Flying under the radar
MORGANTOWN – While much of the pre-season attention has been focused on who will be the Mountaineers’ next starting quarterback, coach Dana Holgorsen said there are other position battles going on outside of the limelight.
“We have talked a lot about cornerback play,” he said Monday. “Travis Bell is transitioning. Ishmael Banks has been playing just as good as anybody, Daryl Worley is a guy that has a tremendous amount of upside. Avery Williams is getting better every day. Brandon Napoleon is maturing, and Broderick Jenkins is the veteran of the group. Whether he can hold the younger guys off or not, we will see.”
Holgorsen said the public believes the Big 12 Conference lost a lot of “star power” with the graduation of several stellar receivers. He said the conference will feature plenty of talented pass catchers; it’s just that no one knows who they are just yet.
“Playing in the Big 12, the receivers are good,” he said. “The Big 12 is going to have plenty of receivers that can play.”
So, Holgorsen said, West Virginia will have to cure what ailed those cornerbacks in last season’s less than stellar pass coverages.
“That is a position that is challenging, so we need guys that are confident and obviously better than what we were playing with last year,” the coach said. ” You have to find the guys that are ready to take the next step, and we do not know who that is just yet.”
Holgorsen said another battle is brewing at center, where some youngsters are being taught to handle the rigors of the middle.
“Tyler Orlosky has been doing well,” he said. “He has the upper hand right now. It is between him and Tony Matteo. Those two are taking the majority of the reps., and we are talking about two red-shirt freshmen there. Both of them have a lot of growing to do.”
Stone Underwood, who had been in the mix at center, has been shifted one spot over to guard.
“It’s tough to come in at center without any spring practice or a year under your belt,” Holgorsen said. “The game is different here than what he is used to, and then you add the pressure of making calls and snapping, as well as the battle you have to play each and every snap.
“We moved him to guard because we needed another guard body on the second team,” the coach continued. “He has a red-shirt year that we may use. But we will figure that out down the road. He is making progress, but we felt like he would make more progress right now for us at guard rather than center.”
The team still has a handful of practices left before the start of classes in Morgantown. Holgorsen said those positional battles will continue up to the first game.
“I am not making any decisions this week on any of the starters,” he said. “Things can change pretty drastically. Guys have good days and bad days. You are looking for guys that can consistently put a couple of good days together, which we are starting to figure out who those guys are. If the guys have a bad day, then they need to regroup pretty quickly if they want to be in the hunt for the starting job or the backup role.”