As always, every question wasn't answered. There's still work to be done – as head coach Bill Stewart puts it, ‘"I wish we had two more weeks of camp." But in all, there were a number of things to be take from the two-week period.
THREE FOR TWO
Judging from the past week, there could be a three-man battle for two positions on the offensive line. Eric Jobe, Jeff Braun and Cole Bowers shuffled on the right side of the line throughout the day. Bowers and Braun went out as the right guard and tackle with the first unit on the first series, but it quickly became apparent that was just one combination the coaches wanted to see. Jobe came in on the next series, and later Bowers slid out to tackle with Jobe staying at guard. The trio probably got about an even number of snaps apiece as the coaching staff worked them at the different positions.
If the coaches are serious about subbing along the offensive line occasions, this could turn out to be a positive. Bowers could play both guard and tackle, and Jobe is certainly comfortable enough to play center and guard. That rotation could allow each to get a few snaps off (along with center Joe Madsen, and perhaps keep some season-long wear and tear from accumulating.
FOR THE RECORD
The first offense on the field consisted of Geno Smith, Noel Devine, Jock Sanders, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Don Barclay, Josh Jenkins, Joe Madsen, Cole Bowers and Jeff Braun and Tyler Urban. The first defensive unit, altered by the holdout of J.T. Thomas and Pat Lazear, consisted of Scooter Berry, Chris Neild, Julian Miller, Anthony Leonard, Branko Busick, Casey Vance, Brandon Hogan, Pat Miller, Terence Garvin, Keith Tandy and Robert Sands.
BACK FOR GOOD?
Marquis Wallace was back on the field and practicing. Stewart said he had approval to practice," leaving open a small question that the situation might not be 100% cleared up. We're looking for final clarification on that issue.
EASING OF WORRIES?
Pat Lazear's bruised knee, which will keep him at least until the end of next week, raised some concerns about depth at linebacker. However, performances yesterday eased those concerns just a bit.
Walk-on Casey Vance showed up well in early series, unofficially leading the blue-shirted defense in stops. Branko Busick, while getting shaken up a bit, continues to display the rowdy aggressiveness required from a middle linebacker. Najee Goode was his usual workman-like self, and Donovan Miles, who has steadily improved this year, may finally be ready for significant contributions. Add in Tyler Anderson, who is also on an improvement track, and WVU has some options to put on the field.
Does this mean that the Mountaineers are suddenly loaded at linebacker? Not quite yet. Vance, Busick and Miles will have to show they are ready to be trusted performers when the lights are on, and there's no doubt that Lazear and J.T. Thomas are more complete players at this point. However, there do seem to be enough options at this point to fill in should problems occur.
Coaches cringe when the question is asked. To be hones, I kind of cringe in asking it at times, because it's almost a cliché. ‘Which players might avoid a redshirt?'
I understand, and you should too by now, that those decision aren't made before the season starts. A player that's not ready on Sept. 4 might be read by Oct. 10, and thus "have his redshirt pulled", even though he really never had one on in the first place.
So, I tried to phrase my question differently. ‘What newcomers might have already secured the chance to play this year?'
Bill Stewart didn't dance around the question, although he certainly couldn't be blamed for doing so, what with a percentage of the population trying to hang him with every utterance. He named eight players that are in that mix right now – but understand this is a list that really could fluctuate from week to week.
Offensively, the picture is pretty clear. Both Jeremy Johnson and Barry Brunetti figure to get the chance, with Stewart not ruling out the possibility of both playing. Ivan McCartney will certainly get in the mix at wide receiver. The surprise is Trey Johnson. Even with a stacked deck at running back, the Virginia standout has turned heads all fall.
Defensively, it's a reverse picture. Linebacker Bruce Irvin will be a fixture, but he's the only sure bet at this point. A crop of promising back line defenders, however, has the coaching staff mulling more possibilities. Safeties Travis Bell and Mike Dorsey, along with linebacker Doug Rigg, were among those mentioned as deserving of more looks and evaluations, which could lead to possible playing time.
Of the group, Dorsey has made the most attention-getting plays in open scrimmages. He's very active, and always seems to ge around the ball.
Stewart certainly didn't open the playbook on Saturday, keeping much under wraps.
"I didn't know who was up there," he said of the crowd that was made up of high-level donors to the Mountaineer Athletic Club. He, along with basketball head coach Bob Huggins, Niles Eggleston of the MAC and new Director of Compliance Keli Cunningham addressed the crowd before the scrimmage.