WVU notes: Inside receivers feel heat from coaches
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Earlier this week, West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson was lamenting the play of his inside receivers. The outside guys were doing fine, he said. The inside guys, not so much.
"We're not mad at them and we're not yelling at them,'' Dawson said. "Well, we are yelling. But the point is they have to play better.''
On Thursday, Dana Holgorsen didn't disagree. And he said he's already started doing something about it.
"I will echo that,'' the head coach said when asked about Dawson's comments. "We're going to move [true freshman wide receiver] Daikiel Shorts inside [for the first time at Thursday's practice]. You don't move guys unless you're displeased with what you're looking at.''
Part of the problem - perhaps much of it - is inexperience. Injuries are an issue, too.
Mario Alford is a junior college transfer who arrived this summer. Devonte Mathis and Vernon Davis both were redshirted last year and Davis was moved from cornerback midway through the spring. Shelton Gibson and Jacky Marcellus are true freshmen and Dante Campbell and Jordan Thompson have been wearing green medical jerseys in practice the last week.
None of that, however, should really matter, Holgorsen said.
"I've got plenty of excuses on why it looks bad, of which none of us want to hear them,'' Holgorsen said. "I don't want hear them, I don't want to look at them, you don't want to hear them. You can write about them probably, but it is what it is. We got to get guys in here that we trust and guys that we like.
"Which one of the guys I just mentioned is going to develop into All-Big 12 performers, I don't know yet. I think there's talent there. They just have to keep playing.''
Then Holgorsen echoed Dawson again, this time literally.
"We're not mad at them, we're not yelling at them,'' he said. "We'll, we're yelling at them probably a little bit. But we're not discouraging them. We're not discouraged by them. But with that said, we play a game in two weeks and we've got to get guys ready to play.''
Two of the guys that won't be getting ready are Connor Arlia and Will Johnson. Both were playing inside receiver - Johnson also tight end - and both left the team this week.
Arlia, a popular walk-on from Weirton, was at the top of the depth chart after spring practice. But WVU brought in a slew of new receivers who began practicing this month.
"Great kids, but they just want to go play,'' Holgorsen said. "I'll release them [from scholarship, which Arlia earned last year] anywhere they want to go so they can go get themselves in a position where they can play ball.''
At the same time those two left, freshman safety Isaac McDonald was cleared academically by the NCAA and is to join the team today. But having missed 17 practices and all of the summer conditioning, a redshirt seems likely for the 6-foot-5, 205-pounder.
Holgorsen said there was still no change in the status of two others who were not in camp, Darrien Howard and d'Vante Henry.
Holgorsen was asked Thursday about true freshmen who might play. The list wasn't all that long.
Shorts and running back Wendell Smallwood, both January enrollees who went through spring practice, will play, Holgorsen said. On defense, safety Jeremy Tyler and linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton are likely to play.
And another freshman has come up quite often during camp in regard to playing.
"I'd be shocked if Daryl Worley didn't have a big role on defense or special teams,'' Holgorsen said of the cornerback.
There are others who seem as if they might be ready to play if necessary, but they are either at positions already with great depth and/or are coming off injuries. Elijah Wellman, the fullback from Huntington, fits into the first category with Cody Clay and Garrett Hope at the position.
Receivers Shelton Gibson and Jacky Marcellus fit into that second category. While there is an admitted need for inside receivers, both had high school knee injuries and might benefit from extra time if they aren't needed.
As for Wellman, Holgorsen said redshirting him would have little to do with his performance in practice.
"He's going to be a great player for us,'' he said. "Whether we want to waste a year on him being a third-team fullback, we don't know. That decision hasn't been made.''
Holgorsen was also asked about his reaction to the leadership comment he made earlier regarding last year's team. It has been construed by some to be a criticism of former quarterback Geno Smith.
"All that falls on my shoulders. It was taken way out of context,'' Holgorsen said of referring to leadership as "an issue in a bad way'' last season. "The bottom line is I was referencing 2012 and not having enough leaders and that's one thing we've taken into account this year and we've been working on that since January.
"[We are] developing a whole room full of leaders. That's how you win a championship. You don't win a championship with one or two guys that you look to. You win a championship with a whole room full of guys that take the bull by the horns and say, 'You know what, we're going to do some special things.' I like the direction we're at right now.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.