WVU football: Newcomers changed dynamic of depth chart
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- When West Virginia revealed its tentative depth chart Sunday night, it did so by listing four running backs. If the team could list four, then why not five, especially when the fifth would be the team's leading rusher last season.
Yet junior Andrew Buie was nowhere to be found. Asked Monday on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference if there was an explanation -- and the unspoken implication was that perhaps Buie was disenchanted -- Coach Dana Holgorsen replied, "No, not at this point."
In Holgorsen's view, Buie was merely the fifth-place finisher in the competition, that after he ran for 851 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012.
"I think both him and Dustin Garrison have proven to be guys who have gotten experience, but anytime you add guys like Charles Sims, Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood, it changes the dynamic of that room," Holgorsen said.
Sims, a fifth-year senior immediately eligible after playing previously at the University of Houston, true freshman Smallwood and junior college transfer Smith are the top three on the depth chart.
Garrison, who was the leading rusher in 2011, is fourth.
Garrison and Buie both had injury issues their first two seasons and a year ago Shawne Alston missed four games with a thigh bruise.
"We're in pretty good shape at running back," Holgorsen said. "If the last couple of years have shown us anything, it's that we're going to need more than one. That's for certain. We feel pretty good about our depth at that position. We'll see who gets the hot hand and try to get him the ball as much as we can."
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Holgorsen announced junior linebacker Shaq Petteway will miss the season after tearing an ACL. Petteway, from Steubenville, Ohio, played special teams both seasons and moved from safety to linebacker a year ago. He made 50 tackles and was a reserve at the Sam position.
The 6-foot, 225-pound Petteway played as a true freshman in 2011 and has a redshirt season to use for his recovery. He and sophomore Nana Kyeremeh (shoulder) were lost to season-ending injuries during preseason practice.
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Near the end of camp, special teams coordinator Joe DeForest confessed WVU didn't have a player who could consistently put kickoffs into the end zone. The depth chart listed redshirt freshman Josh Lambert as the place kicker and junior college transfer Nick O'Toole as the punter. No one was listed for kickoffs.
Holgorsen said Monday that was an oversight on his part and that holder Michael Molinari will handle that job, as well as working as the backup punter.
"It's kind of the way we wanted it to work out," Holgorsen said. "They had to prove it and win the job, which they all have."
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The Mountaineers play host to William & Mary at noon Saturday at Mountaineer Field and the Tribe have only recently settled its own quarterback situation.
Coach Jimmye Laycock picked Michael Graham, a 6-4, 225-pound senior who has six starts. He's completed 113 of 215 passes for 1,563 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His candidacy was enhanced by offseason surgeries for similarly seasoned senior Brent Caprio and the more mobile junior Raphael Ortiz.
"There were a number of factors," Laycock said. "First, he's done very well in the preseason. That's probably the No. 1 factor. He's done very, very well. Ortiz is not ready to play. He didn't get into the competition much at all in the preseason because he's recovering from shoulder surgery. Brent Caprio is a little bit behind because of his offseason surgery.
"Other than that, Mike's done pretty well. He's gotten some game experience. He's handled himself well and he's improved as he's gone through the preseason."
Graham will need some help. Not only does WVU's defense vow to attack more and vary its tactics, but the Tribe, which went 2-9 last season, is starting 6-8, 305-pound Jerry Ugokwe at left tackle and 6-4, 295-pound Dominic Martinelli at right tackle.
They're both redshirt freshmen.
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WVU begins conference play next weekend when it opens its second Big 12 season at Oklahoma. The Sooners recently named redshirt freshman Trevor Knight the starting quarterback, a mild surprise to the many who thought junior Blake Bell would win the job.
Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops wouldn't say if or how much Bell would play or if the Sooners will continue to use the "Belldozer" package in short-yardage and goal line situations. The 6-6, 255-pound Bell has run for 24 touchdowns the past two seasons and only attempted 20 passes.
Stoops did tout Knight, who last season was used on the scout team to emulate Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel when Oklahoma prepared for the Cotton Bowl.
"Some of the things he did a year ago while being redshirted were against our defense every day and he was incredibly consistent every day and made a lot of great throws and showed an ability to run around and make plays," Stoops said. "Even on the scout team, he showed a lot of leadership and he continued those things through the spring and again in camp."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.