Garvin's absence a blow to defensive backfield
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The sudden loss of tailback Dustin Garrison might not be the biggest injury setback the Mountaineers have suffered heading into Wednesday's Orange Bowl date with Clemson.
Remember, long before Garrison injured his knee in Saturday's second practice in South Florida, WVU was already without safety Terence Garvin. And while there are a couple of good options for replacing Garrison - Andrew Buie and Shawne Alston - it's not so easy plugging someone into Garvin's spot.
The most likely candidates, according to coach Dana Holgorsen, are redshirt freshman Wes Tonkery and true freshman Shaq Petteway. But unlike the replacements at running back, those two don't have a lot of experience.
Then again, the Mountaineers don't have many other options, so they aren't going to make a big deal about it.
"Well, we're still going to work Wes and Shaquille and go with those guys,'' defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said Saturday morning before heading to practice. "We'll still work those two kids the next two or three practices, and they're both going to play. That's what happens when you get an injury. A kid has to step up and the next guy goes.
"I know that they're excited to play. We've been through those situations before, so those guys will be ready to go.''
This won't be West Virginia's first go-around without Garvin. The junior strong safety, who was the team's third-leading tackler behind linebacker Najee Goode and fellow strong safety Darwin Cook, also sat out the crucial Cincinnati game with a head injury.
That time, Travis Bell stepped into the lineup, not for Garvin but for free safety Eain Smith, who then replaced Garvin. That could be tried again, but the coaches seem intent on going with Tonkery and Petteway first.
It's not as if there is an experience void back there. In WVU's three-safety alignment, Cook and Smith are still around. And that should allow the replacements to be able to feel their way just a bit.
"Yeah, I think the key is letting the kids get in and get settled in,'' Casteel said. "For some of these kids, obviously this is a big game for them. Once they get in and settle in, they're going to find it's no different than any of the other games that they've played. But our kids will be all right. Our leaders will settle those guys down, and they'll be ready to play.''
From Clemson's point of view, the absence of Garvin won't change much, if anything. Yes, the Tigers are likely to test Tonkery and Petteway, but it won't be anything drastic.
"Will it change our thinking? We're going to do what we do,'' said Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris. "We've got to be able to be who we are, do what got us to this point in the season.
BRIEFLY: Holgorsen said Saturday that while he felt bad for Garrison, the Mountaineers will simply move on, much like the case with Garvin.
"It's an unfortunate situation for Dustin, but it's one that we will have to deal with as a team,'' Holgorsen said. "It's not something that we are unfamiliar with. We've had to deal with adversity all season long. This marks our third key player out for the bowl game with a knee injury [receiver Brad Starks is the other, along with Garvin], but I expect our team to maintain its focus as we prepare for Clemson.''
the media - as are all the team's workouts - but Holgorsen assured that it went well.
"Practice went fine today. We consider this our Tuesday practice so we were getting into our normal routine for the game week,'' he said. "The weather has been outstanding and I can see that our players are getting excited for game day.
"The players' focus has been good and they've been working hard. We're down here to win a football game, and I think our mix of preparation and fun has been good."
The team participated in a beach party after practice at the team hotel on South Beach.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org.