MORGANTOWN - Cleaning out a crowded notebook and a cluttered mind with two-thirds of West Virginia's 15 spring football practices now in the books:Mountaineer football history - shoot, college football history in general - is littered with players who never lived up to their hype.
Ivan McCartney will never be included on a list with, oh, Bobby Sabelhaus and Jason Gwaltney, but after his first two seasons folks are still waiting to see the breakout from a recruit with a national rep. (Recall that McCartney played in the U.S. Army All-America game after his senior season at Miramar High School.)There was just the one catch as a freshman and, while he pumped that up to 49 for 585 yards last season, he's still in the considerable shadows of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.Truth be told, perhaps much of what has somewhat dulled McCartney's progress has been his own work ethic, or at least the perception of that work ethic by his coaches. Maybe that's changing, though.No, McCartney isn't making any great impression this spring and has been sidelined for much of it with a hamstring issue. But this from Dana Holgorsen seems to indicate McCartney is making progress, not just with his injury, but his attitude."He's still limited, but at least he's trying,'' Holgorsen said. "I questioned that for a few days.''
Trying, of course, is not a shortcoming for a handful of the players who seem to have left an impression on Holgorsen through 10 practices.
Take Donovan Miles, for instance."If it means something to them as seniors then they are probably going to give you a little bit more,'' Holgorsen said. "Last go around.''For Miles, it's the first go-around, too, at least at a new position. When Matt Lindamood elected to retire rather than undergo more punishment to his battered body, Miles was asked to move from linebacker to fullback. In his fifth year, Miles still wasn't likely to see much action on defense, but at fullback he has a chance.
"He takes a lot of the beating off of Ryan [Clarke],'' Holgorsen said, referring to who is now the only experienced fullback on the roster. "If we only had one of them then Ryan would have a hard time making it through the spring. [Miles] is doing a good job of getting in there and taking 50 percent of those reps and just continuing to get better. You've got to learn what to do first before you teach them how to get better at it.''From the 6-foot-1, 241-pound Miles, Holgorsen moved to the smallest player on the roster - 5-7, 159-pound true freshman receiver Jordan Thompson. He might be the most surprising player in camp this spring.
"I've mentioned this before. He's a little bitty dude, but he doesn't play little,'' Holgorsen said. "He plays hard and he caught a couple of screens and he ran a couple of quicks and he caught a couple of balls [in Sunday's full scrimmage]. He did well.''As for the guys you might not have heard much about, remember this name: Karl Joseph.
He's one of the five true freshmen who enrolled in January to get a head start. The 5-10, 196-pound defensive back from Orlando, Fla., might already have made enough of an impression to earn some playing time."Karl Joseph is probably the one guy out of all the new guys coming in that has got something to him,'' Holgorsen said. "You can pencil him in to play a good bit. He's mature, he's not scared and he's physical."Sometimes it takes guys a couple of years before they are physically ready to play or mentally ready to play, whatever it is. It was an easy adjustment for him. I'm not saying he doesn't make mistakes or miss tackles or any of that. He does. But from a demeanor standpoint, the effort and the maturity and the physical capabilities of being able to handle it, he's a guy that is going to be fine.''Then there's Ford Childress, another of those five early enrollees. He's not likely to play this season barring injury to Geno Smith or Paul Millard, but only because there's no need to burn his redshirt.
"When he throws it, it goes exactly where you want him to throw it. It goes there and it looks good and it is usually extremely accurate,'' Holgorsen said. "That doesn't mean his eyes are always where they need to be. There's so much to think about from a communication standpoint. He's slow with it because he doesn't have the reps yet, but he's getting better at it."The one thing is that he stands in the pocket and he throws it and it goes exactly where you want it to go.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.