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WVU football: Position changes help with depth

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - As position battles persist while West Virginia completes the final week of preseason football camp, Coach Dana Holgorsen is taking advantage of depth at some positions to bolster others.

Holgorsen said at his news conference Monday linebacker Garrett Hope and center Stone Underwood have changed positions. Hope, a sophomore, is now a fullback while Underwood, a junior college transfer who had been at center, is now a guard.

"We're looking for guys who consistently put a couple good days together," said Holgorsen, who added that the Mountaineers aren't ready to name any starters and will use the entirety of camp, which ends Saturday. "We're starting to figure out who those guys are. If guys have a bad day, they need to regroup pretty quickly if they want to be in the hunt for a starting job or a backup role."

Underwood's move isn't drastic or even unexpected, and not just because WVU usually trains its guards to play center and centers to play guard. Underwood played center during the 2011 season at Southeastern Louisiana and last season at Mississippi's Copiah-Lincoln Community College, but he enrolled at WVU in May, three weeks after the Mountaineers completed spring practice.

"It's tough to come in at center without spring practice, without a year under your belt," Holgorsen said. "The physicality of the game is different from what he's used to. The added pressure of making calls, the added pressure of snapping as well as just the physical battles you've got to play each and every snap, it's hard."

The 6-foot-4, 285-pound Underwood is a junior, but he hasn't used a redshirt year. Holgorsen said that remains a possibility, but that the move was meant to help the offensive line, which has 10 players working the five positions.

"We needed a body at guard on the second team and physically he's doing good things and making progress," Holgorsen said. "We felt like it was more important he make progress for us at guard then at canter."

Holgorsen said Tyler Orlosky has "the upper hand" at center over Tony Matteo.

"We're talking about two redshirt freshmen there," Holgorsen said. "They both have a lot of growing to do."

Hope played in 12 games last season with regular duty on special teams and increasing responsibilities on defense at the Buck position. He moved inside to the Will position in the spring, but was back outside at Buck again early in this camp.

The 6-3, 245-pound Hope joins 6-3, 250-pound sophomore Cody Clay and 6-2, 235-pound freshman Eli Wellman as fullback types. WVU continues to diversify that position with players like Clay, Wellman, 6-6, 250-pound redshirt freshman Will Johnson and 6-4, 230-pound walk-on freshman Quincy Redmon.

Clay can play inside receiver, tight end and fullback while Wellman is more blocker than receiver and Johnson and Redmon are more receiver than blocker. Hope figures to more closely resemble Wellman, who has pleased coaches since arriving from Spring Valley High School.

"He's much like Cody in that you'll tell him to go block back on the defensive end and he'll do it 48 times in a row for you and crack his head open if you let him," Holgorsen said. "We moved Garrett there to alleviate some of that."

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HOLGORSEN CONTINUES to alter the view as he evaluates the three quarterbacks competing for the starting job.

Last week, Holgorsen decided to use just two a day and then later added situational drills as well as tempo in practice for junior Paul Millard, junior Florida State transfer Clint Trickett and redshirt freshman Ford Childress. He's beginning to sort out the results.

"Paul makes the best decisions and the worst decisions," Holgorsen said. "He's got the most reps - he's taken the most reps - and he's pretty comfortable, but he'll still do some boneheaded stuff, as they all do anytime you've got guys who don't have a lot of time under center. They're going to make good decisions and bad decisions."

Holgorsen again praised Trickett's "presence" and said the increased number of snaps in practice has helped.

"Every rep he takes, he gets better," Holgorsen said.

Saturday, according to Holgorsen, was the best day Childress has had at WVU.

"The quarterback, who doesn't make bad decisions and turn the ball over, is going to be the guy who has a chance to play," Holgorsen said.

That's been easier to inspect after bringing game situations into practice to see how the quarterbacks react to third downs, red zone possessions and other scenarios. Holgorsen said the way quarterbacks cope with playing fast will be critical as he gets closer to the time he has to make up his mind and pick a starter.

He'd rather have someone who can manage the tempo and the self-induced stress of the offense than someone who can stand in the pocket and make all the throws.

"It will play in making a decision," Holgorsen said. "If we're going to go fast, he's got to be able to handle it without forgetting things or making poor decision. That does bring some things to light and we'll continue to put them into those situations this week."

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JUNIOR LINEBACKER Jewome Snow missed Monday's practice with an undisclosed injury. He joined cornerback Nana Kyeremen (shoulder), receiver Dante Campbell (shoulder) and offensive lineman Adam Pankey (knee) in red jerseys. Receiver Jordan Thompson, who missed time last week with a left arm injury, was in a green jersey Thursday, as were linebackers Wes Tonkery and Jared Barber and receiver Kevin White. Those three were limited with undisclosed injuries.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.

 


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