Orange Bowl mascot Obie meets the Mountaineers, minus the four players left home.
AFTER WEST Virginia University's football team hit the Miami International Airport en route to Orange Bowl preparations, Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen took a look around."It's every bit as sunny and nice with all the pretty people one would expect," Holgorsen said on Thursday.WVU's team made its way to headquarters, the Fontainebleau Resort & Spa in Miami Beach."We're settled in," Holgorsen said. "We're all here and ready to have a good time."Well, they're almost all there. The team's five transfers, able to practice but not travel because of NCAA rules, are missing. And so are four that once figured to play a prominent role in WVU's future.According to Holgorsen, both Vance and Vernard Roberts, freshmen both, are "dismissed and no longer part of the program." He cited academic failures.Also off the team, according to Holgorsen, are sophomores Trey Johnson and Michael Dorsey, the latter because of "team violations."The subtractions don't seem like dents to WVU as it currently stands. Vernard Roberts had 140 rushing yards in 11 games, while Johnson had 8 yards rushing in two games played. Dorsey, a defensive back, had one tackle in five games played. Vance Roberts, also a defensive back, saw no action.But the Roberts brothers were supposedly two of WVU's most highly regarded recruits last February. Vernard was the season-opening starter at tailback. Johnson was the starter heading out of spring drills, and Dorsey was one of WVU's better recruits two Februarys ago after playing in the Ohio-Pennsylvania Big 33 all-star game.
Holgorsen, though, was nothing but upbeat after arriving in the Sunshine State."It's all good," he said. "We had 10 good practices, then gave [the players] a few days off, which I felt was important because after the game they'll only have a few days off [before school restarts]."All are accounted for and we're ready to go."WVU had a team meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday where Holgorsen "threatened them not to do anything dumb." He explained "the dos and don'ts" of the trip before an informal welcoming party at 7 p.m. That's when the team received bowl gifts, etc.
Today, the Mountaineers begin essentially a game-week preparation schedule, complete with meetings."We've introduced the Clemson preparation already," Holgorsen said. "Started sprinkling some stuff in. There's a fine line there, though. We didn't want to overkill it because of the time off. We'd just have to refresh their memories once here.
"Now, though, we begin refreshing. It's all in, we just have to practice it."In regard to the team's health, Holgorsen seemed pleased, aside from the loss of defensive back Terence Garvin, the Mountaineers' third-leading tackler (72), who is out following knee surgery."Other than him, we're as healthy as we've been all year," said the WVU coach. "We had a couple weeks off that helped with treatment. Then we had five or six practices last week where everybody was flying around pretty good. It was the first time in quite some time."WVU will be practicing at Barry University. Holgorsen said the school has no football team and, thus, no football field, but it has two soccer fields. "I haven't been there yet," said the coach, "but they say the practice conditions are really good."So the Mountaineers are in sunny Florida. Orange Bowl preparations for Clemson have begun. And the team is in its fancy digs at the Fontainebleau."It's nice," Holgorsen said of the hotel. "So nice the kids can't afford any of the things that can get them in trouble."
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.