MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–The West Virginia University football team is days away from the season opener against Georgia Southern and the excitement is in the air.
“I think everybody is probably in the same frame of mind today,” head coach Dana Holgorsen. “I am excited about it being game week. I think everybody is pretty fired up about it. We have 25 practices down.
“I am excited about going out on the practice field this afternoon, and practice the final touches of a pretty extensive preparation for an opponent. I think there is going to continue to be a bit of buzz around here for the next four days. Our players, I know, are ready for this Saturday. Coaching wise, we are ready for this Saturday.”
The Mountaineers may be excited but they know the Eagles are not a joke.
“We know we have a quality opponent coming to town, and they are as good as advertised,” Holgorsen said. “We had our players’ attention when we put the film on last week and showed them a bunch of stuff.”
While Georgia Southern’s offense has been the main topic of discussion, the defense is good, too.
Going into opening week, WVU appears to be relatively healthy. Only redshirt senior linebacker Edward Muldrow III is banged up.
On Monday, Holgorsen announced that redshirt sophomore Shelton Gibson and true freshman Jovon Durante would start on Saturday evening, which doesn’t happen often.
“I don’t know if we ever started a true freshman at wide out,” Holgorsen said. “We started plenty of true freshman around here. I don’t know how many of them have been at wide out. I guess (junior wide receiver) Daikiel (Shorts Jr.) started as a true freshman. (Junior running back) Wendell (Smallwood) started as a true freshman. There hasn’t been very many of them.”
Holgorsen is proud of how fast the speedy wideout is adapting.
“I am proud of him,” he said. “He has made some pretty good plays, and he has bundles of potential. Until it happens in a game, I am going to reserve the right to sit here and brag about him.”
Holgorsen is happy with the progression of Ka’Raun White but doesn’t want to compare him to his older brother Kevin.
“It’s not fair to compare him to Kevin,” Holgorsen said. “He’s a backup receiver right now, and he has done a good job. He was discussed about being a starter after one game. Let’s see what kind of player he develops into. I think it’s going to be pretty good.”
Holgorsen thinks Michigan transfer Kyle Bosch is both tough and physical.
“He took advantage of (redshirt junior offensive lineman) Tony (Matteo) not taking reps for about a week with a shoulder injury,” Holgorsen said.
Matteo is 100 percent now and has been practicing for a week.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Matteo is the guard on the second series,” Holgorsen said.
The offensive line is the best it’s been in years. Stone Underwood is having a great camp but has been overshadowed by Tyler Orlosky. Several players have the ability of playing different positions.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and say that we are the best offensive line unit in the world, but with the eight or nine guys, I feel more comfortable rotating people now than I have in the past,” Holgorsen said.
William Crest has been practicing at strictly quarterback for the last two or three weeks, but that can change at any time.
Holgorsen is happy with the progression of Crest.
“The communication has been a lot better,” he said. “The execution has been better, with not only him, but with (junior quarterback) Skyler (Howard) and (freshman quarterback Chris Chugunov) Chuggs as well.”
Holgorsen isn’t worried about his starting quarterback. He joked with the media about the fact it took 15 minutes to ask about Skyler Howard.
The junior quarterback feels comfortable and has had a bit of experience playing. Communication between Howard and Holgorsen has been good.
“He has a chip on his shoulder, and he is ready to play,” he said. “He is ready to turn loose, so I feel good about where he is at.”
“The biggest thing with him is that I have to get him to let his teammates play hard, too. He has to run the offense. He doesn’t have to go out there and make a huge play after a huge play. He just has to go out there and run it the way we ask him to do it.”
Turnovers have been a point of focus this fall after last season’s struggles.
“We worked hard on it,” Holgorsen said. “We talked about it. We emphasized it. Until you get into a game, you really have to judge the turnover margin.”
The main thing Holgorsen wants from his team is to have fun and play ball.