West Virginia Opens Drills March 13; Spring Game Slated For April 23 At The Greenbrier

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Dana Holgorsen laid out his thoughts on West Virginia's offseason conditioning and the plans for the spring practice sessions, which start March 13.

(NOTE: Part II of the interview continues below.)

The highlights were that, first, West Virginia will have an actual spring game and, second, that it will be held at the Greenbrier. Holgorsen took a bit of a jab at some unmentioned programs which have chosen not to hold spring games because they wanted to work on additional skill development. Holgorsen debunked that, and noted that he looked forward to the contest, and the venue. But with that, WVU won't be moving to as many locations as it has in past years, when it held practices in Shepherdstown, Wheeling and Charleston. Instead, the Mountaineers will primarily utilize its new practice field, recently renevated with turf.

Holgorsen did say his team would practice three times before the university spring break, scheduled March 21-25. That will allow the liklihood of the better weather, along with getting the initial non-contact practices out of the way before the players return to class on the 28th. That gives the team four weeks until the spring game, played April 23.

Holgorsen also announced that Jon Lewis and Alex Brooks will move to tight end/fullback to increase numbers there until the new recruits arrive in the summer/fall. Holgorsen also said new assistant coach and offensive coordinator Joe Wickline would coach the hybrid positions along with the tight ends, which will also give him opportunities to work with the tackles. The Mountaineers have not yet hired a new cornerbacks coach following the departure of Brian Mitchell to Virginia Tech.

"We've brought a few guys in (to interview)," Holgorsen said before announcing that the cornerbacks were currrently being coached by defense/special teams coach Mark Scott. "We want to make sure we get the right guy. That's more important than getting a guy in here yesterday."

Holgorsen likes the depth along both lines, and thinks the team has the ability, with 22 seniors and much better depth than it had in previous offseasons, to replace the departures. Linebacker and the secondary were especially hit hard on the defensive side - WVU lost six linebackers - and the decision of Wendell Smallwood to declare early for the NFL draft also leaves another available slot.

"People always asked how we were going to replace those guys, and I said the same way we replaced them before," Holgorsen said. "We recruited guys, our strength staff will work with them and get them ready and we'll practice and play them. It's nice now not to have to replace guys with freshmen."

The head coach noted that WVU's receivers should "surprise some people," and that he thinks, should the line offer better pass protection, that Skyler Howard is primed for a solid season one year after throwing for the fifth-most yardage in school history with 3,145 yards. Fellow quarterback/wide receiver David Sills is in the QB film room, but often switches positions in individual work, while fellow slash William Crest is also working with both, and has looked solid at receiver. Chris Cugunov continues to impress throwing the ball, but lacks the experience of Howard, and the proven ability to lead a team for key scores.

Holgorsen declined to release a depth chart, which is ever-changing for West Virginia anyway. One will be released at a later date, once some of the shuffling has settled. Of now, the line looks to be, from left to right, Yodny Cajuste, Adam Pankey, Tyler Orlosky at center, Kyle Bosch at right guard, and Marcell Lazard. Tony Matteo will also work in at guard and as a back-up center, and Grant Lingafelter and Amanii Brown should see increased looks this spring as well, according to position coach Ron Crook. Howard will rep with the ones, with wideouts Jovon Durante, Shelton Gibson, Ka'Raun White, Daikiel Shorts, Devonte Mathis, Ricky Rogers, Gary Jennings and Marcus Simms battlign for time. Rushel Shell is the prime running back, of now, with competition coming from Kennedy McKoy and Donte Thomas-Williams, if the latter continues to push himself.

Defensively, it's more muddled. The line appears set with Christian Brown, Darrien Howard and Noble Nwachukwu, with Jarrod Harper and Jeremy Tyler at bandit and spur. Kyzir White is expected to challenge at spur, where Marvin Gross will also get chances. The linebackers, at the start of spring, are likely to be Al-Rasheed Benton in the middle, Xavier Preston at sam and Sean Walters at will, though some of the incoming talent, specifically Brendan Ferns, will compete.

Dravon Askew-Henry is the free safety. The corner position is open for competition, though Rasul Douglas and Nana Kyeremeh are the likely initial starters, with additional help coming in the summer and into fall camp with Elijah Battle and Mike Daniels, a pair of junior college players.


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