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Hickman: Quality depth being flashed by WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Dana Holgorsen was talking Monday about the Maryland team that West Virginia faces Saturday in Baltimore. Specifically, he was addressing one of the biggest question marks surrounding the Terps right now.

In the first three weeks of the season, Maryland lost both its starting cornerbacks.

Fifth-year senior Dexter McDougle injured a shoulder a series after intercepting a pass and returning it for a touchdown in a win at Connecticut. It was McDougle's second pick of the game. Two weeks earlier, the Terps lost fourth-year junior Jeremiah Johnson to a broken toe. He led the team in pass break-ups last season.

"You've got to have quality depth, you've got to have guys that understand what their role is and when their number's called, they've got to jump in there and they've got to play,'' Holgorsen said. "It's just the nature of college football.

"I know Maryland's got good depth. They're well-coached and they've got a bunch of good athletes. The next guy that jumps in there, we expect them to be quality players as well.''

Well, Holgorsen could have been talking about his own team when it comes to depth and the need for backups to step up. And, in fact, he has been talking about it a lot lately.

Whether due to injuries or inconsistency or simply in an effort to shake things up, Holgorsen has reached into his bag of depth more than a few times in just three games this season. It's happened on defense, where the linebacking corps has been ravaged by injuries, and on special teams, where some of those same injuries have necessitated changes in kick teams and kick coverage.

And it's really happened on offense, where it seems every week brings another batch of changes.

Just last week, prior to a 41-7 win over Georgia State, Holgorsen changed his quarterback, center and all three receivers. He shuffles running backs and offensive linemen in and out of games on a regular basis.

Remember all the intrigue over the last few weeks of the preseason regarding who would start, especially at the skill positions? Well, turns out it didn't matter.

So far, Holgorsen has jettisoned his starting quarterback, his starting center and all three of his starting receivers. And that's after he had already relegated the team's leading rushers of the past two seasons to relative depth-chart purgatory.

And it's going to happen again. Count on it. There will almost certainly be another shake-up among the receivers, especially after the former starters for the most part outplayed the new ones against Georgia State.

And it seems as if Holgorsen actually couldn't be happier about it. He's got competition. And he likes it.

"You've got to understand what your role is and you have to be excited about it,'' Holgorsen said. "And if you're not happy about what your role is, then change it.''

That's certainly happened on offense, where Ivan McCartney, K.J. Myers and Daikiel Shorts were given the starting jobs at receiver to start the season, lost them to Kevin White, Ronald Carswell and Mario Alford after two weeks, then worked themselves right back into the mix again.

Shorts, a true freshman, really took his demotion to heart. When he got the chance against Georgia State, he caught two touchdown passes.

"He had a bad game last week and he knew it,'' Holgorsen said. "He didn't pout. We named Mario the starter and he didn't pout about it. He worked hard and got into position to play.

"K.J. Myers is the same way. We tried putting Kevin White in front of him as the starter and he didn't pout about it. He worked his butt off and then when he got the opportunity to get in there, he made a bunch of good third-down catches. So I was proud of the way he responded as well. Ivan went in there and made a couple of plays. Just because we named a couple of other guys starters doesn't mean [the backups] aren't going to play. It takes more than 22 to play.''

Perhaps the best example, though, was at quarterback.

Ford Childress was all but relegated to spectator duty when the season started. He wasn't even allowed to compete for the job for the last week of the preseason and the first two weeks of play.

And then in a matter of days, he not only won the job when it was opened for competition, but passed for 359 yards and three touchdowns in his debut.

"If you're a second-team guy, you need to be ready to get in there at any point and be productive,'' Holgorsen said. "I pat Ford on the back because that's what he did for two games. He knew he was No. 3, [but] he kept his head in it, he worked hard and then when we called his number, he took advantage of the opportunity that was given to him.

"We need a whole team full of people that are like that. You've got to have the next guy ready and when it's your turn to step up and play, you'd better be able to do it.''

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

 


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