MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–As the second week of Fall Camp is underway, Dana Holgorsen met with members of the media on Tuesday afternoon and discussed the West Virginia University football team’s progress.
Another player out for the season is freshman cornerback Jake Long, who suffered a shoulder injury and needs surgery.
“Maybe could have practiced him but we’re talking about redshirt,” Holgorsen said. “Let’s just go ahead and do it so we have you ready for next year. He’ll be ready for spring. If we do it now he’ll be able to go through spring ball.”
The Mountaineers have a few players banged up but nothing major besides the injuries Holgorsen mentioned in week one.
“(Freshman running back) Martell Pettaway got hit on the knee,” he said. “It’s clean. He’ll be out for a couple of days. (Redshirt sophomore tight end) (Trevon) Wesco got hit on the knee. It’s non-surgical, so he will be out for us for a couple of weeks. Other than that (redshirt junior tight end) Eli (Elijah Wellman), high ankle sprain, he will be fine. (Redshirt sophomore wide receiver) Ricky Rogers, hamstring, he will be fine. That’s it. Nothing serious. It’s all camp stuff.”
Injuries are a part of the football season and injuries that happen in camp can be detrimental to players competing for positions.
“Guys who are established like Daikiel, (junior safety) Dravon (Askew-Henry), (redshirt senior offensive lineman) (Tyler) Orlosky and (redshirt senior defensive lineman) Noble (Nwachukwu), those type of guys, we pretty much know what they can do,” Holgorsen said. “We have to get them in shape. You have to get in game shape. The only way to get in game shape is to get out there in practice and fight through it and train your bodies to be able to handle that stuff for two to three weeks, but not overdo it to where a point to where we wear them out and get them hurt.”
“We do a great job around here with athletic training with (director, strength and conditioning) (Mike) coach Joseph with strength and conditioning and recovery. Every morning they’re down there recovering. They’re eating well. We have lots of liquids. We have a lot of stretching and all of that good stuff, so there’s a recovering aspect to it. We’re not overdoing it. They need to get out there in the afternoon and they have to push through things to where their bodies get in shape to be able to handle the long-term aspects of the season.”
Quarterback Skyler Howard will likely get the nod against Missouri on Sept. 3. And the senior is working hard to become more consistent.
“We are protecting him more than we did last year,” Holgorsen said. “We have a different color jersey on him. I think what he brings to the table is grit and toughness. If he is sputtering a little bit, the first thing I am going to do is get him hit, because that typically gets him in the right frame of mind. I know where we are at with that. It’s simply just consistency in the passing game more than anything. It’s no secret. We have big play potential, we can run the football and we have big play potential. You all saw that last year. It’s the intermediate stuff that has to improve; we are working hard on it.”
Holgorsen says the backup quarterbacks haven’t really separated themselves yet.
“Will (William Crest Jr.) brings something to the table that the other guys don’t do, which is between the tackles running from a quarterback,” Holgorsen said. “(Redshirt freshman quarterback) (Chris) Chugs (Chugunov) probably has the best arm of everybody. We know that about those guys and it has not changed. They have to keep playing, they have to keep playing.”
Fans saw Crest at both running back and wide receiver last season and in the spring but Holgorsen has been mainly working with the redshirt sophomore at quarterback.
“It goes back to what we’ve said, if you have enough guys to where you can get them to specialize in things that’s the only way to get great,” Holgorsen said. “We’re tired of being good on offense. We’ve been good on offense for the last year. If you want to get great on offense then you have to get guys that settle in and specialize at something and just get great at that. He’s playing a lot at quarterback than he is with running back or receiver. As good as a kid that he is, that guy who can do that is extremely rare. He’s not that guy.”
While Crest may not be ready to take over the Mountaineers’ offense just yet, he is getting better.
“We’re getting better,” Holgorsen said. “We’re getting better. I wish I could anoint him the next Heisman trophy guy. He’s young. He has three years to play. We’ll see where he continues to go. He’s taken a bunch of reps. We’ll see if he can get better.”
Florida transfer Will Grier is one player fans are excited to see on the field but will have to wait until next season. While Grier isn’t able to suit up in the fall, he is helping his new teammates out as much as possible.
“He’s an intelligent kid, he a coaches kid,” Holgorsen said. “He really helps us with the drills. You need four and five arms to be able to, Skyler’s sore, Chugs is sore, because they are throwing so much. We rested Skyler yesterday with the amount of throws, but you still have to put the ball in the air so he is good with that, (freshman quarterback) Cody (Saunders) is good with that. Those guys are going to redshirt so they’re in every meeting they pay attention, they take notes, they soak it all in, they are out at practice with the scripts and a lot of times they are just standing there looking at me and seeing the call, checking signals, doing stuff in their heads and taking a lot of mental reps. I’m pleased with their attention to what we are doing, it’s just not their time right now.”
Grier could see some action this fall on the scout team but Holgorsen says that depends on which quarterback the Mountaineers will be matching up with that week
“Cody (Saunders) is pretty athletic so if we are playing Texas Tech, it’s probably going to be Cody running around trying to make plays,” Holgorsen said. “If it’s more of a pocket guy, smart, taller pocket guy, then we may use) Will some. I will probably rotate them, so they can continue to be in the quarterback room and get a good feel for how we game plan. Present the game plan, let them soak it in, see how it unravels, see how we call it on game day. “
Wide receiver Jovon Durante showed glimpses of promise last season but Holgorsen has been using the sophomore a lot in the slot this fall.
“He’s our fastest receiver,” Holgorsen said. “He’s playing fast. The trick with moving guys inside is being able to continue to play fast like that. I’m happy with his progress. Like (senior wide receiver) Daikiel (Shorts Jr.), if you really pay attention with what we do with Daikiel, he is the purest inside receiver that we have. He is the guy that is always closest with the ball. When we go into heavier sets, he is still the closest receiver to the ball, so he will widen out because he is like our best goal line guy. He caught two fades on the goal line against Arizona State; he is our best goal line guy.
“(Redshirt junior wide receiver) Ka’Raun (White) is giving him a run for his money right now and (sophomore wide receiver) Jovon (Durante) can be an inside receiver, he can be a middle, slot receiver but then when we get heavy he can be an outside guy. Happy with his progress. It’s new to him; it’s new to him. You know, last year we had him at “Z”, which is always over there. Now he’s moving around so it’s a little new to him. He still has a lot of work to do but he is making plays out there. He is doing that.”
Shelton Gibson was another wide out who made big plays last season but the junior also dropped some possible big plays
“(Assistant Coach) coach Carrier is drilling him, drilling him, and drilling him hard,” Holgorsen said. “I see improvement with that, he had too many drops. I kid him all the time; he should have easily been a 1,000-yard receiver last year. With his big play potential getting down field. He can get chunks of yards, in order to be a 1,000 yard guy, a real dude, you have to be able to make those tough catches when you are covered when the ball is coming at you. He knows he has a lot of work to do, but his work ethic is great and I like his progression.”
Marcus Simms is another receiver that fans could see on the field in the fall.
Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie VanderWijst, BGS