www.charlestondailymail.com WVU Sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers 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."

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


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.

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.

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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."

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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.

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.

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.

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.

n n n

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.

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


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.

WVU FOOTBALL: Tonkery shines in preseason camp http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140813/DM03/140819600 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140813/DM03/140819600 Wed, 13 Aug 2014 22:29:04 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The 2013 season was something of a mystery for Wes Tonkery.

Like, how did he play the first five games of the season with a shoulder that kept popping out of its socket? It had happened first to the former Bridgeport High star during preseason camp last August, but he decided to play through the predicament and the pain. He figured he's save the surgery to fix it for when the season was over.

Sure, he'd miss spring football, but if he was as good as he hoped to be during the season, he'd secure a grip of a position and wouldn't lose standing on the sideline in the spring.

That plan changed in the sixth game when the linebacker broke his thumb.

How? Nobody knows. He's watched the play on tape and he's found it to be rather ordinary. He remembers the down and the pain, but the rest still escapes him.

"I made a tackle and I got up and it felt like I couldn't move my hand," he said. "I remember being surprised it hurt like it did."

The thumb was broken and the hand was damaged. So much for the left arm. That concern accompanied the already in place for his shaky right shoulder. There was no way Tonkery was going to be able to protect himself so there was no way he was going to play. Thumb surgery would cost him at least six weeks, which was just about all of the rest of the regular season. The Mountaineers didn't play in a bowl game, so once the season ended Tonkery was on an operating table again to fix the shoulder.

That made three surgeries since spring football. Tonkery had a problem with knee meniscus and needed an arthroscopic procedure after the spring game.

Put together, Tonkery was left with the biggest whodunit. What was it like to be healthy and play the game free of physical pain and mental inhibitions?

He's solved that during his final preseason camp with the Mountaineers. The fifth-year senior, who was first-team Class AAA all-state on offense in 2008 and defense in 2009, has been perhaps the top defensive performer so far.

Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, who is also the linebackers coach, said definitively last week Tonkery had been the best on defense for the first half of camp. He hasn't backed down since.

"It helps to hear it," Tonkery said. "It's a validation for the things you've been working on to hear that from the coaches, but I notice I've picked up my play this year."

How this has all happened is almost as inexplicable as what came before it. Gibson is Tonkery's fourth defensive coordinator and third position coach in four years. The defense itself might be more like it was during Tonkery's redshirt and freshman seasons, but he's now a Will linebacker. He played Spur last season, Star the year before and Bandit safety in 2011.

Missing spring football this year following shoulder surgery didn't exactly help him rise up the depth chart, either. Yet even if Tonkery had been healthy and able to be in those 15 practices, he knew he was going to be behind Brandon Golson, only the most physical impressive player on defense.

Now, though, it's Tonkery who is playing and holding off challengers because Golson has been restricted to limited participation in practices as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. Tonkery jumped into the void and occupied it.

"For a while, I didn't know what my role was going to be on defense," Tonkery said.

No longer. Practices move along quickly because the Mountaineers have so many linebackers and have to get them reps, but Tonkery doesn't repeat drills or plays because of errors. He doesn't get lectured on the side. When he watches film and studies what he did against the offense, he spots fewer mistakes than he did before.

"I know I'm doing well this camp," he said. "Being older, you pick up on things faster than you do when you're younger. Physically there's nothing holding me back anymore."

Tonkery, who has one start in his career back in the 2012 Orange Bowl, will likely cede the first-team spot to Golson soon, and Golson is a pass rush specialist who can stay on the field on third down.

Tonkery won't be left without a role on defense, though.

Not now. Not after everything he went through last season and how he's learned to approach everything ever since.

"When the game is temporarily taken from you, you get a whole new perspective on how appreciative you need be," he said. "You understand why you're playing. I think it helped me come back energized. Maybe having time let my body recuperate so I'd be ready to go."

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.

WVU FOOTBALL: Holgorsen clarifies 'lie' statement http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140813/DM03/140819601 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140813/DM03/140819601 Wed, 13 Aug 2014 22:24:21 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Two days after giving what he thought was a harmless and honest response to a question about recruiting advantages gained from the summer's NCAA legislation reform, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen issued a statement Wednesday clarifying the remark.

"In a lighthearted moment, I made a comment in jest that was meant to imply that the unlimited meals will be an important selling point with recruits and that all coaches will have to be salesmen on this matter," Holgorsen wrote. "I further implied that the best way for recruits to understand what really is occurring on a campus is by having them talk to the current student-athletes."

Holgorsen said Monday that coaches "lie a bunch in recruiting," but said establishing a reality for what will be offered is important. He said WVU encourages players to be honest with recruits on visits and for recruits to ask questions as a way to dispel dishonesty.

"I used a poor choice of words in explaining this position," Holgorsen wrote Wednesday.

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RECOVERED from a severe hamstring injury that forced him to redshirt last season and more than 32 months removed from a career-altering ACL tear, running back Dustin Garrison is finally able to tend to his body.

The junior has added seven pounds of muscle since the end of last season and was among the team's most decorated weight room performers for things like his power clean, squat and bench press, but also accountability.

"I've gotten a lot stronger," he said. "I worked out a lot more than I'd been used to, and that's helped me become a more confident blocker. It's been good for not just my body, but my mindset, too. That's something I wanted to do. I've always wanted to help make plays. I want to help spring big runs and do things like that for the offense."

Whether or not it sticks, the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Garrison has practiced at times as a blocker deep on kickoff returns in front of the returners. Blocking is a required strength for running backs, a lesson Dreamius Smith learned last season when he was pulled from the Oklahoma game for costly struggles that occurred after a 75-yard touchdown run.

It might be needed more this season. Garrison and Andrew Buie have both led WVU in rushing before and Wendell Smallwood is prepared to assume a role similar to the one Charles Sims had last season. Smith and Pitt transfer Rushel Shell have both been second-leading rushers and have battles throughout camp for the lead role with the Mountaineers.

WVU has the ability to use more than one of those names at a time and to make use of the three-back formation that's been so effective here before. Since only one can run, the others have to be able to block.

For now, though, it's running a little behind.

"Most of the time we have two fullbacks and a tailback, but right now we're actually doing some more with two tailbacks in there, just because it keeps the defense guessing," Garrison said. "If you have two fullbacks in there, (defenders) know where the ball is going. When you have two (running backs), it's, 'Who gets it? Which way is it going?' It's more confusing when you have two or three tailbacks and any one of them can carry the ball."

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JACOB McCRARY, one of the four players who signed with WVU in February but had yet to enroll, is headed to a junior college.

He said Tuesday night on Twitter he wasn't enrolling with the Mountaineers and then told recruiting services he'd committed to Marshall. On Wednesday, McCrary went on Twitter again and said he'd decided to go to junior college and hopes to eventually play for the Mountaineers. He must earn an associate degree at his junior college before he can enroll at a four-year school.

