www.charlestondailymail.com Sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers WVU FOOTBALL: Variables of Kiffin, QB make Alabama offense a mystery http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140820/DM03/140829877 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140820/DM03/140829877 Wed, 20 Aug 2014 22:09:02 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Every day throughout preseason practice, Tony Gibson would gather West Virginia's defense, put what happened that day to the side and turn the group's attention to the future. Every day, those Mountaineers would work on something they expect to see from No. 2 Alabama's offense when the two teams open the season at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on Aug. 30.

"Run fits, maybe a couple routes, whatever it may be, we just wanted to get the kids honed in on what we think they're going to do," said Gibson, WVU's defensive coordinator.

That's a good idea, but here's the problem with that idea: WVU has only a degree of certainty about what the Crimson Tide will bring with them to the Georgia Dome. Alabama has at least created the impression the offense may look different in 2014. Gibson is left with a starting point.

"They're going to do what they do," Gibson said. "They have two - no, three - tremendous tailbacks. They have an All-American wide receiver. They have a slot receiver that's as good as anybody in the country. They're going to play-action us and they're going to try to run it right at us. They're doing to do a lot of different stuff. We have to prepare, which is why we have to get good at what we do and go in there with confidence that we'll be able to stop them."

That starting point is accurate, but it isn't nearly enough to make anyone feel comfortable against a team as talented, capable and, at the same time, mysterious as Alabama.

The team is touted for its defense, and rightfully so, because of head coach Nick Saban, defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and the many defensive players who have been high draft picks in the NFL. A year ago, though, the offense was ranked No. 17 in scoring (38.2 points per game) and No. 33 in total offense (454.1 yards per game).

What Alabama does, as described by Gibson, is formidable and it's somewhat rare for the Mountaineers. The last time they saw an offense that shared as many principles or characteristics was probably against Greg Schiano's Rutgers team in 2011. Gibson was coaching at Pitt. The closest offense in the Big 12 is the physical and typically run-prone Kansas State team.

Gibson is willing to go farther back, though, and reference an Arizona win against USC in 2012. Gibson was on the staff with the Wildcats and USC was coached by Lane Kiffin, who is about to begin his first year as the Alabama offensive coordinator. Arizona won 39-36 and allowed 493 yards passing, including 345 yards and two touchdowns on 16 receptions by Marqise Lee.

That part might be mentioned to WVU's cornerbacks as they prepare for Alabama's preseason All-American Amari Cooper, who despite his size and skill caught just 45 passes as a sophomore last season.

Kiffin's influence is something Gibson has to consider. Kiffin has promised "very small" changes to an offense he doesn't believe needs many repairs. Throughout spring football and preseason camp, Alabama's players spoke about Kiffin's push to get the ball to its most dangerous playmakers. That would include Cooper and Christion Jones, but also others, including a superb stable of running backs.

The 6-foot-2, 221-pound T.J. Yeldon (1,235 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns last season), 6-2, 241-pound Derrick Henry (the all-time leading rusher in the history of high school football), and 6-1, 202-pound Kenyan Drake create problems running the ball, but Alabama's running backs only caught 41 passes last season. Yeldon and Drake, the team's top two rushers last season, combined for 32 receptions and 318 yards and seven catches of at least 15 yards. Henry's only reception was a 61-yard touchdown.

All those numbers could grow with Kiffin, who featured running backs as receivers as the offensive coordinator and head coach at USC, as could the production of 6-6, 240-pound tight end O.J. Howard, who averaged a team-high 19.2 yards across 14 catches as a freshman last season.

How much Kiffin changes - or is allowed to change - and how much Alabama remains Alabama is what Gibson has to anticipate.

"That's the million-dollar question: What are they going to do?" he said. "If you go back and break down USC and you break down Alabama, they're not the same. Are they going to go 50-50? Is it 'He's got to do all our stuff and learn it?' Or is it 'We're wholesale changing it and doing what Kiffin does?'"

That's a massive variable, and one the Mountaineers can only anticipate until the game, which is where they'll have to adjust. It's not the biggest unknown, though.

Alabama hasn't named a starting quarterback and Gibson doesn't think he'll learn the identity until sometime next week. Normally, that's not a major inconvenience, but the candidates complicate the situation here. Jacob Coker is a Florida State transfer and WVU has only seen him run Alabama's offense in a vanilla spring game. Blake Sims is a more renowned runner than passer and actually played running back as a redshirt freshman in 2011.

"They're totally different," Gibson said.

All Saban has said so far is he wants one to assert himself in a leadership role, but that he's comfortable using both.

"I won't be surprised if both of them do play," Gibson said. "I'm sure they have a package - if Coker is the guy - so they can throw Sims in at quarterback and do some different things with him.

"That's the hard thing about the first game. What are they going to do? That's why we have to get honed in on what we do, on what we do well, so we can go out and execute against whatever it is they do. We have to be ready for anything early on and be able to adjust and get the kids on the same page and say, 'OK, here's their plan of attack.'"

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FRESHMAN DONTAE ANGUS told the Charleston Daily Mail he was approved by the NCAA Eligibility Center Wednesday and that he's headed to campus today.

"I'm eligible, enrolled, cleared to practice. Everything, man," the 6-foot-7, 309-pound Angus said.

Angus was committed to the University of Florida, but picked the Mountaineers on signing day. He said he believes he'll begin as a defensive lineman at WVU, but is open to whatever the coaches thinks is best. Most notably, Angus' addition gives WVU a full allotment of 85 scholarship players for the first time in coach Dana Holgorsen's four seasons.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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GIRLS SOCCER: Sissonville loaded with experience to defend state title http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140820/DM03/140829880 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140820/DM03/140829880 Wed, 20 Aug 2014 21:55:57 -0400 By Chris Wade CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Sissonville girls soccer coach Ali Sadeghian finally got over the hump last season, winning the state title in Class AA after losing in the regional final four of five seasons.

The Indians won their second ever girls soccer state championship - their first since 2002.

Sadeghian was the Class AA coach of the year and earned the state coach of the year from the National Federation of State High School Coaches Association.

While Sadeghian is happy in the fact that Sissonville won it all last season, he's ecstatic he returns practically his entire team.

The Indians return 10 of their 11 starters, including some of the best players at each position in the state.

"It was great and wonderful to win the title and we basically have everybody back," Sadeghian said. "We only graduated one and have 11 of our top 12 returning."

With a championship under their belt, Sadeghian hopes the experience the Indians gained from last season will help them in their pursuit of consecutive titles.

"We are really looking forward to the season," Sadeghian said. "We are happy to be in the situation we are in. Everyone experienced the championship and hopes to do that again.

"We have a huge bulls-eye on our chest but we welcome the challenge. They are doing what they need to try and make another run."

Sissonville will have plenty of firepower in Madison Jones and Karli Pinkerton, as the duo combined to score 78 goals a season ago.

Jones tallied the second most goals in the Kanawha Valley with 40 with Pinkerton right behind with 38.

While Sadeghian knows he has plenty of weapons at his disposal, he doesn't expect the same barrage of goals, especially early in the season.

That is because the pair is expected to move to the midfield position from their usual forward spot in an effort to counteract the loss of their only starter, Mary Schmeck, a first team all-stater.

"They are great scorers and players but we are moving them off their original position and bringing them back to the midfield," Sadeghian said. "We won't be able to score as many goals.

"Losing Mary was tough, and we are moving our lineup around to the find the best way to replace her. We need to figure out who will step up before putting them back in the front."

Sissonville has its top two scorers back, but just as important, it also returns top goalkeeper Brooke Reed, whom Sadeghian is high on.

"Brooke in the best goalie in the state," Sadeghian said. "She is absolutely great and we are looking forward to her having a great year. She is better than she was last year."

Reed and Jones were first-team all-state selections at their goalkeeper and forward positions, respectively, and Taylor Legg returns at midfield as a first team all-stater.

Pinkerton was a second-team all-state player and Taylor Rhodes was an honorable mention selection after netting 12 goals last season.

The fact that a lot of the top players for Sissonville are only juniors gives Sadeghian even more hope of another deep run this season.

Reed, Jones and Pinkerton are all juniors along with Abbey Jordan, Courtney Strobel, Reagan Johnson, Alexa Adams and Mckanzie Garnada.

"They are all key players and all are juniors," Sadeghian said. "Everybody is good and we are still young. We have three seniors in Rhodes, Legg and Ellie McClung, who are all co-captains."

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GIRLS SOCCER: Winfield loaded for another run at a state title http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140820/DM03/140829881 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140820/DM03/140829881 Wed, 20 Aug 2014 21:54:11 -0400

By NICK BROCKMAN

FOR THE DAILY MAIL

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The road for West Virginia high school soccer annually finishes in Beckley with the state championships, and this year many Kanawha Valley teams figure prominently as hopefuls to make that trip.

Winfield (AAA) and Sissonville (AA-A) enter the season as defending state champions returning many key players that should put each program in position to make another deep postseason run. To reach Beckley though, both will face formidable foes across the state, but the competition begins locally.

As back-to-back champs, Winfield coach Marshall Hoff, reigning AAA Coach of the Year, said he knows opponents enjoy the opportunity to knockoff the Generals.

"It doesn't make the journey any easier," he said. "Everybody's pretty much circled us on their schedule, I'm sure. We don't want anything less than their best, that's for sure."

