Holgorsen Updates The Status Of Durante,The Initial Contact Practices And More
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia could be sans a key player for the coming season.
Head coach Dana Holgorsen said Sunday that receiver Jovon Durante is “dealing with personal issues” and has not reported despite the Mountaineers entering their second week of fall camp.
“I don’t know if he will, I don’t know when he will,” Holgorsen said. “He has personal things that he has to work on. We are going to get some other guys ready to go.”
Translation: While the probability of such remains an unknown, it’s a possibility Durante might not play this year at all. Every practice missed by the receiver is another blow to the Mountaineers, who were expecting the junior to help stretch defenses vertically and partially replace the production lost when Shelton Gibson declared early for the NFL Draft following last season. Gibson caught 43 passes for a team-high 951 yards and eight touchdowns and was clearly WVU’s best big-play option. Durante totaled 35 receptions for 331 yards and two scores.
Without Durante, West Virginia returns just one player (Ka’Raun White) who caught more than 10 passes last season.
Outside of Durante, WVU also lost reserve safety Marvin Gross for two to three weeks because of a tweak to his knee. Gross is slated to back-up Kyzir White at the spur position, as well as contribute on multiple special teams units. Graduate transfer Corey Winfield practiced Sunday, but is scheduled to have surgery on a finger. That will sideline the cornerback for two weeks once the surgery occurs.
“Corey Winfield, he is a tough kid,” Holgorsen said. “It is a little unfortunate.”
Winfield came to West Virginia from Syracuse, where he he was a two-year starter who played in 31 career games and finished with with 85 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions.
On a positive note, Holgorsen said he was pleased with the off day taken by the Mountaineers on Saturday. With camp starting July 31 and the opener against Virginia Tech not until Sept. 3, West Virginia chose to stretch its 16 camp practices over 17 days leading up to the start of classes on Aug. 16. That left one open day, and Holgorsen said the staff used it for evaluations and film review of the first week.
“I didn’t know how I would feel about recovery day, the non-practice day,” Holgorsen said. “I understand why the NFL does it now. I thought it was really good for coaches andit was really good for players just to rest up and get their legs underneath them. I think they have a little pop in there right now, just because they have been resting up for about 48 hours.
“We went Friday morning because of the weather in the afternoon. We brought them back and recovered them Friday night and basically Saturday was an off-day with treatments and recovery. We fed them real good, got them some per-diem, let them go home or go out to eat, whatever they wanted to do with it. We seem to be in a good place. I like that aspect of it. I like the energy; I like the practices, everything has been good; we are on schedule we just have to keep going through week two.”
- Holgorsen said WVU would begin to form an initial depth chart over the weekend, and that did happen in part. But with just three full contact practices completed, and more than half of camp left, the unknowns are too great to nail down a two deep that this point.
“We are still feeling things through,” Holgorsen said. “There’s a lot of young kids that we still have to get a lot of reps on. We are pretty settled with scheme; We are going to continue to install stuff over the next week. We will start hitting red zone, goal line stuff that we haven’t hit yet.”
- Holgorsen was asked about three in-state players in fullback Eli Wellman, defensive end Reese Donahue and receiver Druw Bowen. “Eli is a team captain and a fifth-year senior who does everything right. I am excited about him. Reese Donahue is a starter. He is playing really well at defensive end. He knows what to do, he has experience and we are happy with his progression. Druw has really had a good camp so far. He is the next inside receiver in the game next to Gary (Jennings) and David Sills. He is playing well. We have him on about every special team and he is coming along nicely at receiver as well.”
- With camp hitting its second week, the Mountaineers will begin to focus in on special teams. It has a dependable returner in terms of ball security in Jennings. But the area has lacked an ability to be explosive in the return game – something Holgorsen says isn’t Jennings fault.
“I have been studying a lot of that,” he said. “Gary is as reliable as reliable gets and he is going to get better at it next year. He had a couple of miscues last year but people were on top of him quicker than anything. That is what we need to focus on. We have to focus in on the line of scrimmage. It has nothing to do with the actual returner. I have had average players be great punt returners because they have space. Our front line is not very good, so we are really focusing on the details of rushing the punt and making those guys retreat; then the technique of holding those guys up on the line of scrimmage. That is what we have to get better at. It’s not Gary, it is what is going on in front of him.”
- Holgorsen was also asked about the performance of expected starting quarterback Will Grier, and back-up Chris Chugunov. “Will gets better every day just by the familiarity with what we’re doing with him and Jake (Spavital) working together,” Holgorsen said. “The timing I see with our top four receivers right now with Ka’Raun and Marcus Simms on the outside and Gary and David on the inside, I see them improving every single day. We need to continue to develop backups at receiver. I haven’t been thrilled with that right now. Chugunov has been good, too. Usually, by this time in the camp or spring after six, seven, eight practices, his arm falls off. He’s so much with his arm that his arm tends to get worn out.”
- West Virginia has planned to use additional tight ends in the offense, but that’s a plan at least 12-plus months from fruition, and according to Holgorsen it’s a sheer numbers game at this point. “We don’t have many. We have one,.” Holgorsen said. “I think (Trevon) Wesco is doing job in the backfield, but if you want to get into where you’re using all these tight ends, when you only have one, I don’t know how much scheme you can do. If you have one tight end and you put a bunch of scheme stuff in there and that one tight end goes down, what do you do then? We’re trending that way in recruiting, but that doesn’t help this team. When you have one eligible tight end, it’s tough to do. Maybe in three years I can say, ‘Yeah, we have three tight ends who can play; we’re probably going to use them a little bit.’”