Among WVU personnel news: Shaq has attacked
MORGANTOWN - By all accounts, West Virginia University's 2012 football camp has been a smooth one. Both sides of the ball have been lauded for picking up the tempo. There have been no major injuries.
And there has been serious competition for certain positions.
To borrow from OutKast, Mountaineer coaches have been shaking up the team like a Polaroid picture. And, with but 17 days left until the start of WVU's season, that picture is becoming clear.
Take, for instance, West Virginia's defensive line. If you check the media guide's depth chart, you'll see Jorge Wright listed at nose tackle, Will Clarke at the other tackle and Tyler Anderson at end.
According to line coach Erik Slaughter, though, there's been a Shaq attack.
"Up front right now we're starting Will Clarke at the end," Slaughter said on Wednesday. "We're starting Shaq Rowell at the nose. We're starting Jorge Wright at the tackle position."
It's welcome news for Mountaineer fans concerned that the lighter Wright might not hold up in the middle of stronger competition. Rowell, a senior who played tackle last year after transferring from Iowa Western Community College, is listed at 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds.
Also up front will be the position of buck linebacker. Co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson boiled the position down to "Josh [Francis] and Tyler [Anderson]" on Thursday. In a roundabout way, so did Slaughter.
"We have four guys working [at buck] right now," said the line coach. "Tyler Anderson, Josh Francis, [Chidoziem Ezemma] and Garrett Hope, a freshman. All those guys are working there and are interchangeable. I would say Tyler and Josh are the starters right now, depending on the situation."
Slaughter called his line an "interchangeable deal," pointing to Wright's ability to move to nose and Ezemma's ability to play end in pass rush situations.
"We've just now this week started double-training guys and double-teaching them," Slaughter said. "In the last couple days there's been a learning curve."
Other news? Well, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh has a game plan for now.
"[Quinton] Spain is the left tackle, [Josh] Jenkins is the left guard, [Joe] Madsen is the center, [Jeff] Braun is the right guard and [Pat] Eger is the right tackle right now," Bedenbaugh said.
"As for backups, that's not as clear. We've got some guys rolling in there: Tyler [Orlosky], [Adam] Pankey, Russell [Haughton-James] and Brandon Jackson. But we also can move some guys inside.
"We can move Spain to left guard, Pat [Eger] to right guard and then bump up [Curtis] Feigt and [Nick] Kindler. Those two guys are our sixth and seventh guys right now with [John] Bassler being the eighth guy. Braun also has the ability to play center.
"Hopefully, in these next few practices we'll get some guards to step up, but, right now, if we went into a game today, we'd be moving those two guys [Spain and Eger] down inside."
Note that the aforementioned Orlosky and Pankey are true freshmen.
At tailback, the picture is apparently 1080-p high-def clear.
"Right now Shawne Alston has carried the momentum he had from the Orange Bowl and during spring into fall camp," said running backs coach Robert Gillespie. "Right now, he's the lead dog.
"Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison are fighting for that No. 2 spot. They're having a heated battle right now."
Alston has certainly won Gillespie over.
"He's an all-around player right now," said the assistant coach. "He's one of the quickest-twitch guys we have. He's reliable catching the ball. We have a complete back right now."
Garrison, who began to make a mark last season then injured his knee before the Orange Bowl, seems healthy now.
"I told him today that nobody is going to talk about him having a knee brace on or being hurt anymore. He's back," Gillespie said. "He hasn't talked about it. He hasn't complained. He's taken the hits like everyone else.
"He's maybe a step off what he was, but every day he's getting better."
And, finally, rest assured that if Geno Smith goes down with an injury, WVU's quarterback will be sophomore Paul Millard.
"Paul is doing very well," said quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital. "We're putting him in a lot of tough situations. He's showing at times he can step up and be the guy next year. Then there are times when he needs to not be so greedy and get [the ball] to his check-downs, take care of the ball. But, overall, I'm very pleased how he's progressing."
Pleased enough to relax if Smith goes down?
"I'm comfortable with Paul going in there," Spavital said. "He's not afraid. He's got thick skin. Last year he threw that pick-six against UConn and then came back and slung it around the next series. He's very good at playing the next play and not letting things get to him. I'm pretty confident in Paul coming in and operating the offense at a pretty high level."
We're beginning to get the picture.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.