The Generals return seven starters, including AAA Player of the Year Jayne Lawman, after finishing 24-0-1 and securing the championship 2-0 against Washington. Lawman, a senior forward, will be joined by the Co-Defender of the Year in junior Kaylee Cross, as well as First Team All-State sophomore forward Mary Lawman, and several juniors in Second Team All-State midfielder M.E. Zulauf, Honorable Mention All-State midfielder Jordan Pauley, Kalyn McCray and Katie Bryant.

Hurricane

Winfield must first advance past its sectional as Putnam County rival Hurricane stands in the way. The Generals defeated the Redskins in the sectional championship last season, as Hurricane finished 17-3-3.

Hurricane returns eight seniors, including Forward of the Year Abby Watson and Co-Defender of the Year Taylor Coalter.

"I think we have the talent to go all the way," coach Shelly Young said. "It's just instilling in the girls and making them believe they are a top team, being able to get them to perform big in the postseason to get through."

Several seniors list among top returners, including midfielder Audrey Barber (First Team All-State), defender Lauren London (Honorable Mention All-State), defender Allison Clay and goalkeeper Hannah Thompson.

George Washington

In Region 3, Section 1, George Washington returns a solid core after finishing 2013 with a 19-2-2 record, including a season-ending loss in the state semifinals to Washington.

"We're looking really strong this year and as long as we can keep the girls from getting injuries, then I definitely think we'll have a strong team throughout the year," coach Megan Johnson said.

The Patriots graduated Co-Defender of the Year Rachel Mears and defender Taylor Ellis, but nine starters return, including Goalkeeper of the Year, senior Olivia Miller. Other top returners include senior forward Sarah Bodnar (First Team All-State), senior forward Kasey Rhodes, sophomore midfielder Kate Eddy and junior midfielder Hannah Ellis, all Second Team All-State selections in 2013. Junior defender Kayse Ellis, sophomore forward Hattie Davis and midfielder Gaby Abad also return.

Despite the loss of two top defenders, Johnson said she expects GW to play strong defense. The offense is expected to be led by Davis, who will be complemented by Bodnar and Rhodes.

Class A/AA

Sissonville

Like Winfield, Sissonville begins the season as a favorite after the graduation of just one starter in First Team All-State midfielder Mary Schmeck.

"They understand they have a bull's eye on their chest, and they're willing to compete and challenge every game," Indians coach Ali Sadeghian said.

Sissonville defeated Bridgeport 1-0 for the 2013 championship.

Junior forwards Madison Jones (First Team All-State) and Karli Pinkerton (Second Team All-State) return, though Sadeghian, a reigning AA-A Co-Coach of the Year, said he expects Sissonville to employ a more balanced offensive attack this season.

Other key returners include junior goalkeeper Brooke Reed (First Team All-State), senior defender Taylor Legg (First Team All-State) and senior midfielder Taylor Rhodes (Honorable Mention All-State).

Charleston Catholic

The Irish list among top contenders to unseat Sissonville in the Indians' title defense, but Catholic enters with a younger lineup.

"We lost six seniors," coach Amy Mullen said. "That's going to be tough. We've got some freshman coming in. We're looking forward to this year and relying heavily on our junior class."

Among that strong junior class is Forward of the Year Caroline Dundervill, who tallied 40 goals in 2013. Junior Peyton Keener and younger sister, freshman Jordan Keener will contribute offensively, too, as will juniors Payton Mullen and Sophie Bumgarner, Amy Mullen said.

Catholic graduated nearly its whole defense in goalkeeper, sweeper, stopper and right outside defender. The team will look to replace goalkeeper Annie Crockett with junior Emily Holmes, while others spots remain open for competition, Amy Mullen said.

"We're still trying to fit the pieces together on where everybody's going to fit," she said.

Patience will be the key this season, Amy Mullen added, and as long as the Irish improve week-to-week, Catholic is expected to be ready as usual for postseason play.

"We just need to take one step at a time," she said.

Herbert Hoover

The Huskies will look to another successful season after finishing 16-5-1 last year, with four of the squad's losses came at the hands of Sissonville and Catholic, including a season-ending sectional loss to the Indians.

"We're all kind of right there battling it out," coach Brittany Woods said of the difficult Region 4 foes.

Hoover's defense will look to set the tone for the Huskies following the loss of just one starter, though a big one in Co-Defender of the Year Lillian Gandee. Senior Bailey Aab returns as the squad's goalkeeper.

Other top returning players include juniors Hannah Schoolcraft, Kari Harding and Olivia Gandee.

A strong freshman class is expected to lift Hoover, too, Woods said.

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Derek Redd: Rouse rested, ready for senior season http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140820/DM03/140829882 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140820/DM03/140829882 Wed, 20 Aug 2014 21:52:45 -0400 HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall football coach Doc Holliday responded succinctly when a reporter noticed one Saturday that defensive lineman James Rouse didn't see much of the field that practice.

"Because I didn't want him to," Holliday said.

That's a measure of respect that few players receive, to rest through much of the preseason because coaches know exactly what Rouse will bring when he does take the field. Of course, they've had plenty of time to figure it out. This is Rouse's sixth preseason camp.

"I've been here for a while," he said.

Rouse's arrival at Marshall predates Holliday's. Rouse redshirted the 2009 season and Holliday coached his first game for the Thundering Herd in 2010. The defensive lineman lost all but three games in 2011 and 2012 to Achilles tendon and back injuries.

Returning at full strength in 2013, he became one of Conference USA's best defensive linemen, recording 14 tackles for a loss on his way to a first-team all-C-USA nod. Now he's considered the conference's best defensive player, period. C-USA coaches named him their preseason defensive player of the year.

That's why he gets to take it easy on some days as Marshall prepares to open the season Aug. 30 at Miami (Ohio). He could use the rest and has the resume to earn it.

"The guy has something in the bank," Herd defensive coordinator Chuck Heater said. "You know who he is. You just try to manage him.

"It's akin to an NFL veteran player," he continued. "You know what they're about. You're just trying to get them through with their bodies and you just want them at top speed when we're getting ready to play."

Rouse still has gotten his reps in this preseason, but many of them have been mental. As he watches the play unfold before him, he pictures his job in the process of blowing that play up, where he should be and what spot he should attack. It doesn't replace the benefits of actually going out and doing it, but it keeps his mind sharp so that his body, accustomed after six years to making those moves, can follow.

And when he does line up against the offense, he makes it count.

"We do stuff against the scout team and I try to make my steps perfect and work my craft and do everything they're doing in team," Rouse said.

He still offers plenty to Marshall's defense, even when he's not on the field. He's experienced the entire Holliday era at Marshall and knows what's expected. He has six years of scouting opponents and six years of growth as a college football player.

That growth has led to high praise from outside the program, a wealth of knowledge and a great deal of respect within the program. The Herd's new guard on defense makes sure to pick his brain.

"A lot of young guys come to me wanting to know how I was able to get stuff faster, how I was able to learn my plays," Rouse said. "I've been teaching them different ways I've started to memorize plays and blocking schemes."

Rouse's years of work have led to an improved skill set, Heater said. It's also boosted his confidence to try new things. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Virginia native could be trying new positions, or at least revisiting old ones. He came to the Herd as a 235-pound defensive end before finding his home on the interior line. There's a good chance he might spend a couple of plays at end again.

"It's in our mindset to put him in a situation where we give him the best opportunity to go rush the passer," Heater said of Rouse, whose 14 tackles for loss included six sacks. "He's good at that. Our obligation is to make sure we get him in a situation to do that."

Rouse wouldn't mind the opportunity to force opponents to block his 270 pounds off the corner while contending with, say, 284-pound Steve Dillon and 273-pound Jarquez Samuel up the middle. Moving positions is no big deal to him.

"I know them all," Rouse said.

He's had plenty of time to learn.

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WVU FOOTBALL: Assistant coach Bradley gets comfortable in new role http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140819/DM03/140819118 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140819/DM03/140819118 Tue, 19 Aug 2014 21:44:28 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. ­- On the outside, Tom Bradley looked lost. He was trying to find his way around the Puskar Center, his new football home at West Virginia University after 37 seasons at Penn State and then two years in the media.

He was wandering without direction until he'd stop to ask someone for some help.

Even that didn't work.

"I was always going the wrong way," Bradley said.

On the inside, though, the longtime assistant coach for the Nittany Lions and now the senior associate head coach with the Mountaineers was relieved. He knew he was being welcomed into a new football family.

"The players were playing games with me and sending me the wrong way," he said. "Now I'm onto them and what they're doing."

Fake help was still help because this has not been easy for Bradley, and won't pretend it didn't challenge his emotions or test what he'd come to know in his college football life spent exclusively at Penn State.

He played defensive back and special teams from 1975-78 for Joe Paterno. He worked first as a graduate assistant before his first full season as an assistant coach with the special teams in 1980. Bradley would eventually coach running backs, receivers, defensive backs and, most famously, linebackers at Linebacker U. He was put in charge of recruiting and then the defense and he coached 18 All-Americans, 43 all-conference players and 51 professionals.

It all came to an end with Jerry Sandusky's child sex abuse scandal that devoured the Penn State program in 2011. Paterno was fired after nine games and Bradley was the interim head coach the final three games of the regular season and then the bowl game. He resigned when the university hired Bill O'Brien as the new head coach.