McCrary is expected to head to Northwestern Mississippi Community College. The three remaining question marks - offensive lineman Dontae Angus, junior college defensive back Jaylon Myers and junior college offensive lineman Justin Scott - have until Aug. 22 to enroll.

n n n

IT'S BEEN a few years since Vernon Davis, Jr., knew his football future. He's changed schools and positions, but he's situated now behind Kevin White as a backup Z receiver.

"I'm going out there to push Kevin every day right now," he said. "I'm not worried about who's going to have a bigger season. We're teammates and we're competing every day to make each other better."

Davis was first-team Class 8A all-state as a cornerback at Miami's Coral Reef High in 2011 and signed with and enrolled at the University of Miami in the 2012 recruiting class. Davis transferred to WVU before school started his freshman year and had to sit out, but the moves kept coming.

He worked with cornerbacks during his season on the sideline and was there again in his first spring with the Mountaineers. One day, he was fielding punts in practice and the catch and the first step gave coach Dana Holgorsen an idea. He decided to move Davis to inside receiver, and Davis caught five passes there and ran four times on sweep plays last season.

He stuck around for spring football, but spent the early part of preseason practice working with inside and outside receivers. Jordan Thompson's consistent performance and Logan Moore's emergence let WVU move the 5-10, 180-pound Davis outside, and he's been a pleasant surprise since.

"Right now, I feel like I'm at home finally at outside receiver," he said. "I think now it's making me more focused on what I'm doing, more focused on my technique just knowing I'm there and I'm not going to change. I can keep building off something I've been working on the next day."

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.

WVU FOOTBALL: Free safety getting back to 'high school mode' http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140812/DM03/140819712 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140812/DM03/140819712 Tue, 12 Aug 2014 21:39:29 -0400 By MIKE CASAZZA DAILY MAIL SPORTSWRITER

MORGANTOWN, W.VA. - Seeing as if West Virginia is at the point of preseason camp where depth charts take form and coaches reach clarity about battles for starting spots, this might not sound like the best news from one half of the competition for the top spot at free safety.

"Right now," sophomore Jeremy Tyler said, "I'm getting back to the high school mode."

It must not be forgotten the Mountaineers open the season against Alabama, about as far from high school as college football can get. And it can't be overlooked that this is actually a good development for Tyler and as big a reason as any that he's right there with freshman Dravon Henry after 13 days of practicing in preseason camp.

"I'm feeling way more comfortable than I was last year," said Tyler, who started the final game of the season and played in seven others last season, his first out of Martin Luther King High in Lithonia, Georgia. "As a true freshman, you just don't want to make any mistakes. You want to go out and have fun, but at the same time, do your job and be clear of mistakes."

Tyler is known to be a big hitter when he's feeling loose, but he was tucked in last season. That's commendable, but not always desirable at the bandit position, which is closer to the action than free safety and asks players to be bigger than they are to make plays near the line of scrimmage.

His caution wasn't a bad habit, and Tyler would play special teams and later replace Darwin Cook when he was injured against Kansas. Tyler jumped in and made three tackles in about a half of football and earned the start for the season finale a week later.

"I knew I was up to the challenge," he said. "I wanted to show it. I knew I was capable of making plays, but I wanted everyone else to see, 'OK, this is a good fit for this team.' "

It was impossible to ignore. Tyler finished with 10 tackles - all unassisted - and 21/2 tackles for a loss, plus a pass breakup and a forced fumble.

"It showed to me that he can handle it," bandit safety Karl Joseph said. "He was a freshman and of course there are going to be mistakes, but it showed he can definitely handle it and make plays."

He's in a different position now, one that's in charge of keeping the roof on the defense, but he's adjusted after an offseason in the weight room and a wealth of reps in spring football and the first two weeks of this camp.

He plays faster and with more authority. Not many days pass by without a coach or a teammate talking about Tyler making a flashy or physical play.

"When you're young and you get out there, the angles are off a little bit just because the speed of the game is so different," said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, who was the safeties coach last season and is in charge of linebackers now. "The other thing is you're not in the weight room pounding weights all winter and getting physically ready to play this game. That has a lot to do with a young kid's confidence.

"That can get broken at any time, and I think Jeremy went through that a little bit a year ago. But he's matured so much and has a better understanding than when he was repping last year with the (third team) and once in a while with the (second team). He's more mature. Physically he looks better. I think all that picked his confidence back up."

Tyler hasn't felt this good since he as in high school two years ago. He knew what he was supposed to do on defense and he felt like he belonged. He was a team captain and ended up Class 5A all-state. Tyler could player quarterback and both safety spots for his team, but there were times he'd play linebacker and cornerback, too. The defense allowed 7.7 points per game and led the way to a 10-0 regular season record and the second round of the state playoffs.

WVU wasn't sure it would get Tyler in the 2013 recruiting class, though. He wasn't committed to any school on national signing day and was considering Vanderbilt, Texas Tech and Ole Miss, which had the added appeal of a top-tier recruiting class. Tyler, considered a top 50 safety nationally, instead picked the Mountaineers early on signing day based on a strong relationship with since departed running backs coach Robert Gillespie.

Now Tyler is working with another elite recruit. Henry was arguably the prize of the 2014 recruiting class who made Pennsylvania's Class 2A all-state at different positions in 2013 and 2013. Coach Dana Holgorsen said Monday Henry and quarterback William Crest are the only freshman right now who won't redshirt. Tyler knows what that takes, and he sees it in Henry.

"I'll help him out on a couple plays, help him out with a couple of the schemes we run, but he's a mature guy already," Tyler said. "He picks up stuff really fast."

No matter the starter, both Henry and Tyler, who is about 20 pounds heavier, will play and man a key role for WVU's redesigned defense.

"They're kind of similar," Gibson said. "They have pretty good cover skills. They're both not scared to hit people. They'll both run the alley and do some good things. They've both flashed at certain times in camp and shown the ability to make some plays.

"We'll keep bringing both of them along because we need both of them to play. We're not going to say, 'Hey, you're the starter, you're going to play 100 snaps.' That's unrealistic. They're both going to play and switch off without dropping off."

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.

WVU FOOTBALL: Dillon mum on sprained ankle http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140812/DM03/140819718 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140812/DM03/140819718 Tue, 12 Aug 2014 21:26:27 -0400 By Mike Casazza

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - K.J. Dillon declines to say what happened on a trip back to home in Florida that left him with a sprained ankle, but the junior safety also stops short of saying it did anything more than keep him out of practice until this week.

West Virginia started preseason practice July 31 and Dillon is only now cleared for full participation.

"It slowed me down for about a week or two and I was out for a little bit, but not that I'm back I can leave that in the past and keep working on getting it better," Dillon said. "There's a little rust, but practicing will take care of it."

