WVU football: Feistiness takes over in first contact practice
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- After three practices, West Virginia's football players got to hit one another Monday. Every now and then, the Mountaineers did it during a play or a drill.
They were otherwise feisty to the point of fighting with one another.
"We're not fighting because we hate each other, we're fighting because that's the aggressive nature of these kids," Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We had more fights than I would like, but there are some people across the country that would trade places with me because they can't get their kids to fight.
"I've been in that position before. This is just intensity and competing and people get aggravated. If it starts to interrupt what we're doing, that's when I'll say something. If it's a quick, little fight and they're tugging each other, it's no big deal."
There were a few brief clashes in the 30 minutes the media was allowed to see. Cody Clay, the inside receiver from George Washington High, and safety K.J. Dillon knocked one another's helmets off, but stopped there and patted one another on the backside. Only later did the clashes escalate.
"There was one where I had to break it up and calm everyone down and try to make a few of them throw up," Holgorsen said.
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WHILE IT'S too early to know exactly which freshmen, or how many, will contribute this season, Holgorsen already sees an impact.
"The biggest difference between this year and last year is it seems like we've got more bodies out there because we've got about 30 freshmen all taking a bunch of reps," he said. "We're repping about three deep at every position, sometimes four deep at a position.
"Obviously we've got a long way to go, but it looks like we're going to have the ability to take a whole bunch more reps. We're running more team plays than we did last year, we're running more scout plays than we did last year and we're running more inside plays than we did last year because we have more bodies."
Holgorsen said he believes it's "a given" that at least 10 freshmen will play in 2012 and he might have to go against one of his rules. Last week he said he was mostly against using true freshmen on the offensive line, but Holgorsen said Monday freshmen Adam Pankey and Tyler Orlosky are both getting reps in the two-deep.
"I've never had two freshmen in the two-deep on the line," he said.
The Mountaineers could get a boost in another area where they need numbers. Holgorsen said all five freshmen receivers - Jordan Thompson, Devonte Mathis, Devonte Robinson, Travares Copeland and Will Johnson - could all play if they prove they can help.
"The physical nature of all these guys is pretty good from a freshman standpoint," Holgorsen said.
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NOWHERE IS the influx of players more clear or valuable than at quarterback. WVU had two when preseason camp started last summer and needed to use Holgorsen and other assistant coaches to get through practice. Eventually, the Mountaineers brought in a transfer, just to reduce the workload on Geno Smith and Paul Millard.
WVU now has Smith, Millard and freshman Ford Childress on scholarship, but also four walk-ons in practice to help.
"It saves my arm," Smith said. "There were some times last year I'd be running the scout team just because we didn't have someone to quarterback the scout team. I was happy to help out, but I had some wear and tear. Now I'm taking normal reps."
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SMITH WON'T discuss his own candidacy for the Heisman Trophy, but he will use his fresh arm to throw his support behind teammate Tavon Austin, who led nation in all-purpose yards per game last season.
"I will endorse Tavon Austin," Smith said. "I think he's one of the best players in the country and the most electrifying player in the country with the ball in his hands."
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LINEBACKER Jewone Snow missed practice and instead paced the sideline in a red, no participation jersey. The sophomore from Canton, Ohio, missed spring practice recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but appeared to be walking gingerly and favoring his right side.
Holgorsen wouldn't elaborate on Snow's status, which has been his prerogative from the beginning, and labeled Snow as day-to-day.
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HOLGORSEN HAD no update on freshman running back Roshard Burney, the only player in the recruiting class with an uncertain eligibility status. He didn't report last week, but Holgorsen said last week Burney was awaiting a decision from the NCAA's eligibility center.
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WVU IS IN finals week for the final summer session and Holgorsen said a "couple" players are waiting on grades to see whether they'll be eligible for the fall.
He wouldn't name any.
"It's their own fault," he said. "They could have taken care of this a long time ago."
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson insinuated Saturday one reason junior receiver Ivan McCartney wasn't participating in practice was because of academics.
"We're not going to waste reps on a guy when we don't know if he's going to be eligible or not," Dawson said. "Right now, he's not doing anything. Basically, he's done nothing. Does he have the talent? Yes, he does. My challenge to him would just be - he has to be more consistent and all that, but he's got to be more consistent in a couple aspects of life in general"
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.