It was difficult to accept for a man who not only identified with the program for so long, but who had become part of the identity of the program. Bradley dealt with it by knowing he had no other option.

"There were a lot of things obviously said over the years about being the next head coach," said Bradley, who is WVU's defensive line coach. "It didn't work out. From there, you can't worry about it. You've just got to work on trying to do whatever is in front of you the best you can. You can't look back on it."

Bradley spent the next two seasons watching, the first fall he hadn't played or coached the college game since 1974. There was no college job for the man who won national awards for being a top assistant coach and defensive coordinator, who recruited the fertile Western Pennsylvania area, who had been considered for a variety of head coaching jobs through the years, reportedly including Temple and Pitt in 2011.

Bradley in plain clothes then was as odd a sight as Bradley in gold and blue today, but the implication was clear. He was Penn State, and given the scope and the details of the scandal that took down a football empire and saddled it with heavy sanctions, it was easier to stay away from Bradley than to bring him on and defend the decision.

Never mind his name never appeared in the Freeh Report, the thorough investigation of the scandal that ultimately agreed Paterno and others tried to hide Sandusky's crimes from the university and from law enforcement.

"I think there could be perceptions out there, but it's something you just have to deal with, however you want to call it - guilt by association or whatever," Bradley said. "I've always said, 'Let the legal system take course. Let those guys work it through.'"

Bradley dealt with it by starting anew. He launched a website and started his Twitter account and soon found himself back in the game, but in a new arena. He was first hired as an analyst for the Pittsburgh Steelers radio broadcasts and Clear Channel Radio. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin welcomed Bradley to practices and Bradley would slide into deep defensive dialogues with Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

"That," Bradley said, "was a blessing."

Bradley added to his calendar last year when he joined the CBS Sports Network as a game analyst.

"I got to go around to all the different colleges when I did the CBS thing and got a chance to watch other programs," he said. "What's funny is when you do television, coaches, they give you everything. They all want to sound smart. You go visit them normally and they don't tell you anything. On television, they tell you everything. I was able to pick their brains. I'd never had an opportunity to do that and to get some different ideas."

In many ways, it was what Bradley needed. He not only stayed close to the sport and kept familiar with the speed with which it changes, but his eyes and mind were opened to new ways to play the old game. He'd need that at his next stop, the one he figured would eventually arrive, and he's made use of the experience at WVU. He's becoming reacquainted with his old life and getting to know the way defensive coordinator Tony Gibson coaches defense.

"This is different," Bradley said. "As I've told people, I'm not used to bringing a practice schedule in my pocket all the time. I never had to do that before. I kind of knew it. The playbook, the words are new, everything is new in that regard. I never had to worry about that because the playbook was my stuff. It was in my head. I didn't have to really look at it ever. It was all there. Now it's different. Different words mean different things. I think the hardest part is the associations with certain things I called one thing and we call it something else here. But I'll get it figured out."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Johnson ready to rock at running back http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140819/DM03/140819119 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140819/DM03/140819119 Tue, 19 Aug 2014 21:44:10 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Devon Johnson has been a football vagabond during his Marshall football tenure.

He's dabbled at fullback, moved to linebacker and showed promise at tight end. Now he's at the position that made him a high-school standout and a Thundering Herd scholarship player - tailback. He's already worked his way into the first team, and said the versatility in learning so many positions had something to do with that.

Johnson returned to campus at the start of August ready to battle Eric Frohnapfel for the starting tight end job. He averaged 18.2 yards on 12 catches with two touchdowns last season, so he had a pretty good shot. Then he got the news the day before preseason camp began that Herd coaches needed him at tailback.

The junior had never been one to turn down a coach's request before. After all, he already had changed positions twice in two years. And its not that he wasn't experienced as a team's primary ball-carrier. The Richlands (Va.) High School graduate rushed for 4,340 yards and 63 touchdowns in his prep career and was a two-time first-team all-state pick.

And it's not like he hasn't carried the ball at Marshall before. Coaches installed a goal-line package they dubbed "Big Cheese," with Johnson at tailback and 299-pound guard Blake Brooks at fullback. Johnson scored three rushing touchdowns in 2013. This time, though, there would be no special formation. Johnson would get the ball early and often.

His bouncing around the roster gave him the confidence to change jobs yet again.

"You're a veteran," Johnson said. "I've learned you can't sit there and think too much. (The coach is) telling you what to do. Just get it in your head, go over it a couple of times, don't think about it anymore, then get out here and play football."

Running backs coach Chris Barclay said Johnson has been a quick study, evident in his sprint up the depth chart. The former ACC player of year at Wake Forest lauds the power in Johnson's 6-foot-1, 243-pound frame and the deceptive speed that comes with it. Yet his most important trait this preseason has been his willingness to learn.

"He's a very coachable kid," Barclay said. "He's a humble kid and he's always looking for ways to get better. You can work with a kid like that because they're always hungry for knowledge. He's one of the guys who always sticks around and asks extra questions and wants to watch extra film. With a kid like that, the learning process is accelerated.

"I told him the other day that he's only been in the position a few days, but he's playing like he's been there for a couple of years," Barclay added. "He's a guy who you can tell him one time, and it gets done."

That's not to say his size isn't important. He's Marshall's heaviest running back by nearly 40 pounds. Freshman Tony Pittman is closest at 204 pounds. Johnson doesn't shy away from contact. Sometimes he invites it.

"There are going to be some plays where there won't be any holes and you won't have anywhere to go, and all you can do is just put your head down and go," he said. "That's when it comes in handy, when you need the extra yardage and I'm going to be able to get it."

His new spot on the depth chart was earned partially by his willingness to block. On the first day of preseason practice, head coach Doc Holliday said Johnson's move came because he wanted someone he could trust to block for former Conference USA MVP quarterback Rakeem Cato. Johnson knows that, before the carries or the rushing touchdowns, keeping defenders away from Cato is his mission.

"If No. 12 ain't safe, I didn't do my job," he said. "I'm back there to keep him safe while he's passing."

He also gives opposing defenses a completely different look than the rest of Marshall's running backs. The vast majority of them are lighter, quick, shifty runners. Those defenses must still deal with the likes of Steward Butler and Remi Watson, but they'll also face Johnson's battering-ram style.

Marshall linebacker Neville Hewitt said his group already sees the benefits to facing Johnson every day in practice.

"I just want to thank the coaches for putting a guy like that back there," Hewitt said, "so when we play against teams that run the ball with bigger backs, we've already seen someone who can run hard like that."

Johnson is just happy he can help the team in whatever role he can play. And if the team needs him somewhere else, all the coaches have to do is ask.

"Now they might as well stick me out at wide receiver, too," he said with a smile, "so I can learn that one."

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THOUGH HE now officially holds the title of Marshall's back-up quarterback, not much will change in the way redshirt sophomore Gunnar Holcombe approaches his job. He might have won the competition over true freshman Cole Garvin, but he doesn't think the competition is over.

"It's a lot of work, but it's still got to be a lot of work," Holcombe said. "If I get complacent, I could be benched right away. I just have to keep working to get better and pushing (Rakeem) Cato in front of me so he can reach his potential."

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MARSHALL OFFICIALLY added a new player to the roster Tuesday, former Maryland linebacker Shawn Petty. The 6-foot-1, 235-pound Greenbelt, Md., native registered 24 tackles, four for a loss and two sacks as a Terrapins reserve last season. Two seasons ago, he had to step in at quarterback for the final four games of the season. He will sit this season as a transfer and have two to play.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Trophy fish, deer sought for W.Va. display http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140819/ARTICLE/140819182 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140819/ARTICLE/140819182 Tue, 19 Aug 2014 08:18:32 -0400

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia outdoors officials are looking to display trophy fish and big bucks at an upcoming event.

West Virginia's celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Day is set for Sept. 27 and 28 at Stonewall Resort near Weston.

Anglers who received trophy designations for fish caught from West Virginia waters and have them mounted are invited to contact the Division of Natural Resources. The showcase at the event will be limited to 25 qualifying entries to be determined by a selection committee.

Hunters who killed trophy white-tail bucks with either bows or guns in the state also invited to participate. The first 30 entries received will participate.

For more information, contact James Walker for fish or Rob Silvester for bucks at (304) 924-6211.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Jermaine Holmes sheds weight from head to toe http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140818/DM03/140819210 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140818/DM03/140819210 Mon, 18 Aug 2014 21:20:06 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - As Marshall linebacker Jermaine Holmes entered his final season in a Thundering Herd uniform, he felt changes were necessary. Excess weight must be shed.

So the pounds around his midriff? Gone. The dreadlocks that he's worn since his days at Valdosta High School in Georgia? Adios. The senior nicknamed "The Freak" wanted to pare himself down for the 2014 campaign.

He was on a quest for a different look as the Herd renewed its quest to win its first Conference USA championship.

"I just changed my whole game plan in what I wanted to do this year," he said. "I want to make this year count, whether I make it to the next level of not, I want to make this year count."

It's not like the weight hurt him much in past seasons. He finished fourth on the team with 82 tackles in 2012 and third with 84 tackles in 2013. Between those two seasons, he combined for 22 tackles for loss, 8.5 last season and 13.5 in 2012. He was a second-team All-Conference USA pick as a junior.