Dillon's spot in practice went to Dayron Wilson, a junior college transfer who sat out last season and went on scholarship earlier this month, and Pitt transfer Cullen Christian. There's little doubt Dillon, who made 28 tackles in nine games last year, is the right fit for the Spur position.

"K.J. Dillon is the key to the defense. I mean, he's special," said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, who coaches the linebackers now and had safeties last season. "Losing him last year caused us more issues than any other injury we had. We could play man with him. We could blitz with him. He's big enough to play the run and long enough to cover the pass. Losing that guy killed us. He's the key to what we want to do right now. It's a perfect position for him."

Dillon was first injured against Oklahoma in the second week and missed the following game against Georgia State. The more serious incident was when Dillon, a diabetic, was hospitalized for severe dehydration after the loss to Texas. His body shut down and Dillon missed the final two games of the season. The lineups on defense were a mess without Dillon plus all the other players who were lost to season-ending injuries by that point of the season.

Dillon, who was hospitalized early in the 2012 season, said he's on a strict diet now and has a cap on the carbohydrates he consumes every day so that he can control his blood sugar.

"It's not a dramatic change," he said. "When you look at it, do you want to play or do you want to sit? Do you want to live or do you want to die? You've just got to take care of yourself and do what you've got to do."

n n n

A BIG part of Dillon's value is that he can stay on the field on third down, which helps that particular package feature one of the defense's best overall players instead of coming off the field for someone who wasn't quite good enough to start.

The Mountaineers will still make substitutions on third down and incorporate even more players who they either haven't had yet or are still getting to know.

Gibson said Will linebacker Brandon Golson, who is still restricted to limited participation after offseason shoulder surgery, Sam linebacker Edward Muldrow, a junior college transfer who was with the Mountaineers in the spring, and defensive end Shaq Riddick, a postgraduate transfer who was All-America in 2013 at Gardner-Webb, should be part of that personnel grouping.

"Those are three guys we feel are going to be good matchups for us to be able to get after the quarterback," Gibson said. "Those guys all have a special knack. Muldrow can run off the edge and be physical. Same thing with Golson. He's very gifted athletically and understands how to get to the quarterback. Riddick, same goes for him. I like those three guys. If we don't have those three in there, something's wrong."

n n n

THE 6-foot-6, 240-pound Riddick has established himself quickly. He didn't graduate from Gardner-Webb until just before the start of camp so he wasn't allowed to participate in WVU's summer workouts. Though he'd been on campus and working out on his own, his first real day with the team was the first day of camp.

But the Mountaineers didn't really know about Riddick until May.

"I got a phone call saying, 'Hey, this kid is leaving and he's a 6-6 defensive end,' " Gibson remembered. "I got the film sent to me and watched it on my cell phone. I was in Florida recruiting and I watched about eight to 10 plays and said, 'We need to get this guy,' and we went to work on it."

Gibson said the early part of Riddick's highlight tape was a series of plays from the loss to Marshall. Riddick had seven tackles, two sacks and three tackles for a loss. He ended up with 81/2 sacks and hasn't shown anything different with the Mountaineers.

"He's special as far as that's concerned," Gibson said. "Is he going to be a guy who beats double teams and comes through the gap to stop the run every snap? No, but we understand his limitations with that."

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.

WVU FOOTBALL: Crest, Henry are top candidates to play as true freshmen http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140811/DM03/140819827 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140811/DM03/140819827 Mon, 11 Aug 2014 22:04:14 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia began the final week of preseason football camp a day later than expected. Coach Dana Holgorsen gave the Mountaineers the day off Sunday and then practiced twice Monday.

The annual Fan Day for the public to get pictures and autographs was Sunday and Holgorsen said the team was "zapped" after that and a week's worth of productive practices before it.

"I was a nice guy and let them go home early to get some rest," Holgorsen said.

The final week is most important for WVU as a roster begins to take shape and the coaches begin to narrow down who they'll move forward with as they prepare for the season-opening game against Alabama. Holgorsen said he believes quarterback William Crest and safety Dravon Henry are the only true freshmen who will avoid a redshirt year.

"The rest right now would be pretty good redshirt candidates, which is a good position," Holgorsen said. "That's where you want to be. There are probably 13 or 14 of them who are going to be pretty good candidates. I don't think we'll need those bodies."

Henry could start at free safety, and though Clint Trickett is the team's starting quarterback, Crest has a chance to be a factor, if not on offense, then on punt returns.

"He is in the mix," Holgorsen said. "He's got great ball skills. It's going to depend on what his role is offensively, which we haven't figured out yet."

n n n

INCLUDED WITH THE redshirt candidates would be running back Dontae Thomas-Williams. The 6-foot, 225-pound Thomas-Williams, who rushed for 2,400 yards and 24 touchdowns as a high school senior in Durham, North Carolina, happens to be in the deepest position on the roster.

Holgorsen said WVU will continue to evaluate Thomas-Williams, who has remained in the picture despite the five other players getting snaps in practice.

"He's coming along," running backs coach JaJuan Seider said. "There's no pressure on him to go out there and get reps every day. He's learning, and the good thing about him is he's not making the same mistakes he did the day before. That's what I see.

"The thing I like most about Dontae is he cares. You see him and William Crest, you're talking about kids who care, who want to be good, who sometimes you've got to pick up because there are times they get down on themselves when they make a mistake. That doesn't bother me at all. That's passion. That's a kid who wants to get better."

It's a meaningful week as well for Dreamius Smith, though for different reasons. Holgorsen said Monday Pitt transfer Rushel Shell has settled in and is taking off after sitting out last season.

"You can see why the hype is there," said Holgorsen, who also touted Dustin Garrison's performance throughout camp.

Smith, though, has been watched closely and used carefully in camp. Holgorsen said the second practice Monday would feature Smith to see if he can handle a larger role.

"It's not really his fault," Holgorsen said. "We just haven't gotten him in there much. He's coming back from a knee - he had a little knee thing and had (an arthroscopic procedure) about a month-and-a-half, maybe a month ago. We kind of did this on purpose. We wanted to feed the other guys early and let him get his legs underneath him."

n n n

THE MOUNTAINEERS ARE similarly stocked with bigger bodies in the backfield who can play the hybrid fullback/tight end spot. George Washington's Cody Clay, junior Garrett Hope, Vanderbilt transfer Darien Bryant and redshirt freshman Eli Wellman also give Holgorsen play-calling flexibility.

He said Wellman, who ran for 1,676 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior at Spring Valley High School, was used as a tailback in practice last weekend.

"He looked good doing it," Holgorsen said. "He's going to be able to do that. He's not just a meathead fullback/tight end guy who doesn't have skills. Cody and Garrett have developed their receiving skills. I don't think I can say that about Eli at this point, but those guys have developed tight end receiving skills to where I think they're going to be a viable option to throw them the ball down the field. Eli's a little different. He's more of a skilled back."

n n n

CAMP BEGAN WITH questions about who'll play inside receiver with and behind Daikiel Shorts, and that took a bad turn with news that one candidate, redshirt freshman Jacky Marcellus, would miss the season with a knee injury.

