WVU football: Mountaineers ranked No. 11 in USA Today poll
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Before West Virginia could begin its preseason camp Thursday, the Mountaineers received a boost from the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
WVU was ranked No. 11 and second to only No. 4 Oklahoma among the six Big 12 Conference teams in the poll.
"It's important to be in the top 20," said second-year Coach Dana Holgorsen, who votes in the poll. "Top-20 teams get more recognition. It's good to be there. We're happy about being there. Are we going to throw a party about it? Probably not? Are we going to talk about it? Probably not."
This is the sixth time since 2004 WVU has been ranked in the preseason coaches' poll: No. 11 in 2004, No. 7 in 2006, No. 6 in 2007, No. 8 in 2008 and No. 24 in 2010. The Mountaineers finished last season No. 18 in the coaches' poll.
"It's an honor to be there and it's good for the program and good for publicity and we're fired up about it, but it's not going to change anything we do," Holgorsen said. "We're not going to talk about it. We're not going to change what our routine is and how we practice and all of that."
After the Sooners and the Mountaineers, the Big 12 had Texas at No. 15, TCU at No. 17, Oklahoma State at No. 19 and Kansas State at No. 21. Only the Southeastern Conference had more with seven selections, including No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama and three others in the top 10.
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ALL BUT four of the players the Mountaineers were expecting were at practice. The exceptions are all from the freshmen class: receivers Deontay McManus and Dee Joyner, linebacker Sam Lebbie and running back Roshard Burney.
McManus, Lebbie and Joyner couldn't qualify while Burney's status is pending. Holgorsen said Lebbie and McManus will both play at a prep school. They're together at Atlanta Sports Academy. Holgorsen said Burney "is still trying" and the decision is "in the NCAA's hands." Burney could know by Monday. As for Joyner, Holgorsen said he's "not sure where he's going."
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ASSUMING NONE of those four make it to campus, Holgorsen said WVU had right around 80 scholarship players at practice.
That's five shy of the NCAA maximum and well above where the Mountaineers were in Holgorsen's first season.
Holgorsen hinted there might be more losses shortly, though.
"Guys are still in class and they've still got another week in school," he said. "A couple guys need to finish strong from an academic standpoint and that could happen. If we retained all our guys and signed all our guys, we'd be in much better shape than we were last year, but I'm not prepared to say that.
"Three or four guys aren't going to make it and a handful of guys are still taking classes. We hope to hang on to around 80 guys and we hope next year we can get up to 85. That was the goal this year. We tried, but we didn't achieve it."
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WVU WENT without some starters on offense and defense for all or the majority of spring practice, but each was back for the start of preseason camp.
In fact, the meeting that preceded the opening practice began with the team's athletic trainer, Dave Kerns, updating the coaching staff on the status of injured and recovering players.
"He had zero people on the list, which is the way it should be come the first practice," Holgorsen said. "I'm sure it will change."
Safety Terence Garvin (knee), running back Dustin Garrison (knee) and linebacker Jewone Snow (shoulder) missed the entire spring recovering from surgeries. Cornerback Pat Miller missed half of spring after breaking a bone in his right foot and fixing it with surgery.
"I was excited to see them out there," Holgorsen said. "Terence looked like Terence. Dustin looked pretty good. Jewone's shoulder is his thing, so it's about popping with pads, but he's moving around. Pat Miller was ready to go. It was good to see them all out there."
Garrison is the one the team will keep a close eye on. He tore the ACL in his left knee days before the Orange Bowl, but was cleared to participate for the start of camp.
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THE MOUNTAINEERS practiced in helmets with no pads and will do so again today before finally putting on pads for the first time Saturday. After an off day, WVU practices Monday through Saturday next week.
"We need to get some pads on," Holgorsen said. "I know you guys want to hear a little bit more, but we've got another day in no pads and the first day in pads and then we have Sunday off to regroup. Then we get back out there again Monday and we'll probably have some more information then."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.