Yet, he said, there always are ways to improve one's game. He wanted to get better in pass coverage, to become more agile and be better in changing direction. So beyond the drastic haircut, the 5-foot-11 middle linebacker whittled himself down from 246 pounds last season to 232 pounds entering this season.

For Holmes, the change is significant.

"I feel like I'm coming downhill," he said. "And say if it looks like a run play and then becomes a pass play, I can just stick my foot in the ground and just drop back. I couldn't really do that last year, but that weight loss has really helped a lot."

No one with the Herd is worried that Holmes' shrinking will affect his strength. Defensive coordinator Chuck Heater can see an improvement in Holmes' endurance and, with that, his consistency. Plus, Heater said, extra weight doesn't always equate to extra strength, and technique can counteract any mass disadvantage a player might have.

"Technique's always the great equalizer at any position," Heater said. "If your technique is better than the guy you're going against, that's to your advantage. Technique is something you can control and always gives you the opportunity to equal the playing field."

Holmes' teammates on the defense haven't seen a drop-off. In fact, strong-side linebacker D.J. Hunter said, he might be playing better than he has in the past. Weight, be it more or less than in the past, isn't an issue.

"Freak, I feel like he's good at any weight he plays at," Hunter said. "I think he's one of the most talented players on the team and one of the strongest. He's really a freak. He's really a freakish athlete. He can do anything he can put his mind to.

"He's been playing some of the best football since he's been here," he added. "He's been manhandling people."

n n n

FORMER HERD quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, who transferred from Marshall in the spring in search of a starting job, has been named the starter at the University of Massachusetts. Frohnapfel beat out A.J. Doyle, who started nine games for the Minutemen last season and threw for 1,274 yards, six touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Frohnapfel sat behind Cato in 2012 and 2013, and finished his Herd career with 35 completions in 45 attempts for 386 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.

n n n

HERD HEAD COACH Doc Holliday said after Monday's practice that redshirt sophomore Gunnar Holcombe would be the backup quarterback behind Rakeem Cato. Holcombe, a 6-foot-3, 202-pound Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native, beat out true freshman Cole Garvin for the job.

Neither Holcombe nor Garvin have taken a collegiate snap. In Saturday's scrimmage, Holcombe completed 11 of 22 passes for 151 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Garvin completed three of five passes for 36 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

n n n

MARSHALL COULD soon see another wide receiver on campus, but if he comes, he'll have to wait a season. Sources told the Daily Mail that Kenneth Rawls, a 6-3, 180-pound receiver from Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Fla., is expected to attend Marshall, pending admission into the university. Rawls, a two-star recruit according to Rivals, Scout and 247Sports, was a former Northern Illinois verbal commitment. If he does come to Marshall, he would sit the year as an academic non-qualifier.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Mike Casazza: Practice field, not just Mountaineer Field turf, needs a change http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140818/DM03/140819212 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140818/DM03/140819212 Mon, 18 Aug 2014 21:18:20 -0400 MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The 2014 season will be the last season for the artificial turf at Mountaineer Field. West Virginia has one last chance to add to the legacy of a surface that's so far seen a 36-11 record, three Big East champions, one perfect home record, LSU, Texas, Oklahoma, Brian Kelly, Gene Chizik, Pat White, Bruce Irvin, Tavon Austin, 70-63, 66-21 and 13-9.

The turf's shelf life is eight to 10 years and the athletic department is prepared to spend somewhere between $1.8 million and $3.5 million on a replacement, the low end for installing just new turf, the high end for first removing the crown beneath the field and putting down the new green stuff. Considering how rare crowns are and how much coaches don't like them, WVU is preparing for the high end.

The athletic department should be ready to spend even more, though. It's time to address the problem the Mountaineers have with their grass practice field. There are no plans to do so now, and that's as much of a problem as the place itself. Simply put, the Mountaineers do not want to practice there because they have well-founded reasons to stay away.

During preseason camp, the Mountaineers spent a small part of one full-contact practice on the natural grass next to the indoor practice facility. They were there for less than half an hour Aug. 4 before coach Dana Holgorsen moved his team down the hill and back inside Mountaineer Field.

And as odd as that seemed, it was a huge relief for the players.

"We were pulling large chunks of grass out when we were trying to cut or push off," one player told the Charleston Daly Mail. "You shouldn't be slipping like that in practice. You don't want a guy to injure himself because of the field and not because something else happened that you can't control."

The Daily Mail talked to several players about what happened that day, and WVU was indeed worried about injuries. During the Oklahoma drill, with the media watching, several players slipped and fell during the contact period. In one sequence, offensive lineman Stone Underwood was working against nose guard Brandon Jackson. The grass gave way beneath them and they collapsed. Underwood injured his shoulder and Jackson tweaked a hamstring. Both missed subsequent practices.

What multiple players remembered most was what happened to Dustin Garrison, a running back who tore an ACL on grass at an Orange Bowl practice in December 2011 and who ended up redshirting last season with a hamstring problem. Garrison angled out of the backfield and caught a swing pass. He planted so he could run up the field, but a foot got stuck in the grass. Garrison broke stride and pulled his foot from turf and avoided danger.

The Mountaineers were soon on the move from one field to another.

"It was a mess," a player said. "It was slippery. Every time a guy made a cut, the grass came loose under his feet."

The Mountaineers, who will play one game on grass this season at Iowa State, haven't practiced there since and probably won't again this season. That wouldn't be an issue with the players, many of whom said they'd be against going out there unless the coaches could assure them they'd be safe. That seems unlikely.

"I think it would be a problem," a player said. "Certain guys don't feel comfortable up there."

The safety issues are one matter, but performance is another. Players know the turf can give and their legs are at risk. They compensate and focus on their footing, which is smart, but also counterproductive at any position.

"You want to play fast and under control, but you had to concentrate on your steps and coming out of cuts," a player said. "It definitely slowed you down."

Holgorsen chose not to comment on the circumstances of his preseason practice last week and simply said, pointing to the stadium, "We've got here. That's where we can practice. That's what we've got. Make do." Holgorsen nevertheless likes to practice on his practice field. There's more space than what the team has in the stadium, but he also wants to refrain from practicing on his home field because he believes doing so diminishes the feeling players get playing in the stadium. Players have taken that to heart, too.

Still, he can only practice there a few times during spring and preseason practice before the field conditions deteriorate. The fall weather doesn't provide any relief. Players said they don't think the field drains very well, either, which is what they were prepared for on their one camp day there.

"There have been times when it's wet in the morning after it rains, and you've got to expect that, but it was dry that day," a player said.

For now, replacing the grass with artificial turf is not in the plans. A WVU spokesperson said that "to replace the grass practice field would require a fundraising project." WVU believes that would cost closer to the $3.5 million approximation for putting new turf in the stadium. A crew would have to remove the grass, pour a new base and a curb and then install an appropriate drainage system before the artificial surface could be installed.

It isn't imminent, but it's necessary.

"You want a clean practice. You don't want things flying everywhere," a player said. "I don't think we're going back up there anymore, at least until they get turf put up there. I don't think we want to go back up there."

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WVU FOOTBALL: Myers enrolls, Banks sidelined http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140818/DM03/140819213 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140818/DM03/140819213 Mon, 18 Aug 2014 21:16:58 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The West Virginia University football team has a late addition to a secondary unit that has another defensive back sidelined with an undisclosed issue.

Highly touted junior college transfer Jaylon Myers has enrolled at the school, a source told the Charleston Daily Mail. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Myers signed with WVU in February. He was rated a 4-star cornerback by 247sports.com and 3-star cornerback by Rivals.com. Myers was a junior college All-American who intercepted eight passes last season for Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.

Myers adds depth to a secondary that could be without senior Ishmael "Icky" Banks. The 6-0, 185-pound cornerback is away from the team while WVU tries to resolve an issue. Banks has played in 36 career games with 16 starts (12 starters in 2013).

The Mountaineers open the season Aug. 30 against Alabama in Atlanta.

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WVU FOOTBALL: Opposing Big 12 players explain Mountaineers' struggles on defense http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140817/DM03/140819296 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140817/DM03/140819296 Sun, 17 Aug 2014 21:46:18 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There were many times last season when West Virginia's defense was outplayed and outmanned. The Mountaineers lost nine starting or regular defenders to season-ending injuries in 2013 and the vacancies and the process of filling them contributed to a group that ranked No. 99 out of 123 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in scoring defense (33.3 points per game) and No. 101 in total defense (455 yards per game).

Yet there were times WVU was outsmarted, too.

Opponents in the Big 12, where WVU allowed more than 510 yards per game and 6.2 yards per play, found the Mountaineers to be predictable on occasion. Kenny Williams, Texas Tech's leading rusher last season who will play linebacker this season, remembered a third-and-1 play from the game at Mountaineer Filed to make this point.

"I would say at times they were," he said. "From watching the film, we knew what they'd do in certain situations and that was what we operated off of."

That's football. Across the length of a season, offenses and defenses establish tendencies and opponents find and feast upon them. The winning teams do the best job manipulating and protecting those trends.

The Red Raiders used a break between the first and second quarters to go over a play they trusted would work when play resumed at their 35-yard line.

"We knew they'd line up in a heavy package and they'd probably crash down and give us an option for a dump pass," Williams said.

Sure enough, the Mountaineers played a short-yardage defense, crowded the line of scrimmage and seemingly expected a run.