Camp is closing with answers there and questions at wide receiver.

Holgorsen said Logan Moore, who competed for the quarterback spot in the spring, has earned a spot at inside receiver and Jordan Thompson has been "phenomenal" so far.

"He may be turning a corner toward making plays," Holgorsen said.

Right now, there are only names behind wide receivers Mario Alford and Kevin White. Holgorsen said he'd like to get two backups out of junior K.J. Myers, sophomores Vernon Davis and Devonte Mathis and redshirt freshman Shelton Gibson and their 25 career receptions.

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

WVU FOOTBALL: Early downs hurt Mountaineers last season http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140810/DM03/140819911 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140810/DM03/140819911 Sun, 10 Aug 2014 21:34:00 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There are ways to describe West Virginia's offense in 2013. Shannon Dawson opts for the easiest.

"Bad," the WVU offensive coordinator said.

There are ways to explain that bad offense after a season where many things went wrong. The most comprehensive is to point at what the Mountaineers did on third down. They only converted 31.89 percent of the time, which ranked No. 116 out of 124 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

Simply put, WVU coach Dana Holgorsen's touted offense couldn't extend drives and stay on the field to do the damage his friends and foes had come to expect. The Mountaineers had chances, too, with 185 third downs. That's a lot in 12 games and the 16 per game was the 18th-highest total in the country.

Put together, WVU had a lot of empty drives and did a lot of punting.

"That's bad," Dawson said. "It means you're not very good on first and second down."

He's making a point, not a joke.

Out of 185 third downs last season, WVU needed seven or more yards for the first down 108 times. The average distance needed on third down was just shy of eight yards. The Mountaineers averaged only 5.3 yards per play last season and converted just 25 of the 108 third-and-longs.

The reason the Mountaineers found trouble so often on third down was because they misused first and second down.

"Second down is when you need to start thinking," Dawson said. "Second and 10 is not a bad situation. If you're sitting there and it's first and 10 and they give you a post route, yeah, take a shot. If it doesn't work, second and 10 is not bad if you have the right mentality to get to a manageable third down. You don't want third and 10."

Dawson said the offense didn't manage the game the right way last season. Too often he saw players try and fail to get a first down on second and long when he would have preferred to see them set up a makeable third down.

Second down was just as big of a problem as third down. The Mountaineers needed 10 or more yards on 56 of the 108 third-and-longs and only got the first down 10 times.

"A lot of it was not knowing where to go with the ball," Dawson said. "If you sit and watch the tape, typically there was a place to go with the ball. We weren't finding those places last year."

That was an every-down ordeal for the Mountaineers, and though Dawson knows "people get tired of hearing it," the inexperience and instability at quarterback was a culprit. The quarterback wasn't alone, though, and whoever was under center didn't get a lot of help from the many new and young players surrounding him.

Holgorsen said he and his assistants spent much of the season "searching and searching and changing and changing" to fit the offense around the players and their capabilities. Constantly encountering third-and-long made for even more alterations.

"You can probably get away from what you're good at and what you've been good at in the past, and you try to manipulate ways to do things instead of letting things happen naturally," Dawson said.

WVU is back to what it's been before under Holgorsen because he and Dawson have so many players who know the offense. The Mountaineers understand not only how to execute plays, but how one play is linked to another. A smart play on second down can set up an easier third down and the offense can stay on the field and score more points.

WVU works on third downs in practice by starting on second down. The coaches put the players into random second-down situations and give them two downs to get the first down.

It's merely one way to fix the problem, and it might not be the best way or even the one the Mountaineers feel so confident about this season.

"In my opinion, it fixes itself," Dawson said. "I'm not saying we don't sit here and coach it or that we don't stress it, but I think you can overstress it. There are certain problems that fix themselves. With having the same people back, being more efficient, understanding our offense, typically that fixes itself.

"It's something you still talk about with the quarterback and the position guys, but I think quarterback play is going to help that (problem) having a guy now with 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.

Chuck McGill: What a rush - running backs position room has depth, versatility http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140810/DM03/140819912 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140810/DM03/140819912 Sun, 10 Aug 2014 21:31:18 -0400 MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Ever been handed a grocery store list and pushed a cart up and down every aisle to get something for each family member?

West Virginia assistant football coach JaJuan Seider has been a college quarterback, high school head coach and running backs coach. He's perhaps best known for his recruiting acumen, and when he goes shopping for recruits, he crosses off every item on the list and picks up a few goodies for himself, too.

That's only natural.

"I'm going to make sure my room is good," said the 37-year-old Seider, who is in his second season coaching the running backs at WVU. "You're only as good as the guys you got in your room. That's what makes you a good coach. It ain't about what you do and what you put on that board, it's about the players around you."

Seider has stockpiled.

The Mountaineers return 2011's leading rusher, Dustin Garrison, and 2012's leading rusher, Andrew Buie. Senior Dreamius Smith and sophomore Wendell Smallwood are the top two returning rushers, while sophomore Pitt transfer Rushel Shell and true freshman Dontae Thomas-Williams are the most decorated recruits in the running backs room.

Those six have combined for 699 carries, 3,347 yards and 26 touchdowns in college. And, yet, they've got a combined 15 years of eligibility left between them.

Good lookin' out, JaJuan.

"That's one of the biggest things Dana had lacking early - just not a lot of depth in that room," Seider said of fourth-year WVU coach Dana Holgorsen. "There were a couple games when he said he first got here and he was down to nobody. He was down to a fullback playing tailback.

"Guys are going to get banged up. The Big 12 Conference is very physical, so you need a plethora of guys and not have to change what you're doing when somebody goes down."

So, the Mountaineers are getting creative in how to use each back, keep them fresh and flummox the defense. The "20" personnel - that's two backs and no tight ends - and the versatility of the six traditional running backs could get as many as three backs on the field at the same time.

"It wouldn't surprise me at all," Smith said of that possibility.

Hypothetically, Smith (5-foot-11, 216 pounds) and Shell (6-0, 210) could line up in the backfield with Smallwood (5-11, 200) in the slot on one play, and then Smallwood could shift to the backfield on the next play to give WVU a three-back look without changing personnel.

They can all carry the ball, obviously, but to stay on the field they'll need to block and catch passes, too.

Seider isn't concerned about the depth chart or how he'll keep as many as six running backs - depending on if prized recruit Thomas-Williams (6-0, 221) redshirts or not - touches.

"You worry about that when the season starts," Seider said. "We always figure it out. We played three or four guys last year a majority of the games. If a guy gets hot, you don't take the hot guy out. When we get back to playing 80, 90 snaps a game, it takes care of itself. When you're playing 50, 60 snaps a game, then you've got issues getting guys carries."

