At this time in fall practice line-ups change weekly and daily, because players are fighting for a position on the team that will gain them playing time in games.
There are those players who do not believe all the hype about them, making them think they should be better than they are and they work harder. Others believe they are better than they are and refuse to listen to both coaches and other players. Then you have those players that try too hard and those that don’t try hard enough.
If you listen to WVU Head Coach Dana Holgorsen, you’ll hear him talk about these things and even name players who are guilty of them.
Holgorsen and receiver coach Lonnie Galloway talk about WR Shelton Gibson trying too hard and having trouble catching passes that are straight to him. They have talked about RB Donte Thomas-Williams believing all the hype written about him. They talk about the inconsistent play of Rushel Shell. Then they talk about how some of the players such as LB Xavier Preston, S Dravon Askew-Henry and other have made huge improvements since last season.
The influx of new recruits has also caused change. QB William Crest was practicing earlier at kick returner, inside receiver, and quarterback. With three new receivers arriving on campus, Crest is now only practicing at quarterback. These three new receivers have WR Daikiel Shorts playing both inside and outside receiver rather than just outside receiver which he has been practicing at most of the year. Shorts was an inside receiver last season.
When Holgorsen was asked if he would have a receiving core like some he has had in the past, he responded, “Not this year”. This is nothing negative about the current players. What Holgorsen is saying is that these guys haven’t played a game together as a unit in a football game, more specifically a Big 12 game. Holgorsen used the play of QB Clint Trickett to WR Kevin White last season as an example.
Kevin White took his play from the year before and elevated it to another level with the help of Trickett. This is what elevated him to a 1st round NFL Draft pick.
Holgorsen also talked about the play of the offensive line. He stated that the offensive line was the toughest position to learn and play, and that what they didn’t want to do was insert a player that these players weren’t comfortable with, for they depend on each other.
Players do a much better job at maturing when they don’t believe their own press and hype. They have to understand that if they want on the field, they have to earn it. It has nothing do with them coming into camp as a 5, 4 or 3 star recruit.
This is why some 5, 4 and 3 star recruits don’t make it in college ball, and why they eventually transfer to another school, and why walk-ons earn playing time and are awarded scholarships.
It is also becoming more clear that one more of these new WRs: Jovon Durante, Gary Jennings and Ka’Raun White will receive playing time in 2015; QB David Sills most likely will be redshirted; and that on defense there are multiple starters at multiple positions. The coaches have given indications, but not stated it, that the 3rd quarterback is most likely Chris Chugunov.
When offensive coaches speak to media, you hear, “Chug can air it out with the best of them” and “he has a cannon for an arm” or other such words, and you hear the media who attend the practices state that in the passing drills, Chug’s is the most accurate. Holgorsen has also stated that Chug is a lot more athletic than he first thought he was.
It will take this season for this offense to jell and mature together. The best thing that could happen to this team this season will be to keep the Oklahoma game close. A huge loss to the Sooners could be devastating to this team, and a big win could pump them up too much. The best thing for the team is go into Oklahoma and be able to keep the game close, no matter if they win or lose. A huge win could make them over confident, and a huge lose could have a devastating effect on their egos and confidence.
If the Mountaineers win the first 5 games they could exceed all expectations. The key to this season lies in Norman, Oklahoma. For years everyone has used the Maryland game to measure and grade WVU, but not this season. This year it will depend upon how the team handles the win or loss in Norman. We’ll all know what kind of team WVU is the following week when they play Oklahoma State in Morgantown. This game will tell us all how the win or loss in Norman affected them.
Make no mistake, this team is talented. The problem is the offense is basically new with little or no time playing together. It will take a season for this group to mature and grow together. For some players this will be season of hard knocks, for there are going to ups and downs for each player. What will define this team is how they respond to adversity.