FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The sudden loss of tailback Dustin Garrison might not be the biggest injury setback the Mountaineers have suffered heading into Wednesday's Orange Bowl date with Clemson.
Remember, long before Garrison injured his knee in Saturday's second practice in South Florida, WVU was already without safety Terence Garvin. And while there are a couple of good options for replacing Garrison - Andrew Buie and Shawne Alston - it's not so easy plugging someone into Garvin's spot.
The most likely candidates, according to coach Dana Holgorsen, are redshirt freshman Wes Tonkery and true freshman Shaq Petteway. But unlike the replacements at running back, those two don't have a lot of experience.
Then again, the Mountaineers don't have many other options, so they aren't going to make a big deal about it.
"Well, we're still going to work Wes and Shaquille and go with those guys,'' defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said Saturday morning before heading to practice. "We'll still work those two kids the next two or three practices, and they're both going to play. That's what happens when you get an injury. A kid has to step up and the next guy goes.
"I know that they're excited to play. We've been through those situations before, so those guys will be ready to go.''
This won't be West Virginia's first go-around without Garvin. The junior strong safety, who was the team's third-leading tackler behind linebacker Najee Goode and fellow strong safety Darwin Cook, also sat out the crucial Cincinnati game with a head injury.
That time, Travis Bell stepped into the lineup, not for Garvin but for free safety Eain Smith, who then replaced Garvin. That could be tried again, but the coaches seem intent on going with Tonkery and Petteway first.
It's not as if there is an experience void back there. In WVU's three-safety alignment, Cook and Smith are still around. And that should allow the replacements to be able to feel their way just a bit.
"Yeah, I think the key is letting the kids get in and get settled in,'' Casteel said. "For some of these kids, obviously this is a big game for them. Once they get in and settle in, they're going to find it's no different than any of the other games that they've played. But our kids will be all right. Our leaders will settle those guys down, and they'll be ready to play.''
From Clemson's point of view, the absence of Garvin won't change much, if anything. Yes, the Tigers are likely to test Tonkery and Petteway, but it won't be anything drastic.