Garrison, a 5-9, 192-pound junior who rushed for 742 yards and six touchdowns in 2011, said he has never been involved with a position room as deep as the one he's in now.

"No, never, not at all," Garrison said. "Right now we have five or six backs in there who, at the snap of a finger, can make a play. It's important the reps you do get you make the most of them because you know there's not going to be a lot of reps to go around with that depth."

The upside for backs starved for carries is the increased chance to keep each of them fresh. That'll pay dividends at the end of long drives or late in games when opposing defenses are gassed.

There's more selflessness than selfishness in this position room.

"We feed off each other," Smith said.

He knows, too, that the best player will play. That's a carrot dangled in front of the fifth and sixth guys in the pecking order - especially a tightly bunched order - that playing time and production court each other.

"If you've got that hot hand, you're breaking runs, you're blocking, you're catching swing passes, they are going to keep you in," said Smith, who is the only senior in the group. "They see you got the momentum so they don't want to take that away from you."

And if Smith gets on the field this fall and is flanked by another running back in the backfield and sees another one of his position-mates in the slot ready to catch passes, well, he knows what's next.

"I know something good is going to happen," Smith said.

COLLEGE ATHLETICS: Judge rules against NCAA in O'Bannon case http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140808/DM03/140809289 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140808/DM03/140809289 Fri, 8 Aug 2014 23:31:25 -0400


College football and basketball players could be in line for paydays worth thousands of dollars once they leave school after a landmark ruling Friday that may change the way the NCAA does business.

A federal judge ruled that the NCAA can't stop players from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses, striking down NCAA regulations that prohibit them from getting anything other than scholarships and the cost of attendance at schools.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, California, ruled in favor of former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon and 19 others in a lawsuit that challenged the NCAA's regulation of college athletics on antitrust grounds. The injunction she issued allows players at big schools to have money generated by television contracts put into a trust fund to pay them when they leave.

In a partial victory for the NCAA, though, Wilken said the body that governs college athletics could set a cap on the money paid to athletes, as long as it allows at least $5,000 per athlete per year of competition. Individual schools could offer less money, she said, but only if they don't unlawfully conspire among themselves to set those amounts.

That means FBS football players and Division I basketball players who are on rosters for four years could potentially get around $20,000 when they leave school. Wilken said she set the $5,000 annual threshold to balance the NCAA's fears about huge payments to players.

"The NCAA's witnesses stated that their concerns about student-athlete compensation would be minimized or negated if compensation was capped at a few thousand dollars per year," Wilken wrote.

The NCAA said it disagreed with the decision, but was still reviewing it.

But Sonny Vaccaro, the former athletic shoe representative who recruited O'Bannon to launch the suit, said it was a huge win for college athletes yet to come.

"The kids who are going to benefit from this are kids who don't even know what we did today," Vaccaro said. "It may only be $5,000 but it's $5,000 more than they get now."

O'Bannon issued a statement calling the decision "a game changer" and precisely what he was after when he joined the suit.

"I just wanted to right a wrong," O'Bannon said. "It is only fair that your own name, image and likeness belong to you, regardless of your definition of amateurism. Judge Wilken's ruling ensures that basic principle shall apply to all participants in college athletics."

The ruling comes after a five-year battle by O'Bannon and others on behalf of college athletes to receive a share of the billions of dollars generated by college athletics by huge television contracts. O'Bannon, who was MVP of the 1995 UCLA national championship basketball team, said he signed on as lead plaintiff after seeing his image in a video game authorized by the NCAA that he was not paid for.

Any payments to athletes would not be immediate. The ruling said regulations on pay will not take effect until the start of the next FBS football and Division I basketball recruiting cycle. Wilken said they will not affect any prospective recruits before July 1, 2016. The NCAA could also appeal, and has said previously that it would take the issue all the way to the Supreme Court.

Former athletes will not be paid, because they gave up their right to damages in a pre-trial move so the case would be heard by a judge, not a jury.

As part of her ruling, Wilken rejected both the NCAA's definition of amateurism and its justification for not paying players. But she did not prohibit the NCAA from enforcing all of its other rules and regulations and said that some restrictions on paying players may still serve a limited purpose if they are necessary to maintain the popularity of major college football and basketball.

"The big picture is the NCAA lost the definition of amateurism it has been pushing for years," said Michael Carrier, a Rutgers law professor and antitrust expert.

Wilken was not asked to rule on the fairness of a system that pays almost everyone but the athletes themselves. Instead, the case was centered on federal antitrust law and whether the prohibition against paying players promotes the game of college football and does not restrain competition in the marketplace.

During a three-week trial in June, attorneys for the NCAA said moving away from the concept of amateurism where players participated for the love of the game would drive spectators away from college sports and would upset the competitive balance among schools and conferences.

Several players testified during the trial that they viewed playing sports as their main occupation in college, saying the many hours they had to devote to the sport made it difficult - if not impossible - to function like regular students.

"I was an athlete masquerading as a student," O'Bannon said at trial. "I was there strictly to play basketball. I did basically the minimum to make sure I kept my eligibility academically so I could continue to play."

Witnesses called by the NCAA spoke of the education provided to athletes as payment for their services and said the college model has functioned well for more than a century. They contended that paying players would make college sports less popular and could force schools to cut other programs funded by the hundreds of millions of dollars taken in by big-time athletics.

The lawsuit was part of a tide of pressure on the NCAA to change the amateur model. Football players at Northwestern University have pushed to be allowed to unionize, and other lawsuits have claimed that athletes have a right to better compensation. This week, the NCAA's board voted to allow the five wealthiest conferences in the country to set their own rules, paving the way for the 65 schools in those conferences to potentially offer richer scholarships and health benefits to players.

Carrier said the outcome might not be scary at all because the money may not be huge and will be paid only after a player's career is over.

"We'll soon see that this isn't the end of the world as we know it," Carrier said.

"The irony of this is that a lot of the other changes in college sports going on were made because of this impending ruling."

WVU FOOTBALL: As camp progresses, Holgorsen eyes mental toughness http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140807/DM03/140809381 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140807/DM03/140809381 Thu, 7 Aug 2014 21:40:17 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia entered the second week of preseason practice Thursday with a lighter workout that didn't feature full pads or heavy hitting. The Mountaineers had gone full-contact with full pads the previous three days.

WVU coach Dana Holgorsen was still able to put his eyes on specific things he has to see as he moves the team closer to the end of camp a week from Saturday.

"Guys are starting to get really sore," he said. "That's just camp. You have to go through it. We're trying to identify guys who can maintain mental toughness when they're tired and mental toughness when they're sore, when they're hurting and when it's hot. That's an evaluation process that we are in the middle of, and it will continue for the next week-and-a-half to start identifying depth charts, who we can count on and who are the main guys."

