgorsen and Co. aren’t worried about where the media predict the Mountaineers to finish. Never have, probably never will.
“I think the potential is pretty good. You look at all the projections out there, we are supposed to stink. We are in a pretty good spot,” he said. “Our depth is pretty good. Putting together our special team stuff, we have a lot to choose from. Our depth is really good, we have been building this team to the point to where our second team guys look just like our first team guys. I like the aspect of continuity and I like the aspect of depth. My job is to get the morale high, which I think is good right now but over the course of five weeks I have to keep it high and continue to move it forward.”
“Yeah there are going to be changes,” Holgorsen said. “We change things every year, we tweak things every year. Having Jake’s (Spavital) take on some different things is going to mean that we are probably going to tweak a few things more than we have in the past.”
That means some creativity, and some fun football.
“The base nuts and bolts of what we do is not different, but it is fun to be able to do some different things. We have done that every year,” Holgorsen added. “This is probably a little bit more than normal just based on the fact that he has kind of done his own thing for four years and brought some things that I thought have been very creative.”
DEPTH, DEPTH, DEPTH
On the center position: (Redshirt junior offensive lineman Ray) Raulerson has had a really good summer. (Redshirt senior offensive lineman Kyle) Bosch has been snapping there some. We’ll get (redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jacob) Buccigrossi back as well. So, that gives you four guys that can potentially snap. (Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman) Matt (Jones) is doing really well.
On receivers: “I like those body types, the bigger-type guys. (Junior wide receiver David) Sills can play inside or outside. (Redshirt freshman receiver) Druw Bowen, the kid from (George Washington High) GW is really a big, thick kid who can be really physical. (Junior receiver) Gary (Jennings) is big and physical. (Redshirt senior) Nate (German), this is the first time we’ve seen him and he’s a 6-foot-2, 210-pound kid that looks really good. Those are the body types that we’re looking for. (Sophomore running back) Kennedy (McKoy) can play the inside receiver spot probably as good as any of them; he gives you a little bit more juice. (Freshman running back) Tevin (Bush) can play that inside receiver spot. David is kind of the guy and Gary is the guy, but we’ve got plenty of options.
On QBs: “(Sophomore David Israel) doesn’t know what we call inside zone, which is the easiest thing we do. He doesn’t know which way is which. It’s not his fault, he just got here. We have to bring him along, he’s our third-team guy right now. He has to redshirt in a perfect world. (redshirt junior quarterback) Will (Grier) and (redshirt sophomore Chris) Chugunov can handle the position this year and he can redshirt along with (redshirt freshman quarterback) Jack (Allison) and let those guys develop. Hopefully, we’re not in that position, but we have to bring him along, which means we have to force-feed him reps. (Assistant Coach (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks) Jake (Spavital) is going to have to meet with him as much as he possibly can to get him in a positon where he can be able to do it.