"We faked a dive," Williams said. "I came out of the backfield for a dump pass and it went for 40-some yards. As soon as we saw they lined up in the heavy package, we knew they'd crash down and it'd be open."

It was 41-yard gain and led to a field goal and a 13-0 lead. That was one of 39 passing plays WVU allowed to cover at least 25 yards in conference play. The Mountaineers gave up 18 running plays covering at least 20 yards against Big 12 teams.

Needless to say, the Mountaineers had problems playing defense in the Big 12 last season. They allowed 20.3 points per game in non-conference play - and lost one of those games 37-0 - but allowed 37.7 points in nine conference games. WVU players and coaches could point at injuries, inexperience and rapidly deteriorating confidence.

But that was last year. This year, players and coaches doubt they'll have as many health issues. They brag about returning starters and savvy backups. The combination has restored the collective confidence back to where it was after spearheading an upset win against then-No. 11 Oklahoma State, only to have that obliterated a week later at Baylor.

How the Mountaineers fix the more technical aspects is yet unknown, and not merely because they are still 12 days away from opening in the Georgia Dome against Alabama, which is ranked No. 2 in the preseason Associated Press poll. One day one coach says they're throwing a lot at the players. The next day a different coach says they're keeping it simple, focusing first on the base before ever adding anything exotic. Some players say things are new with a fourth defensive coordinator in as many years. Other players say what's new is actually old and there is strength from familiarity.

What is certain is the Mountaineers have plenty to correct. A collection of Big 12 opponents helped explain what went wrong in 2013.

n n n

WVU'S DEFENSE WAS fertile ground for big plays and big performances, but not nearly as often on the ground as through the air. The Mountaineers allowed only three 100-yard rushers in nine conference games. Baylor's Lache Seastrunk and Shock Linwood both topped 100 in the same game and Kansas' James Sims had 211 in a win.

The wealth of the damage done to WVU's defensive statistics, rankings and psyche came with the pass, and that'll happen in the Big 12. Five quarterbacks passed for at least 322 yards - and one had 462. Four had at least three touchdowns. Four completed at least 25 passes. Twelve receivers caught at least seven passes in a game and seven had at least 100 yards. Three had multiple touchdown receptions.

Opponents knew better than to expect anything less.

"I don't want to call them out," said Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters, who was 10-for-13 for 198 yards and two touchdowns against WVU, "but certain coverages, we thought, 'Hey, this play will work pretty well. We like this play. They'll run this play and we can take advantage of it.' Once we got it in a game, we rolled with it."

Again, though, that's football. That's why coaches pick apart film and spend long days sharing discoveries and building game plans. The problem for WVU was its weaknesses were apparently easy to spot, but hard to hide.

"When they went Cover 2, it worked a lot for us," Oklahoma State receiver Jhajuan Seales said. "We saw their Cover 2 was always open in the middle of field."

Quarterback J.W. Walsh passed for 322 yards and three touchdowns against WVU and the Cowboys had success in the middle with screens and short and longer throws into the middle.

The Cover 2 defense WVU played quite a bit last season is a common tactic where the two safeties play the deepest part of the secondary and each take half of the field. The cornerbacks and linebackers underneath play man-to-man or zone defense to protect their area.

"I'd say we were faster than them in those areas," said TCU receiver David Porter, who caught eight passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns against WVU.

The Mountaineers admit they had trouble with it, so much so that they don't figure to play it nearly as much this season.

"Any time you play a two-high shell look, you can expose your safeties some," WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. "There are going to be some openings and you have to have the guys who can do a great job covering those up. You really need to be able to do both - a single-high safety look where you close down the middle and then pick your times to leave the middle open. You just have to game plan it right and scout them and figure out their tendencies."

n n n

TIME AND SPACE were WVU's enemies, too. A number of opponents said they knew an up-tempo offense would confuse the Mountaineers, especially if the offense jumped into it unexpectedly. WVU was often out of position and out of sorts because of who was on the field. It was a challenge to be organized between plays.

Gibson didn't need opponents to tell him that.

"That's very accurate," he said. "You watch the film and there were a lot of times kids were watching the sidelines trying to get a call and they were snapping the ball."

Returning players and their experience should help that, but WVU could stand to be quicker and more athletic in spots and to do a better job in space - and that may be the case in 2014 with linebackers like Wes Tonkery, Edward Muldrow and Al-Rasheed Benton, players who didn't play much (Tonkery) or at all (Muldrow and Benton) in 2013. Defenses could take advantage of WVU and the loss to Baylor damaged the defense's confidence and inflated the opposition's self-esteem.

"We kind of felt if we spread them out that that really left them open, it left some holes out there, like how Baylor runs its offense and really spreads you out," Porter said. "When we did that, it got to them and we had some success. That was one thing we really tried to do."

The Horned Frogs threw 58 passes that day - their most since 2001 - Trevone Boykin, a quarterback turned into a receiver, caught 11. Early on, TCU came to believe WVU's defenders fixed stares on the backfield. The counter was a tricky play that worked again and again.

The quarterback would put the ball in the belly of a running back. If a linebacker or safety jumped up to play the run, the quarterback threw a pass to a receiver in the vacated space. If the defender stayed put to protect against the pass, the quarterback handed off the ball. WVU's response was to scrap its defense and blitz, which put more pressure on the secondary. When TCU needed it, it rallied with back-to-back scoring drives to erase a 10-point deficit at the end of the fourth quarter and force overtime.

"We knew they were a good defense, but they had their mistakes," Porter said. "We just focused on us and what we thought we could do to go out there and get a win, even though we didn't."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymaiwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blog.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd auditioning for Shuler's supporting cast http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140817/DM03/140819297 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140817/DM03/140819297 Sun, 17 Aug 2014 21:44:28 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall wants to turn the one-man receiving show on its football team into an ensemble. And right now, it's an open casting call.

Freshmen to seniors to everyone in between are among the candidates at the two starting outside receiver spots, the pair tasked with taking the pressure off all-Conference-USA first-team slot receiver Tommy Shuler. Seniority, however, is not a requirement, as several young wideouts are pushing veterans for those top jobs.

Shuler is one of eight players in major college football history with two seasons of 100 catches. No receiver has ever had three. He'll have a better chance at that milestone if the outside receivers can keep opposing secondaries from focusing all their efforts on him. That didn't happen much in 2013.

Shuler led Marshall, and tied for seventh in the Football Bowl Subdivision, with 106 catches last season. The Herd's most prolific outside receivers were Devon Smith (39 catches) and Craig Wilkins (32 catches). That's a big difference from 2012, when Shuler caught 110 passes and Antavious Wilson and Aaron Dobson combined to catch 126.

"When AD and Antavious left, some guys just fell into a starting role," Thundering Herd receivers coach Mike Furrey said, "because there wasn't really anybody there to push them, nor was there anyone there to replace them."

Smith, a one-year replacement who transferred from Penn State, has graduated. The next-closest outside receiver is Demetrius Evans, who started five games and caught 19 passes. Furrey is looking for better output from that group, and the players are starting to realize that some of the younger members of the position room are putting themselves in contention.

"We do have guys in our room that are finally understanding that, one, this is the last shot that they have," Furrey said. "Two, we have some pretty good freshmen that were already here that can push for some playing time. If you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing, they can come up and never run out of energy. The game's important to them, they love to learn and they love to play. And they're pretty athletic, too."

Two of them already have been on Marshall's campus for a year. Angelo Jean-Louis and Rodney Allen both sat out last season as academic non-qualifiers. Both have turned heads early with their ability to stretch the field and make tough catches. Jean-Louis added another one Friday, snagging a pass across the middle, absorbing contact, regaining his balance and racing toward the end zone.

The pair has been joined by true freshman Emanuel Beal, who came to Marshall despite having scholarship offers from schools like Missouri, Georgia Tech and Wisconsin. The three have the dimensions that make for good targets. Beal is 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds, while Jean-Louis is 6 feet and 171 pounds and Allen is 5-11 and 175 pounds. Furrey has said Marshall will play the best, most physical player at those positions.

Jean-Louis said the Herd's young wideouts respect their elder teammates, but that doesn't douse their competitive fire.

"The freshmen came in here head-first," Jean-Louis said. "We're not trying to stop or slow down. We're definitely trying to make sure the seniors are on their toes."

The veterans are getting the picture. The race for those top spots have made every outside receiver push the limits of their abilities, redshirt junior Davonte Allen said. As that has happened, every wideout has seen his production improve.

It showed in Marshall's Saturday scrimmage. Both Davonte Allen and Wilkins caught touchdowns, and Allen added a 42-yard catch down the visitors sideline of Joan C. Edwards Stadium that quarterback Rakeem Cato launched from his own 1-yard line. However, the other four of the six touchdown catches in Saturday's scrimmage came from freshmen - Jean-Louis, Rodney Allen, Beal and tight end Deon-Tay McManus.

"We're just working together right now," said Davonte Allen, who caught nine passes for 163 yards and two scores in 2013. "We know if we keep putting in the work, the ball is going to get spread around. If you make the right decisions on and off the field, you'll get rewarded for it."

That work has impressed their record-setting receiver-mate, Shuler. He can see the improvement the group has made and believes that competition will lead to a solid supporting cast around him.

"They're going to be great," he said. "They've been coming in and making plays. We've got a 14-name depth sheet. We can only take nine, so somebody's got to make the bus."