This is a trying time every year. There's always a distinct excitement when the waiting ends and camps begins. Once camp is over, the Mountaineers will spend pretty much the entire next two weeks preparing for Alabama and the season-opening Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. The arrival of different practices and the prospect of an approaching game, let alone one as big as the one in the Georgia Dome on Aug. 30, always changes the mood of the players and the practices.

In between is this stretch of practices that are tricky to navigate, though critical to endure.

"My favorite part of the day is when we got out there at 4:30 p.m., when it's typically the hottest," Holgorsen said. "We go out there when they've been inside for three hours, and it's hot. They're sore. Who can rev the engines up and get going? That's what I look forward to every day. Who can get going and do it?"

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THE MOUNTAINEERS have work to do to assemble depth charts. They have a quarterback, five offensive linemen and three receivers seemingly locked into starting spots. They have six running backs and a need to establish an order and make decisions about playing time, roles and, in the case of freshman Dontae Thomas-Williams, a redshirt. Holgorsen said WVU needs three reserve linemen and two reserve wide receivers who can join Jordan Thompson in backup roles.

Holgorsen said the junior inside receiver, who's outside the season before, has never been better at WVU.

"I feel silly saying that since he's been Mr. Camp and Mr. Spring guy," Holgorsen said. "He is playing at a different level than he has. He's been great."

Defensively, WVU is sorting out options at free safety and among the linebacker and defensive end positions. While fortunate to be so deep at linebacker and to be deeper at defensive end, the coaches and players there need more time to set an order.

"It's probably a little trickier because we have more bodies, more guys who we're able to identify who does what right and who doesn't," Holgorsen said. "It's a constant evaluation. To set a depth chart doesn't mean anything is set in stone for the rest of the year, as we all know. We have harped a lot on building depth, which we are."

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ONE PLAYER SETTLING in of late who could make use of this last stretch of camp is linebacker Edward Muldrow. The junior college transfer, who was with WVU in the spring after making 56 tackles and sacking the quarterback 41/2 times in his second season at Mississippi's Copiah-Lincoln Community College, is pushing junior Isaiah Bruce at the strong side linebacker position.  

"He's twitchy, he's fast, he's physical and he's motivated, but he's out of control," Holgorsen said. "He's learning what to do at times. He's a prime example of when things get hard - because of fatigue, because of soreness or because of emotion - he's got to be able to control all of that stuff.

Muldrow practiced with the first-team defense Wednesday and did some things well, but "blew some gaskets, too," Holgorsen said.

"It's a constant process of continuing to teach him what to do, not only when things are good," he said. "Anyone can run fast and hit hard when things are good, but if things are not so good, you have to be able to be under control both mentally and physically."

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WHAT SEEMED LIKE the silliest story line so far suddenly seems somewhat serious. Holgorsen did not rule out the possibility freshman quarterback William Crest will returns punts. Crest, who's impressed Holgorsen enough that Holgorsen is considering taking a package of plays tailored to Crest's strengths into the season, has fielded and returned punts throughout camp.

"He used to do it in high school just to kind of stay in shape," Holgorsen said. "The first practice, I looked down there and he was catching punts. I was watching him, and I'll be darned if it didn't look pretty good. We need a punt returner so let's see what you can do. He likes doing it, and so I said go do it.

"Would it be an option if he is the best one? Absolutely. If he was our starting, every-down quarterback, that'd be pretty silly."

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.

WVU FOOTBALL: Howard trims down, finds home on defensive line http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140807/DM03/140809382 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140807/DM03/140809382 Thu, 7 Aug 2014 21:39:42 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - This was exactly what ought to be expected from a young football player meeting with reporters for the first time at the college level.

Sophomore Darrien Howard, a nose guard at West Virginia, where first-year players are not allowed to talk to the media, was careful with his words. He was understandably grateful for something he was given, but clearly aware something was taken from him.

Howard played as a true freshman last season, but not until the eighth game of the season and for only a couple plays overall.

"I'm glad I played - you always like playing - but at the same time, a redshirt would have helped me a lot coming in," he said. "But at the same time, you could never be really mad at getting playing time."

Understand the hesitation to be so bold there, to make a first impression that could be interpreted as being too strong in the head coach's office.

And then understand that head coach not only recognizes the young defensive lineman's point, but he agrees with it.

"It's a shame that he played last year," WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. "He should not have played last year. It's a shame he played the 20 or so snaps he did."

In so many ways, Howard, a statewide star over three seasons at Chaminade-Julienne High in Dayton, Ohio, never had a chance last season. It started before Christian Brown, the backup nose guard behind Shaq Rowell, was hurt in a weight room accident between the fourth and fifth games of the season. The Mountaineers tried a few different things to spell Rowell and solidify what was already a thin defensive line before pulling the trigger on Howard after two-thirds of the season.

But Howard was already playing form behind. He missed all of preseason camp last season with an NCAA Eligibity Center issue and didn't enroll until the first week of classes. Howard, a 265-pound linebacker in high school, said he checked in at 309 pounds.

The Mountaineers weren't entirely unaware of that. They knew Howard severely sprained his left ankle in the first game of his senior season and didn't recover until after the season ended.

"I missed one game and I never gave it time to fully heal until after the season," he said. "It was hard to keep (weight) down when I was hurt because I wasn't really running as much and I couldn't do any conditioning. It was more or less working on upper body things."

WVU nevertheless liked the idea of Howard on the line. He played fullback and tight end in high school and proved that he could move quickly. WVU's coaches decided to move him from linebacker to the line and rely on his quickness and mobility to chase the ball.

That's not unusual, though linebackers who become defensive linemen typically play defensive end, and defensive line coach Tom Bradley believes a defense is at its best with big safeties who become linebackers and big linebackers who become defensive linemen. Whether inside or outside, Howard was going to need time, and in an ideal situation he'd be debuting this season.

Howard instead made his debut on a first down play in the second quarter in Manhattan, Kansas, and made the tackle. He shot through his gap and diagnosed a quarterback run, just like he'd learned from film. The quarterback broke to the right and got inside Howard, but Howard retraced his steps and made the play, which is pretty much what his coaches envisioned when they made the switch.

"That was nice," Howard said. "I was anxious, excited really, but I wasn't too nervous. At that point in time, I knew what I was doing. I'd been around a while, so I did what I was supposed to do to make a play."

He'd play sparingly in the next two games, miss the loss to Kansas and then return for the season-ending triple overtime loss to Iowa State. Howard made only five more tackles and just three on how own after the one play in his first game.

Now the Big Bear, as Bradley likes to call Howard, is looking at a larger roll with a smaller frame. He's down to 285 pounds and is backing up junior Kyle Rose, who is new to the position after playing defensive end previously. Brown has been moved to defensive end.

WVU has greater depth at defensive end with Brown moving, Noble Nwachukwu, Dontrill Hyman and Eric Kinsey returning and FCS All-American Shaquille Riddick joining the team. The middle is thin again, though, and behind Howard is 340-pound converted offensive lineman Brandon Jackson and no one else with experience.

