WVU Head Coach Dana Holgorsen Details The Opening of Fall Drills
By Matt Keller
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The news was mainly positive from West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen as the Mountaineers opened fall camp on Sunday.
Holgorsen said both linebacker David Long and offensive lineman Jacob Buccigrossi continue to rapidly recover from knee injuries suffered early this year, and noted that each could be ready for the Big 12 portion of the schedule. That’s in addition to a roster that appears to be as deep as it ever has since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12.
“Lot of pep in their step, and that’s the way it should be,” Holgorsen said. “Guys are excited about being here. Got 105 healthy bodies, and three or four on the shelf who won’t practice. I thought we had a great summer. Mike Joseph and his staff do a great job. We have better bodies in better numbers. It’s better than it has ever been and it’s not even close. Our guys look good and feel good. Overall, I’m excited about getting started. Helmets only, so it won’t resemble football, but I’m anxious to see them run around.”
Holgorsen said he was most excited about quarterbacks David Isreal and Jack Allison. Isreal, a dual threat transfer from Butler (Kan.) Community College, is immediately eligible and is thus WVU’s third team quarterback behind Will Grier and Chris Chugunov. Allison, a transfer from Miami (Fla.), must sit out a season, per NCAA rules. Holgorsen said he hopes to keep Isreal on the shelf this season as well, as he has very limited knowledge of the offense after just arriving in Morgantown this week.
“We have pretty much installed everything,” Holgorsen said. “Now it’s to get out there and execute, see the carryover in having a lot of continuity in the coaching staff. Fourth year in the defense, and on offense it’s the same stuff we have been doing.”
Holgorsen noted the offense routinely makes tweaks and changes based on personnel, and that that Grier’s addition would indeed usher in a handful of varying strategies under new coordinator Jake Spavital. Grier, who went 6-0 as a starter a Florida in 2015, hasn’t taken a live game snap in 22 months, but possesses the breadth of physical and mental ability to allow WVU’s offense to attack every inch of the field.
“We have a different type of quarterback this year than we had last, so that will change some things,” Holgorsen said. “It’s been fun to watch (Grier) progress. We haven’t really seen him with a ball since spring. We worked with them in June. I’m anxious to see it.”
Holgorsen did allude to West Virginia’s projected sixth place finish in the Big 12 preseason media poll. Multiple pundits immediately questioned the placement, which should serve nicely as motivation as WVU was picked behind TCU, Texas and Kansas State, along with front runners Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
“I think the potential is pretty good,” Holgorsen said. “You look at all the projections out there and we are supposed to stink. I think we are in a pretty good spot. Our depth is good. We have a lot to chose from. We have been building this team to the point where our second team guys look like our first team guys. My job…is to continue to move it forward.”
West Virginia does have a series of position battles to settle in camp. The Mountaineers need to find a reserve center after losing Buccigrossi, and will need a starter at will linebacker until the return of Long, which is projected to come as early as the second Big 12 road contest at TCU on Oct. 7. Of now, Ray Raulerson and Kyle Bosch have snapped in case they are needed in a back-up role behind starter Matt Jones.
Dylan Tonkery will factor heavily into the rotation at the will linebacker spot in place of Long. Tonkery tested out as a “elite” athlete, according to Holgorsen, and has made significant jumps in his one season in the program. He’ll battle Quondarius Qualls, among others, for the starting role.
“That gives guys like Dylan Tonkery an opportunity,” Holgorsen said of the injuries. “He don’t look anything like he did a year ago. He redshirted last year and now looks like a completely different player. (Brendan) Ferns looks great. I have never had two redshirt freshmen who tested out elite. Jake Long, redshirt freshman corner, tested out elite.”