Furrey still wants to see more out of his room. He's not worried about Shuler, but he still is waiting for a couple of outside wideouts to break from the pack and nail down those starting spots. The ones that do will become components of one of the college football's most explosive offenses.

That alone, Furrey said, should be enough motivation.

"Right now we still have one guy," Furrey said. "Statistically, he'll be one of the best receivers to ever play college football. If I'm an outside guy that has a chance to play with him his senior year, to have the chance to catch a lot of footballs and have a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback, I want to play."

n n n

FORMER HERD running back Kevin Grooms reappeared this weekend, transferring to Football Championship Subdivision school Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Grooms was dimissed from Marshall in July following his arrest on multiple charges including felony burglary. It was his third arrest since April 2013.

Liberty coach Turner Gill told the News and Advance in Lynchburg that Grooms sought to change his life and will get the chance with the Flames, but can't slip up again.

"Zero tolerance," Gill told the newspaper. "It's a second chance. If there are some things that come up that are inappropriate, then he will no longer be here. Again, zero tolerance."

Grooms, the 2012 Conference USA freshman of the year, must sit out the 2014 season per NCAA regulations.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Chuck McGill: Nuggets from AP top 25 and W.Va.'s lone voter http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140817/DM03/140819298 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140817/DM03/140819298 Sun, 17 Aug 2014 21:42:11 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. - We're a week and a few days from real, live, meaningful college football. Rejoice.

The preseason walkthrough continued Sunday afternoon with the release of the Associated Press top 25 poll, which is based on votes by media members across the country, including yours truly.

The AP's preseason rankings didn't differ much from the USA Today coaches' poll, which was released earlier this month. In fact, teams ranked Nos. 7 through 17 were exactly the same in both polls. That seems to be a trend for the season's first set of non-binding polls. There's seldom much variation.

The same can't be said for my top 25 poll, which I submitted to the AP on Aug. 6. I had only one ranking the same as the preseason poll: No. 1 Florida State, the defending national champions. Overall, my rankings had 20 of the top 25. Wisconsin, Arizona State, Kansas State, Nebraska and Washington do not appear in my poll. In their place, I ranked Michigan No. 21, Florida No. 22, Marshall No. 23, TCU No. 24 and Duke No. 25.

That means the Thundering Herd, which received 41 total points and ranked No. 32 overall, received three points from me and 38 points from the rest of the voters.

But where'd I differ from the media's collective voting the most? We'll get to that. First, what does it all mean?

One must understand college football is unpredictable. It's part of why the sport is so beloved. Since 1951, a year before my father was born, only 10 teams ranked preseason No. 1 by the media actually finished in that spot. It hasn't happened since 2004, when Southern Cal ran the table. Before that it was 1999, when Florida State did the same. The Seminoles also started and finished first in 1993, and the Oklahoma Sooners did it in 1985.

The feat has only been accomplished four times since 1980, the year I was born, and only three times in the past two decades.

That doesn't seem to bode well for FSU, does it?

Truth is, very little is promised with the preseason poll that debuted Sunday.

In the last five years, 35.2 percent of teams (44 of 125) that were ranked in the preseason top 25 didn't finish there. In that same span, five teams ranked in the top five to start the season fell all the way out of the rankings. That's a 20 percent rate, which means it's a good bet that one of Florida State, Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma and Ohio State will be unranked at the end of the season.

It seems even more likely that a team will come out of nowhere to crash the rankings you see today. Last season, nine teams that were unranked in August finished the season in the top 25, including three teams that came from off the map to finish in the top five of the final polls.

Auburn, which received no votes in the 2013 preseason poll, played for the national title. Michigan State, which was just outside the preseason top 25 at No. 26, finished third nationally last season. Missouri, which did not receive a preseason vote, finished fifth.

That wasn't all. UCF and Duke didn't receive a preseason top 25 vote but finished No. 10 and No. 23, respectively. Baylor, Arizona State, Vanderbilt and Washington were in the "others receiving votes" category, but snuck into the final media poll.

So don't necessarily scoff at the disparity of my votes versus the masses. The biggest gap lies with Stanford, which I ranked No. 2 behind Florida State. The AP poll has the Cardinal at No. 11.

I've got Oklahoma six spots lower - No. 10 - than the nationwide poll. I have Ole Miss six spots higher - at No. 12 - than the media rankings.

Wisconsin is No. 14 in the preseason poll and I left the Badgers out of my top 25. There are four spots difference for where I have Alabama (ranked No. 2, but I have the Tide sixth), UCLA (Bruins are seventh, but I have them 11th) and Georgia (I have them No. 8, but the 'Dawgs are No. 12 in the polls).

It's safe to assume the preseason poll I submitted this month will look foolish in spots come December. The same will be said about the AP's poll, too.

The fun is what happens in between, when the real, live, meaningful college football is played and we can see which teams are the best, and not which teams we think might be the best.

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Saints training camp won't sit empty http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140817/DM01/140819313 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140817/DM01/140819313 Sun, 17 Aug 2014 19:29:16 -0400 By Whitney Burdette Now that the New Orleans Saints have ended training camp at The Greenbrier, three universities are in talks with the resort to host spring practice and exhibition games next spring.

West Virginia University, Marshall University and Virginia Tech all are expected to take advantage of the new, state-of-the-art facility in White Sulphur Springs. Kevin Workman, facility manager at the Advocare Performance Center, said the resort expects spring practice will draw sports fans from across the region, especially alumni.

"I think there is a trend in college sports to get out into different areas of your fan base," Workman said. "WVU was in Charleston last year. I don't know about other programs. I do think there is some interest in fundraising events around that spring event at The Greenbrier."

Workman said each team will have a weekend set aside in April for practice and exhibition, as well as fundraising and activities for fans.

Mike Hamrick, athletic director at Marshall, said his program is looking forward to taking advantage of the facility, which boasts three practice fields, weight rooms, locker rooms and meeting rooms, among other features.

"It's a great facility and to be able to tell recruits or your players we're going to go . . . utilize an NFL facility where an NFL team holds their camps, that's very positive," Hamrick said. "Also, you're at The Greenbrier, which means your fans and your donors and your supporters will come, and there are many things to do other than just watch a team scrimmage and practice. You can take advantage of that."

Jim Justice, a coal baron who purchased The Greenbrier several years ago, is a Marshall graduate. A bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year allowed Justice and The Greenbrier to take advantage of tax breaks to build the training camp. House Bill 4184 is an extension of the Tourism Development Act, which first passed about a decade ago. But Justice had to meet several criteria to receive the tax breaks.

At least 25 percent of visitors to the training camp must come from out of state, the project must bring in sufficient revenues and public demand, and the investment must also create jobs and address economic issues in the area. If those criteria, and others, are met, the investment could be approved for tax credits up to 25 percent of approved costs over 10 years.

Workman said it's too soon to tell if the training camp met those guidelines, but The Greenbrier and the Saints organization are touting the team's three weeks in West Virginia as a success.

"I'm not privy to any of the finances for The Greenbrier itself, but I do know in talking to Mr. Justice that the Saints' visit has been a success in every way imaginable," Workman said. "It's been great PR for the whole state and community. It's been all over the major sports networks. It's been well received by the Saints organization. I know that the downtown merchants I've talked to have been overwhelmed and quite pleased with the increase in activity in the community. I think the community has seen a great uptick in activity associated with Saints fans over the three weeks. From the hotel's perspective, it's a busy time for us anyway.

"The visibility and market and exposure it's provided for The Greenbrier itself has been quite positive."

The Saints are contractually obligated to host part of their summer training camp at The Greenbrier, but according to the Times-Picayune, head coach Sean Payton would like to see that timeline extended.

"It's written (in the contract) for the next two years, but we'd like to be back here a lot longer than just that," Payton said in an Aug. 14 article.

Hamrick said he attended part of the Saints training camp and was impressed with the facility. He said there are "a lot of advantages" to taking his team to Greenbrier County for camp, even though Marshall is preparing to open a new indoor practice facility for a variety of sports.

"There are a lot of pluses for us to go there," Hamrick said. "We have great facilities here too when our new indoor (practice facility) opens up. It's variety and something different."

Although Marshall typically doesn't travel off campus for spring training, Hamrick said he's not worried about logistics. His team and staff travel often and The Greenbrier camp has everything the team could need.

"The logistics are easy," he said. "We're used to traveling. Our kids are used to getting on buses and we fly places. The logistics will not be an issue. If you've seen the facility there, it has everything you need - three fields, a training room. All you have to do is get on a bus and go there. The logistics do not concern me."

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FSU is AP's preseason No. 1; Marshall receives votes http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140817/DM03/140819328 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140817/DM03/140819328 Sun, 17 Aug 2014 16:37:57 -0400

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Jameis Winston and defending national champion Florida State are No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason college football poll.

The Seminoles will start the season No. 1 for the sixth time - the first since 1999 when they became the first team to hold the top spot for the entire season.

Marshall received 41 combined points from the media voters, which placed the Thundering Herd in the "others receiving votes" category behind UCF, Florida, Texas, Duke, Iowa and Louisville. Marshall received the 32nd most points in the AP poll.

Florida State received 57 of 60 first-place votes Sunday from the media panel. No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oregon and No. 4 Oklahoma each received one first-place vote. Ohio State is No. 5 and Auburn is No. 6.