Then again, experience isn't a necessity since Rose is new to the position and Howard ought to be, too.

"He should be a redshirt freshman in his first camp right now," Holgorsen said. "To have expectations when he hasn't been in camp before is probably still not fair. I see him and he's a good kid and he's trying hard, but he's still a ways away. He's got to keep progressing."

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.

WVU FOOTBALL: White wants to be 'the guy' at receiver http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140806/DM03/140809473 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140806/DM03/140809473 Wed, 6 Aug 2014 22:15:30 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - To be fair, Clint Trickett asked for this.

It was West Virginia's quarterback who came up with clever way to spend more time with his big receiver, Kevin White. Trickett was the one who said he'd drive 20 or so minutes out of his way after a brief getaway in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to Allentown, where he'd pick up White and take him back to campus. He knew they'd be in the car for about five hours and they could make the time count.

"I got to know Clint outside of football," White said. "We talked about life stuff. It helped us bond and get to know each other better."

They talked football, too, and went over the 2013 season, how they fared in their first year with the Mountaineers, what they wanted to change as seniors this fall. They got to know what they thought of one another, of strengths and weaknesses, of what one could do to make the other better.

"He wants to be the guy all the time, and I think he can be, I think he will be and I think he has been based on what I've seen so far," Trickett said.

Granted, White, now in his second season after transferring from Lackawanna (Pa.) College, has unusual ways of showing it.

That one car ride started White's engine before preseason camp began and it hasn't slowed yet. When Saturday's practice ended and Trickett saw he was just a few minutes away from putting an ice pack on that surgically repaired shoulder, White saw no such ending.

"Hey, man," he said. "Want to work on some things?"

"Kevin, dude, it's the third day of practice," Trickett said. "Just relax. You're going to be fine."

White is this way now because of how he treated the offseason, how he made use of that one trip with Trickett or the many trips to the top of Law School Hill. Nobody got to the top as quickly and as easily as White.

That's an achievement on its own, but consider that the Mountaineers didn't run the hill last summer. It was new to White this year and he handled it.

"Mindset," he said. "I'd just think of stuff that makes me mad, things that push me, and then I'd run up it."

He'd stand at the bottom and stare at the top, a place so high, so far away they say the vegetation changes, the air is thinner and on some days the grass is frosted. Again and again he'd tell himself he wouldn't let what happened in 2013 happen in 2014.

"I wouldn't say my numbers were terrible," said White, who started nine times in 11 games and had 35 receptions for 507 yards and five touchdowns. "But I didn't play like I know how I can play. I have big goals for this season, so I'd think about all that stuff."

The goals aren't merely numbers. They're roles, too. White wants to be the best receiver on the team. He wants to be Trickett's trusted target on quick throws and deep ones, on third down and in the red zone. He wants to set a course and lead the way for a group of receivers that didn't have someone providing directions last season.

There was meaning behind those ascents up the hill and White knows it wouldn't have been the same a year ago, when he just wasn't as willing to stand out.

"I would have stayed in the pack, not wanted to show off," he said. "Maybe 'show off' isn't the right way to put it, but I wouldn't want to beat everybody and make it look easy. I would have tried to stay with everyone else."

Now, whether on the hill, on the field or after practice, he wants people to follow him. That explains something else people hadn't seen from White.

Monday's practice was the first in pads and with contact, which meant the first day with the Oklahoma drill. A quarterback hands off to a teammate and he has to get a block from a teammate battling a defender, all within a small area confined by orange cones.

White matched up with preseason all-Big 12 safety Karl Joseph. White powered Joseph out of the way and then barked and boasted about how easy it was and how he'd do it to whoever the defense lined up across from him.

It was riveting, not only because a force like Joseph was just tossed to the side, but because White, the same player who wouldn't dare run past teammates on the way to the top of the hill, confessed he really hadn't acted out like that before.

But that was then and this is a time for change.

"I wouldn't have done that last year either because I didn't know everyone and I didn't want to come off cocky and arrogant," he said. "I wouldn't have talked like that, but now, I can do that. The guys behind me look to me as a leader."

A few moments later, receiver Lamar Parker was lined up across fellow freshman Daejuan Funderburk and Parker dismissed the safety as Parker's teammates on offense lost their minds.

"We just need someone to set the tempo," White said. "I feel like I do it, they'll follow."

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

WVU FOOTBALL: Kicker Lambert draws praise from special teams coach http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140806/DM03/140809474 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140806/DM03/140809474 Wed, 6 Aug 2014 22:12:17 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Under other circumstances, a special teams coordinator calling his placekicker a "flatliner" would suggest that kid's time spent kicking for that coach had met its death. When Joe DeForest describes Josh Lambert that way, he means it in the best way possible.

"If you watch him kick a game-winning field goal and watch him miss a field goal, you would not know what the difference was," DeForest said. "He reacts the same way."

And that's why DeForest eventually realized something was wrong with Lambert last season as the then-redshirt freshman closed a season that saw him make 17 of 23 field goals, but go 1 for 5 from 50 yards or longer. Lambert was wincing after practice kicks.

"He had a butt strain and a groin (injury)," DeForest said. "That whole tendon that goes up there was hurting. We had to shelve him the last part of the year during the week."

Whether he's a kicker or not, Lambert is a physical specimen. He's 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds, which is the same size as running back Dreamius Smith. Lambert bench presses 375 pounds in workouts and has put 400 in the air before, DeForest said, because Lambert admires large NFL kicker Sebastian Janikowski.

DeForest said WVU has to be careful Lambert doesn't get too big or too tight and risk pulling or straining anything. He was assigned yoga during the summer to work on core strength and flexibility. When the kickers are inactive during practice, Lambert is with the strength and conditioning coaches working on stretches and staying loose.

DeForest said he has to do some things differently, too.

"Josh has a habit of really overworking," DeForest said. "You love for guys to do that, but not at that position. He warms up too much and it's hard to control him. 'Just stop. Get loose by stretching, running, riding a bike. Don't get loose banging a ball and hurt yourself.'

"We have a much better warmup routine now than last year, and that was me getting to know him and him getting to know his body."

DeForest said Lambert is free to try 60-yard field goals in practice and that he makes them consistently.

"I don't want to say with ease," DeForest said, "but they're clearing by four or five yards."

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FRESHMAN QUARTERBACK William Crest continues to field and return punts in practice. The Mountaineers aren't discussing it in great detail, but DeForest said Monday that Crest and receivers Mario Alford and Jordan Thompson are the team's top three returners.

WVU seems to take offense to the suggestion this is a gimmick. Coaches stress there's value in having someone like Crest involved in practice and getting used to the speed at this level. Yet there's a danger involved, too, especially for someone who could be the backup quarterback and who coach Dana Hogorsen said Monday might have a package tailored to his strengths for the season.

