Mountaineers wrap up spring drills today
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - In the space of a few hours this afternoon, West Virginia will unveil both its new Nike uniforms and the rough draft of its 2013 football team.
Expect the uniforms to be far more polished than those who will eventually wear them.
West Virginia concludes its spring drills with the annual Gold-Blue game at 2 p.m. at Mountaineer Field. It is the 15th and final practice of the spring and, as usual, far from resembling an actual game it is likely to resemble a glorified practice.
To listen to coach Dana Holgorsen, the Mountaineers can use as many of those practices as they can get.
"We're getting closer,'' said Holgorsen, preparing for his third season as the WVU coach. "We've done a lot of teaching and a lot of evaluating. But we have a long way to go on all three sides of the ball.''
A week ago, Holgorsen finally made known his depth chart, but with a warning that it was merely the status for that day. Judging by that, though, there will be plenty of position battles to watch today.
For instance, at wide receiver, where Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey departed as two of the leading pass-catchers in school history, the top six players include two who arrived in school just in January - junior college transfer Kevin White and freshman Daikiel Shorts. And a walk-on, Conner Arlia, is listed ahead of one of last year's most talked-about newcomers, Jordan Thompson.
Over on defense, players seemingly have been shifted around on a daily basis by new defensive coordinator Keith Patterson and a revamped staff that includes two new secondary coaches, Tony Gibson and Brian Mitchell.
It's all in an effort to find the right mix, a process that certainly won't be concluded today. With that in mind, it's difficult for Holgorsen even to form much of an opinion on his team.
"We're not prepared to name any starters and, in my mind, I'm not prepared to figure out what type of team we will have yet,'' Holgorsen said. "I do like the attention and focus that these guys have been playing with. When they come in, they're eager to learn.
"Nobody thinks we're any good. I encourage our guys not to read anything online, on the message boards or any other publications. No one knows what our team is going to be like. The only people that can dictate that are the coaches and players. We have to come in and just get better every day.''
Even that will change soon. Over the summer, another 20 or so players will arrive and Holgorsen hopes at least some of them will be ready to play. So even if a player does well in today's spring game, no one can be sure he'll still even be on the depth chart come the Aug. 31 opener against William & Mary or the following week's road game at Oklahoma.
"We'll add another 20 guys that we expect to come in and compete for playing time,'' Holgorsen said. "[The depth chart] is going to change in August or September. Guys are going to get bigger. If you take a guy like Sean Walters, who came here as a safety, he was playing outside backer and now he's playing inside backer. Guys get bigger and mature. Who knows what their ceiling is once they get older?''
Of course, the most visible of the battles has been that at quarterback, where junior Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress are trying to succeed Geno Smith, the school's all-time passing leader. Holgorsen said he would handle the two in today's scrimmage the same way he's done all spring. The format today is offense against defense (with modified scoring for the defense) rather than splitting the squad, so the two won't be on separate teams.
"We'll mix them. What we've been doing is Paul will go with the first team then Ford will go with the first team,'' Holgorsen said. "Not only do they switch, but the receivers rotate. The linemen will also go back and forth. We keep the quarterback with a specific center, and that changes every other practice. We'll keep doing the same thing during camp.
"There will be a lot of moving parts during the spring game and I hope we win. Spring games are tough. You want it to look good for the fans that come. It's going to be a festive day and we want it to resemble football.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.