Winston, the Heisman Trophy winner last season as a redshirt freshman, led Florida State to a 34-31 victory against Auburn in the last BCS national championship game.

This season the Bowl Championship Series is being replaced by the College Football Playoff. A selection committee will pick the top four teams in the country for two national semifinals.

The rest of the top 10 is UCLA at No. 7, followed by Michigan State, South Carolina and Baylor.

The Southeastern Conference matched its own record for most teams in the preseason poll from one conference with eight. The Pac-12 is next with six, the best showing for that conference.

The AP preseason poll started in 1950 and since then 10 preseason No. 1 teams have gone on to finish the season ranked No. 1, including Florida State twice (1993 and '99).

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Stronger Roberts has sights set on standout senior season http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM03/140819471 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM03/140819471 Thu, 14 Aug 2014 21:40:57 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall cornerback Darryl Roberts didn't even have to leave the weight room to widen the eyes of his Thundering Herd teammates.

The fifth-year senior positioned himself one summer day under the bench press bar. On that bar was 225 pounds, the weight NFL prospects lift at the annual draft combine. Over and over again, Roberts pushed that weight off his chest and into the air.

"I stopped counting after 11," senior receiver Tommy Shuler said.

Roberts doubled that, knocking out 22 reps at 225. That matched the top total among corners at the 2014 combine, set by Florida Atlantic's Keith Reaser and Florida's Jaylen Watkins. The 2014 draft's top pick, defensive end Jadaveon Clowney, only put up 21.

Since putting up that eye-popping number, Roberts has put that strength to good use on the football field. Teammates have noted his improved strength, which he hopes leads to an even more effective performance defending the pass this season.

According to Marshall's athletic website, those 22 reps tied former safety Okechukwu Okoroha for the team record among skill players. Roberts attributes it to Herd strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair. The second-year strength coach knows how to pump up his players as they enter the weight room, Roberts said, using his slogan "ATD" or "Attack the Day."

"He always gets us fired up," Roberts said, "so I've felt like ever since he got here, man, everybody on the team's mentality changed. Not just me. Their mindset changed to want to get better and want to do better."

Roberts, nicknamed "Swagg" by his teammates, has always considered his stamina one of is best traits, and one that's helped his lifting. He said he could put up 15 reps at 225 as a freshman and made incremental improvements each year after that. He reached 19 reps not long ago, hit the 20-rep barrier shortly after that, and tied the record a little while later.

While that number might have stunned some, fellow Marshall corner Keith Baxter knew it was coming.

"I said before he got under it he was going to hit 20," Baxter said. "Swagg's strong. He doesn't look like it, but he's a strong guy and I knew he was going to hit over 20."

Baxter said the energy that comes from recording a standout total like that becomes infectious, and it bleeds over into every aspect of preparation.

"It shows that, with him being the leader of our room, it just makes me want to reach a higher level every day," Baxter said.

Roberts, a Lakeland, Fla., native, already was a well-regarded corner in Conference USA. He rebounded from an ankle injury that cost him the entire 2012 season to earn honorable mention all-conference honors in 2013. A starter on the nation's most improved defense, Roberts finished with 58 tackles, the sixth-best total on the team. He recorded 37 in 2011.

He also finished with two interceptions and seven pass breakups, the Herd's second-best total. Roberts prides himself in his improved tackling and said both the added strength and the six or seven pounds he's gained with it helped with that. He also feels his strength has made him better in coverage, allowing him to jam receivers better than he has in the past.

"When we're working technique or when receivers try to run into you and push you off, I can feel a big improvement in that area of my game," Roberts said, "countering receivers when they try to throw me by and stuff like that."

Roberts' teammates among the receiving corps are finding out exactly what that extra power and weight means. As frustrated as they are when they can't shake him, it pleases them to know he'll be giving the same fits to everyone the Herd faces this season. They also know going head to head with him on the practice field will make them better when they try to break free from opposing defensive backs.

"If he can hold you for three seconds, the quarterback can't get you the ball," Shuler said. "A lot of receivers try to get open in about three seconds, and if he can hold you for three seconds and he's got a good jam technique ... Swagg's a great player.

"That's who I want to go against every day," Shuler added. "And the receivers see that and they want to go against him too."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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WVU FOOTBALL: Glowinski makes transformation from junior college transfer to NFL prospect http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM03/140819472 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM03/140819472 Thu, 14 Aug 2014 21:39:04 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The prevailing reason recruiting junior college players is so popular at West Virginia University is that those players, who are one or two seasons removed from the size and speed of high school football, are better able to play right away.

There are exceptions. Right guard Mark Glowinski is the explanation.

The fifth-year senior transferred from Lackawanna (Pa.) College in 2012 and sat out as a redshirt. If he hadn't, he wouldn't be where he is today.

"Going into his senior year, he's as good an offensive guard as I've seen," WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said.

Remember, Glowinski teams with fifth-year senior Quinton Spain, who is the left guard with greater billing and with spots on a pair of national award preseason watch lists. Glowinski is a guy who's built himself into no worse than Spain's equal, and that was no small task for the 6-foot-5, 310-pounder.

"Coming in, there were many days we had our Sunday night football stuff and I looked at him like, 'Boy, did we make a mistake here,'" Holgorsen said. "He couldn't play two or three plays in a row. He was breathing hard. He was struggling and just did not look good."

That was then, and what happened then helped make Glowinski a legitimate NFL prospect.

"When you first get here, you want to play, but you get an understanding that you have a lot of guys older than you who have more experience and it's their time," he said. "You understand it's going to take time, so (a redshirt) is going to benefit you."

Now he and Spain are the pillars of the plans WVU has to run power plays and swing the guards around the line of scrimmage to blast open lanes for running backs. It almost never happened.

Spain arrived late as a freshman in 2010, which kept him from playing that season. That was a possibility that had been discussed despite the difficulty inherent for all true freshmen up front because Spain was thought to be that good that soon. Had he played, he would have been a senior last season and gone this season. Spain still had a chance to leave after the 2013 season, but decided not to enter the NFL draft.

Glowinski would be gone now, too, if he played in 2012 simply because he was a junior college player. That would have been a loss for the Mountaineers, because they relied so much on him last season and knew he could do more this season. No one played more than Glowinski's 842 plays last season. There were five games in which he took more than 80 snaps in the middle of the game's most menacing action.

"He's exactly what you want," Holgorsen said.

Glowinski said he would have been content having that as his senior season, but knew he would have left so much behind in 2014 if he had played just a little in 2012. There is a difference in a player's fifth season, a strength that comes from being a 22-year-old going against players who are younger and smaller.

"It gives you that sense that you're more experienced, a little older and maybe a little wiser, and that gives you more drive," he said. "You know it's your last year, too. Having more games and being on a college football team is one of the biggest and the best things to happen to me. It's a privilege and I just try and treat it that way."

WVU would like to get junior college receivers, running backs, defensive linemen, linebackers, defensive backs and even punters on the field as quickly as possible. Most of the time, they've been recruited because there is a need and there isn't a lot of time to spend waiting around on someone else to develop into the player the junior college transfer is thought to be.

It's different on the offensive line, and the transition for high school linemen and junior college lineman is very similar. Most need and probably deserve a full year to get used to Division I, the demands of a program, the necessity of strength and conditioning and the style of the game.

The Mountaineers will continue to try and do for other junior college linemen what they did for Glowinski. Stone Underwood was a touted junior college center who redshirted last season. Now a guard as well as a center, he was WVU's top backup lineman before he hurt his shoulder a week ago.

"He wasn't quite ready that first year, but now he's going into his redshirt junior year as a guy who can contribute," Holgorsen said.

WVU signed junior college lineman Sylvester Townes in February, but had him on campus a month before that and with the team in spring football. There was some thought he might earn one of the starting tackle spots or at least secure a backup spot, but Holgorsen said he, too, will redshirt.

The Mountaineers can do that because they have a large number of offensive linemen, but they want to do that so they can produce players like Glowinski.

"I think a lot of it has to do with what the position is, but he needed that year," Holgorsen said. "I imagine a year from now when we're talking about Sylvester Townes, we'll be talking about the same things."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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WVU FOOTBALL: Calicchio awarded with scholarship http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM03/140819473 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM03/140819473 Thu, 14 Aug 2014 21:37:34 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. ­­­- For the second time in as many weeks, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen has given a walk-on a scholarship. Fifth-year senior Mike Calicchio was rewarded this week and is now the 83rd WVU player on scholarship.

The 6-foot-9, 335-pound Calicchio came to WVU in 2010 and left the following season for Division II C.W. Post. He returned to campus in 2012 and sat out and last season was a backup lineman and one of the three players who served as the shield in front of punters.

"Just such a good story for a big, giant of a man," said Holgorsen, who gave junior college safety Dayron Wilson a scholarship earlier in preseason camp. "He was awful five years ago when he showed up. He couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. He works hard on the field and off the field. He's a great student. He's one of our leaders in the entire program. When he talks, people listen."

With only two available scholarships, the Mountaineers won't be able to admit all three players who signed in February and have yet to enroll. Junior college defensive back Jaylon Myers, junior college offensive lineman Justin Scott and freshman offensive lineman Dontae Angus can enroll on or before Aug. 22.

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WVU's camp concludes with a fully padded, full-contact practice Friday and a scrimmage Saturday. The Mountaineers will then spend next week rehearsing a real game week. The players will have Monday off and practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and play a mock game Saturday, Aug. 23.

