MORGANTOWN - Were the season to start today, Dana Holgorsen would likely be comfortable naming just two starting wide receivers in his West Virginia offense.
"I think Stedman [Bailey] and Tavon [Austin] have established that they're pretty good,'' Holgorsen said Thursday.
That doesn't mean, however, that Bailey and Austin are the only ones who have stood out in WVU's nearly three weeks of practice. In fact, Holgorsen is to the point now where he seems as concerned with depth as he is with his starters.
"We're developing our eight [two deep at all four wideout positions] and I feel like we've got them,'' Holgorsen said. "But I want those second-team guys to beat out the first-team guys.''
The reality is that the competition at two of the Mountaineers' four receiver positions is so stiff that backups beating out starters is a distinct possibility. In fact, things are so tight that Holgorsen can't separate Ryan Nehlen and Ivan McCartney at one of the outside receiver spots, nor is there much difference between Tyler Urban and Devon Brown at one of the inside receiver positions.
"Ryan Nehlen and Sticks [McCartney] are battling,'' Holgorsen said. "About the time you think Sticks has got a little bit of the advantage, then Ryan comes back and has his best day since I've been here [Wednesday].''
The competition between Urban and Brown isn't quite the same because the two are so different physically. Urban is a 6-foot-5, 251-pound former tight end and Brown a 5-10, 188-pound transfer from Wake Forest. It's likely that they will play in situations, their opportunities dependent upon the need for a big or small receiver.
"They go back and forth,'' Holgorsen said. "They'll probably play pretty evenly.''
Over on defense, Holgorsen pointed to the competition at linebacker. Two of the starters seem pretty clear cut - senior Najee Goode and sophomore Doug Rigg.
"We're really looking for backups more than anything,'' Holgorsen said.