WVU sophomore Shaq Petteway (left, covering teammate Dante Campbell in the spring game) is making the move to inside linebacker.
MORGANTOWN - The ink was barely dry on West Virginia's preseason depth chart before the defensive coaches made what might end up being a fairly significant change.
Shaq Petteway, a linebacker in high school who was moved to safety as a true freshman last year and played right away, is a linebacker again.
And he's not one of those hybrid safety-linebackers in the Mountaineers' new 3-4 scheme, either. He's a true linebacker now, playing one of the two inside spots, the Sam.
Keith Patterson and Steve Dunlap, who coach the team's linebackers, gave Petteway a fairly simple explanation for the move.
"They just said they thought I was too good a player to sit behind Terence Garvin,'' Petteway said.
And that's where Petteway was. Garvin, Petteway and Wes Tonkery, all strong safeties last season in WVU's 3-3-5, were made into Star linebackers in the 3-4. That's one of the two outside spots and the one most likely to morph into pass coverage.
Petteway never got the chance to compete there, though, because by Thursday's first practice he had been moved.
"They told me it was a move that's going to help me get on the field,'' Petteway said. "So I was all for it.''
While the coaches had hinted that a move might be possible, it wasn't until Wednesday when the players reported for August camp that Petteway was actually moved from the Star to the Sam. Doug Rigg is listed as the starter there.
"I kind of knew during the summer because the strength coaches wanted me to put on some weight,'' said Petteway, who was listed at 6-foot, 200 pounds at the end of last season, 222 pounds on the August roster and says he's actually at about 228. "The reason they gave was because they wanted me to be able to play both inside and outside, so when they told me [Wednesday], I was kind of like, 'OK, it's official.' ''
Petteway not only put on the extra weight in case a move happened, he also studied the inside linebackers during film sessions, "so I wouldn't be lost.''
A good move? Well, for Petteway, only time will tell.
"When we put on the pads I'll be able to tell whether I really like it or not,'' he said. "I'll be taking on more guards and tackles and centers than I was at [the Star] when I was taking on tight ends and receivers.''
Already Petteway is finding one big difference. As a safety and even as an outside linebacker, he was able to move around as the opposing offense made its pre-snap movements. In the middle there's a little bit of movement, too, but generally just a step or two one way or the other.
"It's a lot more technical, more focus on your stance,'' Petteway said. "I woke up this morning with back pain from squatting down so much.''
If nothing else, Petteway should be developing a rather broad range of knowledge about defense. Again, he was a linebacker in high school in Steubenville, Ohio, played both the spur and bandit safety spots last season, the Star in the spring and now the Sam.
"I know what the people behind me and beside me are doing,'' Petteway said. "So that can't hurt.''
While Petteway, a sophomore, wasn't going to unseat the senior Garvin (24 career starts) at the Star, he'll also have a tough time doing so with Rigg at Sam. But if nothing else, the move should give the Mountaineers more versatility at both positions. And who knows? He might surprise.
"They gave me the opportunity,'' Petteway said. "Now I have to take advantage.''
BRIEFLY: Friday was the team's second workout, again in shorts and helmets. They can put on pads today and then again on Monday, after Sunday's day off. ... With the failure of four of February's signed recruits to qualify academically, coach Dana Holgorsen said the team's scholarship numbers are at "about 79 or 80,'' well under the NCAA limit of 85. "We tried to hit it, but we missed it,'' he said. ... Holgorsen also said there were a handful of veterans who still have to finish summer school and make some progress in order to be eligible. If any fail, that could drop the number even lower.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.