The Mountaineers are still waiting on a few players to get back on the field and to sort out position battles.

Will linebacker Brandon Golson (shoulder) is still about a week away from being cleared for full practices. He's been replaced by senior Wes Tonkery. Junior Nick Kwiatkoski has missed the past few days and has been replaced by redshirt freshman Al-Rasheed Benton. He was a candidate for playing time right up until the start of last season.

"He's a great football player, and we thought that when we recruited him," WVU defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Tony Gibson said. "He came in last year a little overweight and out of shape, so we didn't use him, and I'm glad we didn't. He redshirted and got his body different. He's really coming on."

Holgorsen also said WVU is looking for a cornerback opposite sophomore Daryl Worley. Golson and Kwiatkoski will be back and coaches will have to determine who plays when and where among a pool of players.

"What that rotation is going to be there, I don't think we know that yet," Holgorsen said. "The same thing is happening with the defensive line. We've got a good, solid two-deep on defense. We just don't know who our starters are or what the rotation is going to be yet."

Though Holgorsen said the situation is the similarly promising at running back, there are no real unknowns on offense. Who gets the most playing time will matter more than who starts at running back, but quarterback, offensive line and receiver is set.

Devonte Mathis is behind Mario Alford at one wide receiver spot and Vernon Davis is behind Kevin White at the other. Daikiel Shorts and Jordan Thompson are inside receivers.

The five offensive linemen - left tackle Adam Pankey, left guard Quinton Spain, center Tyler Orlosky, right guard Mark Glowinski and right tackle Marquis Lucas - are established. Holgorsen said Calicchio can play guard and tackle, Stone Underwood can play center and guard and Tony Matteo is the backup center.

For now, senior Paul Millard is leading freshman William Crest to back up starting quarterback Clint Trickett.

"(Millard) is obviously the most game-ready," Holgorsen said. "I haven't made that decision for sure yet. William is a guy that is going to continue to rep and continue to get better. His ceiling is high. How far he can advance I don't know yet, so he will continue to get reps as well."

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HOLGORSEN SAID LINEBACKER Jared Barber, who tore the ACL in his right knee against Texas last season, won't be ready for the start of the season and will miss the opener against Alabama. Barber has a redshirt season to use and Holgorsen said it will be considered.

"It's unfortunate," he said. "He is such a good team leader. He will still have that role as a leader. He gets down there and coaches the heck out of the linebackers. He is a great kid to have around. If he doesn't get back to where he is able to play this year than a year from now he is going to be excited about being a fifth-year senior and being able to graduate with 25 of the guys that he came in with. If he can't go, then he won't."

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THE KICKOFF AND HOLDER positions were jeopardized in most unusual fashion the other day when Michael Molinari injured an ankle so badly that he's now in a walking boot.

"He won a bet, so he did a big chest bump and came down and twisted his ankle," Holgorsen said.

Holgorsen said Molinari will be fine, but for now punter Nick O'Toole is the backup holder and kickoff specialist. Holgorsen wants Molinari to handle kickoffs so O'Toole can focus on punts. Holgorsen said O'Toole might be a better holder, but Molinari has more experience.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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WVU BASKETBALL: Full schedule announced http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM03/140819474 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM03/140819474 Thu, 14 Aug 2014 21:36:33 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The schedule is set for the West Virginia University men's basketball team.

The full 2014-15 slate - including all non-conference and Big 12 Conference games - was released Thursday. The Mountaineers will play 15 regular season games at home, with every Big 12 team visiting Morgantown. In addition to conference play, LSU (SEC/Big 12 Challenge), Virginia Tech, Monmouth, Lafayette, College of Charleston and Wofford will visit Morgantown in non-conference action.

WVU will play three games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The Mountaineers will open the tournament against George Mason before facing either New Mexico or Boston College a day later. On the final day, WVU will face either UConn, Dayton, Texas A&M or College of Charleston.

The Mountaineers will return to Madison Square Garden to participate in the Gotham Classic against N.C. State on Dec. 20. WVU will play two more neutral site games in Charleston against Marshall and VMI. West Virginia will play a road game at Northern Kentucky on Dec. 7.

Even though the television schedule is incomplete and additional games are expected to be televised nationally, the Mountaineers are already slated for 22 regular season games on national television, including all 18 Big 12 Conference games.

"Once again, this year's schedule for coach Huggins and his team is very competitive from start to finish," WVU athletic director Oliver Luck said in a press release. "I'm pleased that we already have 22 games slated for national television, and I'm delighted that we will have 17 regular season games in our state. We all know how exciting Big 12 basketball is, and the trip to Puerto Rico against quality competition and getting back to Madison Square Garden to face N.C. State as well as hosting Virginia Tech and LSU certainly highlight the non-conference schedule."

West Virginia will open the regular season Nov. 14 at home against Monmouth and will open Big 12 action at TCU on Jan. 3. WVU will play its first Big 12 home game against Iowa State on Jan. 10 and will conclude the Big 12 schedule against Oklahoma State at home on March 7.

West Virginia will play one exhibition game against Shepherd on Nov. 9.

"This is another competitive schedule for our guys and also one where our great fans will enjoy seeing our guys at home and on the road with our following of Mountaineer fans," WVU coach Bob Huggins said. "The non-conference schedule presents some interesting matchups for our team and for our fans, and every Big 12 game is a grind every time you take the floor. The Big 12 Conference has done a wonderful job in scheduling with only three weekday conference games while school is in session so our guys won't miss as much class, in addition to the two-game trip to start conference play before we start the spring semester."

The rest of the game times and complete television schedule will be announced at a later date. All dates and times are subject to change for television.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Jean-Felix makes most out of first-team time http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM03/140819475 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM03/140819475 Thu, 14 Aug 2014 21:35:29 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - With starting right tackle Clint Van Horn still nursing an ankle injury, redshirt freshman Sandley Jean-Felix has stepped in with the first team.

The 6-foot-5, 323-pounder from Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., is just happy to be back on the field. After he impressed coaches during the 2013 preseason, he tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee during a game-week practice.

Jean-Felix said Van Horn may be hobbled, but he's been essential to Jean-Felix's growth over a short period of time.

"I was lost before him," Jean-Felix said. "He taught me a lot of things. He's been a great mentor to me on and off the field."

There are several veteran offensive linemen that should take credit for Jean-Felix's development, offensive line coach Alex Mirabal said. With coaches' time with players limited during the offseason, Van Horn, center Chris Jasperse and tackle Sebastian Johansson all took the time to get Jean-Felix up to speed following his injury.

"They're hard on him, now," Mirabal said. "They do not allow him one inch, and it's allowed him to get better faster. Their expectation level for him is a lot greater than they are for himself."

What helps the redshirt freshman is his super-sized wing span.

"Players come up to me all the time after practice and say, 'Man, Sandley, it's hard to get around you,'" Jean-Felix said. "It makes them better and makes me better."

Mirabal said top-end arm length for offensive tackles is 34 inches. Jean-Felix's arms measure 36 inches-plus.

"Length is everything," Mirabal said. "If you make a mistake, length allows you to get that extra shove, that extra push, that extra everything."

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VAN HORN WASN'T the only member of the walking wounded at Thursday's practice. Guards Blake Brooks and Michael Selby sat out another day, while running back Kevin Rodriguez, who hurt his arm in Wednesday's practice, was in a sling. Corner Darryl Roberts was in pads, but was limited. Receiver Justin Hunt was in uniform, but didn't practice, while Brandon Byrd, who suffered a concussion last week, was back on the field, but only in a helmet, jersey and shorts. Herd head coach Doc Holliday said Byrd was a day or two away from returning in full.

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THURSDAY'S PRACTICE was full of power running from 254-pound Devon Johnson and 200-pound Tony Pittman. Holliday said the change of pace in the backfield has been good to see.

"It's a little different than we've been in the past, a little more physical," he said. "Add Byrd, and that's a good combination. I like that we're physical, but you still have (Steward) Butler and Remi (Watson) who, of the have the opportunity to break some things."

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QUARTERBACK RAKEEM CATO was named to his fifth national watch list Thursday. The senior is one of 32 quarterbacks and 18 senior quarterbacks named to the watch list of the Manning Award, given annually by the Sugar Bowl to the nation's top college signal-caller. The award, named in honor of Archie Manning and his sons Peyton and Eli, is the only award that takes bowl performance into account, and is presented annually following the conclusion of bowl season.

Cato already has been named to the watch lists of the Walter Camp, Maxwell, Davey O'Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm awards.

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HOLLIDAY WILL appear at a breakfast on Monday, Aug. 25 at 7 a.m. at First State Bank, 3754 Teays Valley Road in Hurricane. To RSVP, call Doug Wallace, assistant director of development with the Big Green Scholarship Fund at 304-696-5428.

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TICKET SALES for Thursday's "Paint the Capital City Green" event at the Embassy Suites on Court St. close today. Individual tickets are $60 and Marshall faculty and staff can receive a discounted rate of $30 with a limit of two per faculty/staff member.

Holliday and Marshall senior players will attend the indoor pep rally, which will include food and entertainment by the Marshall University pep band and cheerleaders. Call 304-696-7138 or e-mail paintthecapital@marshall.edu to order tickets. The event begins at 6:30 p.m.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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