DeForest deferred the decision-making to Holgorsen, but tried to highlight the similarities between playing quarterback and returning punts and how the experience can help Crest and the Mountaineers.

"There's an inherent risk, but there's also a confidence and a fear factor, if you will," DeForest said. "If I'm back there as a quarterback with my back to a guy coming at me, it's no different than a guy coming at my face. You still have to exude confidence. 'I can field this ball and go.' Any time you're in that situation, that helps, and, again, it gives us another opportunity to get the ball in the hands of a good athlete."

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ASSISTANT COACH Damon Cogdell is no longer working with linebackers. The former WVU linebacker and head coach at Florida's Miramar High School is now with assistant coach Tom Bradley and the defensive line. Cogdell works with the defensive ends.

"We made the change about four weeks ago, just trying to put people in the right spots to be helpful for the team," Cogdell said. "Now we've got two guys with the linebackers and two guys with the defensive line down there. The nose and the end are two different positions."

The second linebacker coach with defensive coordinator Tony Gibson is graduate assistant Anthony Leonard, who isn't part of the actual coaching staff. The former WVU linebacker was recruited out of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, by Gibson and had been the defensive line coach at West Virginia Wesleyan, where Gibson's son is an offensive lineman.

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GIBSON AND DEFOREST, who doubles as the safeties coach, have a healthy, though certainly unique situation at free safety. Karl Joseph, who played there his first two seasons, is now the bandit safety. Sophomore Jeremy Tyler and junior Ricky Rumph battled in spring football and they were joined in the summer by freshmen Dravon Henry and Daejuan Funderburk.

The newcomers have done so well so far that Rumph is back with the cornerbacks. He played there his first two seasons. Henry and Tyler are fighting for the starting spot and the staff likes Funderburk as the third option right now.

"I just think with Ricky being brought in to be a corner, I think it's more natural for him," Gibson said. "He does good things in coverage and we felt there was a bigger need at corner than there was at safety. Ricky's a swing guy we can do that with."

Tyler started the final game of the season at bandit in place of injured Darwin Cook and saw a small number of defensive snaps in seven other games because Cook, like Joseph, never came out of the lineup. That sliver of playing time at a different position is all the experience WVU has among the three free safety candidates.

"Really, to be honest with you, in our scheme and what we want to do, if you're going to play someone like that, like a true freshman, you'd rather play him there than out on the perimeter or at spur or bandit where the action is," Gibson said.

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

WVU FOOTBALL: Camp different for Trickett with no competition for starting job http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140805/DM03/140809594 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140805/DM03/140809594 Tue, 5 Aug 2014 21:05:19 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The last time Clint Trickett was squarely situated as the starting quarterback for his football team, Dana Holgorsen was the offensive coordinator at the University of Houston and the player he sought to replace last year, Geno Smith, was the freshman backup at West Virginia University.

It was 2009 and Trickett was about to embark on the final season of his three-year run as the starter at North Florida Christian. Holgorsen was in his second and final season with the Cougars. Smith was backing up Jarrett Brown for the Mountaineers. The Big East was a football thing, the College Football Playoff was a pipe dream and WVU fans would have swooned over the idea of playing Texas and Oklahoma every season.

For the next four years, Trickett would spend his Augusts vying for a starting spot and settling for a reserve role, first as a redshirt in 2010 behind Christian Ponder and E.J. Manuel , then behind Manuel the next two years and initially behind Paul Millard with the Mountaineers last season.

Ponder (No. 12) and Manuel (No. 16) were both first-round draft picks. The others Trickett shared snaps with weren't bad, either. Jacob Coker did like Trickett and graduated after three seasons and transferred. He arrived at Alabama in January and could be the starter opposite Trickett in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game. Coker and Trickett were both staring at reserve roles with the Seminoles behind Jameis Winston, who won the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt freshman last season after coming out of spring football ahead of Coker and Trickett.

Trickett was crowned WVU's starter in June, and as odd as that must feel, he must also miss the constant competition he used to enjoy and even benefit from so much at Florida State.

"Absolutely not," he said. "I care so much about it that it kind of ate me up from the inside, literally, especially because of my celiac disease and everything. It took a toll on me last camp."

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that weakens the lining of the small intestine and keeps the body from absorbing vital nutrients. That leads to vitamin deficiencies that prevent people from gaining or sustaining weight as well as mental and physical fatigue. People with celiac disease also experience chronic discomfort throughout the digestive system.

Trickett has lived with it for years and has a gluten-free diet to cope, but there is no cure. He said he wanted to win the competition to start last season so badly that his heart affected his stomach. He'd go home and wonder, "Did I screw it up today?" and the knots in his stomach agitated his condition.

"I care so much that it ate away at me at night worrying about things," he said. "Not to have that now in the back of your mind is definitely helping me. I'm actually gaining weight."

Trickett is listed at 6-foot-2 and 175-pounds and even he admits that number won't go up very much because it just can't go up very much.

"I'm a lean guy," he said. "I am what I am. I'm not the biggest guy out there."

But Trickett can eat after a practice now, which he said is something that sometimes didn't happen last year because he was so focused on what he did that day and how it shaped his shot at the starting spot. He knows he's in the lead now and that there are far less significant consequences to inevitable errors, so he eats happily and heartily.

"It's definitely helped me out personally, but then my competitiveness now is as an offensive unit instead of just me as the quarterback," he said. "Now our competition is completely focused on competing against the defense, which is the way it should be, and it's showing out there."

Trickett said he lost about 10 pounds after right shoulder surgery in January, but that he gained it all back. He's finally catching up after falling behind in offseason strength and conditioning. The surgery kept him on the shelf for a while and when he was allowed to work out, he had to start slowly and increase gradually. He won't get to where he could have been had he been healthy, but he's nearly back to where he needs to be.

"It started out as nothing," he said. "Then we'd walk, we'd jog and then it progressed to running. Then you couldn't do anything (with weights) above your head. It had to all be underneath. Then we started raising it. It all progressively got better through the summer as everything went along and we're starting to press now. It's mainly been still doing a lot on the left and very little on the right, but now it's getting back to where it's mostly even."

Trickett said he's "completely fine up top." He's throwing without pain and, more importantly, hesitation. He hurt his throwing shoulder late in his first start and was bothered in his final six. Trickett was able to play through it because of medication he said "masked a lot of stuff."

Now he wears an ordinary ice pack on his shoulder and doesn't have to do much else. The Mountaineers are cautious, though, and want Trickett to preserve his arm. His coaches try to slow him down during drills and either give him a rest or tell him to take a little off when he's throwing into a net. He's happy to oblige because he quickly discovered at this time last year WVU's quarterbacks throw a lot more in practice than Florida State's, but he's also just happy to be throwing again.

"It feels fine and it's awesome," he said. "It's a relief. It was a long offseason thinking, 'Man, am I going to play? Am I going to be normal again?' To go out there and have it happen and have positive results is just a huge relief."

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