Opportunity Abounds

Play after play at Saturday's Gold-Blue spring game, reporters (including this one) had to look down at the team's roster to determine exactly who had been involved in the action. And if the team's coaches are to believed, we may have to do it all again this fall.

There were plenty of new faces who were prominent parts of the rotation, particularly on offense, at WVU's annual intrasquad scrimmage. Among those getting plenty of touches were Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood, Daikiel Shorts and Kevin White.

Smith and Smallwood each got seven carries, which tied Dustin Garrison for the most of any running back. Shorts caught four passes and White grabbed five -- good enough for second and third among all pass-catchers (just behind Jordan Thompson's six receptions).

The common thread? None of those players were on the roster when the Mountaineers last took the field for a game, December's Pinstripe Bowl blowout loss to Syracuse.

Even some of those who have been around in Morgantown were more regularly seen in new positions -- cornerback-turned-receiver Vernon Davis and safety-turned-cornerback Travis Bell notable among them.

It speaks to the dramatic roster turnover on offense and the desire to make quick fixes to what was an awful defense a season ago. And head coach Dana Holgorsen said the process is far from over.

"The team that we field in September is going to look a lot different," Holgorsen said as part of his postgame opening statement. "We have so many new guys coming in, and we have so many young guys that are going to continue to develop."

It's that process, and not the final score of the spring game (a 41-33 win for the Blue team -- the defense -- for the record) that was most important to Holgorsen and his assistant coaches on Saturday.

Sure, he hoped to get out of spring healthy, which is one of the chief reasons players like Andrew Buie and Pat Eger didn't see action. But that simply helped Holgorsen get a better impression of what the other guys on the depth chart are capable of, a process that will continue well into the fall.

Pressed as to who he expects to have a chance to immediately crack the depth chart, Holgorsen quickly named a quartet of skill position players who will enroll this summer -- Jacky Marcellus, Shelton Gibson, Mario Alford and Ronald Carswell.

But the competition is certainly wide open at quarterback as well, as neither of the two signal-callers who played -- Ford Childress and Paul Millard -- looked like a clear leader at the position. If Florida State transfer Clint Trickett opts to make West Virginia his destination, who knows what may happen in the fall?

The point of all this verbiage is to say, yes, Saturday was a rare chance to actually get a glimpse of what these players look like playing what Holgorsen wryly called something that "resembled football." But attempting to draw any meaningful conclusions out of the day may be even riskier than it typically would be.

In many years, spring games see coaches open up only the barest essentials of the playbook for public consumption.

That may have been true again this year -- defensive coordinator Keith Patterson was particularly emphatic that his desire was to focus solely on the "base" package in the game -- but this game had the added element of showing off a roster that could look completely different by kickoff of the season-opener against William & Mary on August 31.

It all means there is plenty of opportunity for players currently at WVU, and those who will be added to the roster this summer, to make a name for themselves. It also means there is plenty of uncertainty for fans eager to know more about this team heading into the long, quiet summer months.


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