Hunter’s Notebook: Player Movement Inside And Outside WVU
Former Mountaineer quarterback Chris Chugunov is transferring to Ohio State, Allan Taylor of MetroNews has reported via Twitter. Chugunov will be eligible immediately because he’s a graduate transfer.
After deciding to leave West Virginia following the 2017 season, Chugunov reportedly was having difficulty finding a home at a Division I program. But his patience apparently has paid off in terms of landing a scholarship from a Power 5 program. Ohio State has had some quarterback defections of its own this offseason, which left it thin at the position in terms of its desired numbers. Sophomore Dwayne Haskins is a rock-solid starter at QB for the Buckeyes, and redshirt freshman Tate Martell is slated to be his backup. True freshman Matthew Baldwin is a highly regarded quarterback prospect, but OSU is hoping to redshirt him this year, meaning that after Haskins and Martell, the only other QB available for the Bucks is walk-on Kory Curtis.
Thus needing help and having a scholarship available, Ohio State quarterback coach Ryan Day went looking for a quarterback who could fill the role of the third-string quarterback this year, and he landed upon Chugunov. Although the 6-foot-1, 203-pounder from Skillman, N.J., struggled in replacing an injured Will Grier in WVU’s final three games of the 2017 season, losing all three while completing a combined 33-of-74 passing for 454 yards with two interceptions and two touchdowns, since the business major obtained his bachelor’s degree in just three years from West Virginia University, he is eligible at another FBS program right away and he will have two years of eligibility remaining. And he has seen action in 10 games at the major college level.
Chugunov is not yet on the Ohio State roster, as reportedly he won’t join the team for practice until the start of the fall semester at OSU, which is Aug. 21. At that point, he’ll have 11 days to get ready for the Buckeyes’ opener, which is against Oregon State on Sept. 1.
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There are a few position moves to report for the Mountaineers, one of which also has Ohio State angle.
Josh Norwood is a native of Valdosta, Ga., who started his college career at Ohio State. But after redshirting his first year with the Buckeyes and then playing mainly on special teams his second, Norwood decided to leave Columbus and look for a new home. After a stop at Northwest Mississippi Community College for the fall of 2017, where he was a first-team all-region defensive back, he enrolled at West Virginia this past January.
WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson initially envisioned the 5-foot-10, 174-pound Norwood at safety, where his big-hitting ability overshadowed his small size. But as preseason camp progressed, Norwood got more and more practice time at cornerback, and it appears that he’s likely to stay at that position. Hakeem Bailey, Derrek Pitts and Keith Washington are the other corners at the top of the pecking order at that spot, though who exactly will be the starters has not yet been defined.
Norwood came into fall camp listed as the backup at free safety behind starter Kenny Robinson. Norwood’s move to corner left WVU with a need at safety, so the Mountaineers swapped out Sean Mahone, who had previously been a cornerback, to the free safety position. Mahone, a third-year sophomore, is competing with E.J. Brown for the backup role at free safety. At the spur, behind senior starter Dravon Askew-Henry, junior Deamonte Lindsay is in a battle for the No. 2 spot with true freshman Kwantel Raines. And at the bandit position, where senior Toyous Avery is the starter, junior Jovanni Stewart is the likely backup with Bridgeport, W.Va., native Dante Bonamico behind him.
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One former safety not in contention for a spot on the defensive side is Ricky Johns. The 6-foot-3, 193-pounder from North Wales, Pa., spent last fall and spring at safety, but at the start of preseason camp, the Mountaineers moved the redshirt freshman to wide receiver. According to WVU receiver coach Tyron Carrier, Johns shows promise at his new position, but he’s still raw.
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With the start of the fall semester at WVU on Wednesday, the Mountaineer football team will move into its regular practice schedule with the beginning of classes.
Besides the change in West Virginia’s practice schedule, its roster will also change. FBS programs are only allowed to have 110 players participate in preseason camp prior to start of classes. (That number used to be 105 but increased to 110 in recent years.) After classes start at each school, the number of players involved in practice can grow to whatever a school wants. Obviously no more than 85 can be on scholarship at any one time, but there is no limit to the number of walk-ons who can join the team. The Mountaineer roster typically numbers between 120 to 130 once classes start. Above that, according to the coaches, it becomes unwieldy.
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This week West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen revealed a couple players who have gone from walk-on status to scholarship player. Sophomore placekicker Evan Staley, who is a native of Romney, W.Va., and junior linebacker Shea Campbell, who is a native of Morgantown, W.Va., now each will receive a full grant-in-aid.
With these latest additions to the scholarship rolls, the Mountaineer football program has in the neighborhood of 77 players currently on full scholarship.
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Two walk-on transfers who were previously slated to join the Mountaineers are no longer on the roster. Mason Rutherford, a wide receiver grad transfer from Delaware State, and kicker Sam Trapuzzano, who had spent last year at Cornell, are not listed on WVU’s roster. It is unlikely either will be part of West Virginia football program in the future.
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Offensive lineman Chase Behrndt and tight ends Eric Sjostedt and Matt Bezjak were among those not dressed for recent practices. Each participated in the normal routine of physical conditioning for those who aren’t cleared for contact.