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WVU football: Smith not at practice, goes home after grandmother's death

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia University quarterback Geno Smith missed practice Thursday and Coach Dana Holgorsen's indifference about the nature of the news triggered a two-hour panic among the fan base.

Smith returned to his home in south Florida to be with his family after the death of his grandmother. Holgorsen said Smith will be back on campus by Monday, which is an off day for the football team and the first day of the fall semester of classes.

However, that confirmation had to wait until he met with the media at 7:30 p.m., two hours after the media was made to leave the 30-minute open part of practice. Pressed for information during the open portion, Holgorsen had a media relations employee tell the media he would address it later.

In between, as word of Smith's absence spread with the modern modes of communication, there was no information about the likely Heisman Trophy candidate.

"Damn that social media, right?" Holgorsen said. "I didn't invent it. Usually everyone knows what happened with practice when practice is over."

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WVU WILL unveil a plaque today honoring the late Bill Stewart in the west concourse of Milan Puskar Stadium. The display will be next to the plaque that commemorates the stadium's first game, a 41-27 victory against Cincinnati on Sept. 6, 1980.

Stewart, who died May 21 during a round of golf at Stonewall Resort, coached the Mountaineers from 2008-10. He was 28-12 in charge of WVU, including the 2008 Fiesta Bowl win in an interim capacity following the abrupt exit of Rich Rodriguez.

He resigned in June 2010 amid suspicion he was involved with compromising Holgorsen's eventual transition from coach-in-waiting to head coach.

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HOLGORSEN CONCEDED there was an unintended benefit to working out without Smith, the Big 12 Conference's preseason offensive player of the year. The snaps instead went to Smith's backups, sophomore Paul Millard and freshman Ford Childress.

Millard played only sparingly last season in place of Smith, including one possession in the third quarter of the Orange Bowl, when he was intended to play, but instead came out after an interception. WVU plans to redshirt Childress this season.

"Geno probably takes 50 percent of the reps, maybe slightly higher than that, and we split the other 40 percent approximately between the other two," Holgorsen said. "So they go from getting 20 to 25 percent of the reps to getting 50 percent of the reps, which means they get better."

Content as he was, Holgosen would rather not get used to the arrangement.

"Heaven forbid we're ever in a situation to put them in with the first string," he said. "Geno clearly makes everyone else around him better. You watch Ford and Paul, both who will rep with the first team, they don't necessarily make everyone else around them better."

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EVEN WITHOUT the team's most valuable player, Holgorsen raved about practice.

"It was as good as it's been, especially on defense, from an effort standpoint and an energy standpoint," Holgorsen said. "They're starting to get it a little bit and they're starting to fly around and make a few plays."

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THE MOUNTAINEERS practice today and Saturday and are off Sunday and Monday, when the coaches will begin to barrow down the players they plan to use and to save this season. Ideally, a depth chart, or the frame of an eventual one, will be in place for Tuesday's practice.

"We'll regroup and get it relatively in order and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we'll have a couple of game week practices," Holgorsen said. "We have an extra week to prepare heading into a real game, but we don't want to go into a real game week having to rep three at each position."

The coaches will begin to have discussions over the weekend on who to redshirt. They may make a decision on a few players, but will allow most to audition one last week.

"We haven't met to start to talk about that," Holgorsen said. "We'll start talking about it Sunday, but that doesn't mean we'll make any decisions. We may make a decision on 10 guys, but we can take another week and make a decision on other guys."

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HOLGORSEN WAS careful to correct his official stance on freshmen in camp when a question suggested a few freshmen were in his two-deep on the depth chart.

"We don't have any in the two-deep," he said. "I didn't say their play warranted them being in the two-deep. If they're in the two deep, I never said that. We're still evaluating them. If they're good enough to beat some older guys, we'll be happy about that."

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HOLGORSEN CONSIDERS freshmen who enrolled in January separate from freshmen who enrolled over the summer and two of the early enrollees are in the two-deep as projected starters - field safety Karl Joseph and inside receiver Jordan Thompson.

Holgorsen called Thompson, as well as inside receiver Tavon Austin and outside receivers Stedman Bailey and J.D. Woods "obvious starters." Beyond that, Holgorsen isn't sold on many others.

"(Redshirt freshman) K.J. Myers is doing a real good job," Holgorsen said. "Other than that, you can group the other eight guys together."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at or 304-319-1142. His blog is at


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