Off week came at right time for banged-up Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN - Dana Holgorsen had absolutely no plans to begin working on Iowa State during West Virginia's just-completed off week.
In fact, his idea was not to practice much at all, instead using the week to perhaps give redshirts and scout-team players a chance to show what they can do despite the fact that they won't even see the field during the Mountaineers' finale on Saturday.
Yet even without much, if any, work last week, the hope is that West Virginia will still improve. Some of the Mountaineers' best players are simply worn down at this point in the season, and doing nothing for a week might have been the best medicine of all.
"Some of our starters need to keep playing ball. We're starting some of them because we have to, so they need to keep playing ball,'' Holgorsen said, referring to a handful who have been forced into action in recent weeks because of injuries to those ahead of them. "But other starters, guys like Karl Joseph, have a tremendous amount of snaps under their belt right now.
"Nick Kwiatkoski has played a lot of football this year. Shaq Rowell and Will Clarke have both played a lot of snaps. So you have to get them a little rest. You can't just keep grinding them.''
Indeed, while West Virginia's most glaring issue as far as health is concerned is the long list of players who are not playing, the flipside is those who are. Indeed, some of those new starters or recently elevated reserves are fine physically, and they've not played enough over the course of the season to wear down.
"Guys like Dontrill Hyman, who hasn't played a lot of snaps, need to keep playing ball [during the off week],'' Holgorsen said. "And he's just one example.''
Others on defense include guys like safety Jarrod Harper, end Noble Nwachukwu and linebacker Jewone Snow. All are getting more playing time now because of injuries to those in front of them and aren't all that worn down.
Then there's a guy like Darwin Cook.
The senior safety played virtually every defensive snap through the first 10 games. In the 11th, a 31-19 loss at Kansas last weekend, he finally broke down with a groin injury.
"He just broke down,'' Holgorsen said. "And Karl is the same way. Both of those kids play hard. They play with a lot of effort and they leave it all on the field. Darwin's groin got him. We're a little beat up and then he goes out in the first quarter and we didn't have him for the whole game. Daryl Worley re-aggravated his shin and we didn't have him for two quarters. It's obviously not where we want to be.
"When guys play 92 snaps a game at the level that Karl plays at, it's going to catch up to them. It's going to catch up to Darwin and it did. When you lose him and put Jarrod Harper in there, it's a different level. But Jarrod went in there and got good, quality snaps. He played at a high level. He played well and he's going to be a good player for us. You have to take advantage of that.''
Holgorsen said he thought Cook would be fine for the final game of his career, Saturday's 4 p.m. home game with Iowa State. But that might be wishful thinking.
"He should be fine,'' Holgorsen said. "He wouldn't have been able to play this week, but he'll rest and hopefully we'll get him back next week.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1.