MORGANTOWN - It's official.Football is here. There was WVU quarterback Geno Smith hitting a target in a net and, later, Alum Creek's Cody Clay with passes. There was Corey Smith booming punts. Defensive assistant Steve Dunlap was instructing with his fishing hat to protect the dome. And there was head coach Dana Holgorsen with his black shirt and tan shorts.Mountaineer football is back and, for the first time, it's Big 12 style.On Thursday, the first day of summer practice, the media received a half-hour sneak peek and there were some interesting sights.Running back Dustin Garrison, he of the ACL and MCL tears in his left knee, was participating. ("He looked like he was cutting pretty good," Holgorsen said, before adding he's waiting to see how the sophomore takes a hit.) Among those receiving punts were star Tavon Austin, along with cornerback Avery Williams and freshmen Travares Copeland, Devonte Robinson and Jordan Thompson.Not around, however, were WVU's top two recruits Deontay McManus, a wideout, and Sam Lebbie, a linebacker. Roshard Burney, who had a shot of helping at running back, likewise isn't around, although he still has a shot to make the grade.On the depth chart, freshman Karl Joseph sits No. 1 at free safety. And it seems he has a good chance to stick there."He looks good to me," Holgorsen said. "And K.J. Dillon is a good player. Maybe some of the older guys will progress."
Many know of Joseph's exploits from the spring. Dillon, though, is receiving early raves in this camp. He's a 6-foot-2, 185-pound freshman from Apopka, Fla. Has a real chance to help on the defensive side.But for a moment let's get back to the recruits that didn't make it. The loss of Lebbie is a blow. The area most hit, however, is at receiver. McManus was said to be the top prospect of the class. Darreall Joyner, who also is out, played in the Nike South Florida All-Star game."It is what it is," said receivers coach Shannon Dawson on Thursday. "I don't even know how to comment on it, to be honest with you. I mean, I have to coach the ones that are here."Both Lebbie and McManus are at the Atlanta Sports Academy prep school in Georgia and, one would imagine, aiming to someday hit Morgantown. But...
"It all depends on what they do from this point on," Dawson said. "Obviously, they didn't take care of business."Of those receivers that did, whispers are Copeland, a 6-foot, 185-pound product of Port St. Lucie, Fla., has a shot at making an impact. In the period open to the media on Thursday, not only did he catch punts, he made a nice leaping grab during passing drills.Dawson also has freshmen Devonte Mathis of Hollywood, Fla., and Robinson of Delray Beach, Fla. (Yes, that would have been one freshman Deontay and two freshmen Devontes.)
And Dawson won't let you forget about freshman Will Johnson, 6-6, 245 pounds."Big boy from Minnesota," said the coach, "tight end-type kid."Very, very early on, Copeland and Johnson seem to be the ones with chances to join Thompson as possible impact players at receiver. And WVU needs help there."We don't have a lot of depth at receiver," Dawson said. "We somehow have to keep guys fresh through the year."The guys he's referring to, of course, are two of the nation's better receivers - Austin and Stedman Bailey. But they'll need breathers."With our [low scholarship] numbers, somebody is going to have to play," Dawson said. "That's just the way it is. Who that is, I don't know. Hopefully one of those guys, or multiple guys, will step up. If we had to play right now, though, it would be a bad deal."
It was just Day 1, though. And to see footballs flying was a good deal.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.