A few surprises on WVU's No. 1 defense
MORGANTOWN - It happens every day in practice, but for the first time during the brief segments open to the media, Dana Holgorsen on Monday lined up his No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense and let them have at it.
It wasn't particularly revealing, all things considered. It lasted for just one series and that high-powered offense with Geno Smith at the controls marched down the field in rather efficient order.
But at least it was a glimpse.
"You guys satisfied now?'' Holgorsen joked as he walked up the field after the brief live action and as his team went right back into individual drills.
And then, borrowing from Dennis Green, he admitted the obvious.
"We are who they thought we were,'' Holgorsen said.
Indeed, in that one short series, the Mountaineers looked exactly like what everyone thinks they are - a team with an offense polished enough to march up and down the field and an evolving defense that is going to be challenged every day.
The series lasted only about seven or eight plays, included a pass-and-run from Smith to J.D. Woods that ate up probably a third of the field and a short pass over the middle for a touchdown from Smith to Tavon Austin.
"Our first-team offense looked good,'' Holgorsen would say later, noting that by the time practice was over the teams had run probably 50 plays at various times and the offense continued to excel.
Perhaps more revealing than the plays themselves were the lineups.
On offense, where most of the positions are filled by veterans, there were few real surprises. On defense, there were two true freshmen.
The safeties with the No. 1 defense were Karl Joseph and K.J. Dillon. Joseph is a 5-foot-11, 190-pounder from Orlando, Fla., who arrived in January, went through spring drills and had pretty much established himself already. Dillon is a 6-2, 185-pounder from Apopka, Fla., who has been on campus only since summer.
Dillon was replacing Orange Bowl hero Darwin Cook, who has been hobbled by a groin injury, but has still ascended up the depth chart quickly.
As for the rest of the defensive lineup, there were few surprises.
Up front, Jorge Wright was at nose guard, flanked by Will Clarke and Shaq Rowell. The inside linebackers were Doug Rigg and Isaiah Bruce and the outside linebackers Terence Garvin and Tyler Anderson. Pat Miller and Brodrick Jenkins were the cornerbacks.
On offense, the front line was as expected with Joe Madsen at center, Josh Jenkins and Jeff Braun at guards and Quinton Spain and Pat Eger at tackles. Smith, of course, was the quarterback.
There were constant changes among the other skill position players, of course, with Austin, Woods and Stedman Bailey lining up as receivers and others rotating in, and Shawne Alston and Andrew Buie as backs. Both Donovan Miles and Ryan Clarke played as blocking backs, and near the goal line Cody Clay lined up as a tight end.
Holgorsen said Monday night that as far as he knows, all of his players who needed to do so passed their summer school courses and are eligible. Several were on the fence and had been getting reduced practice reps because it wasn't certain they would be around.
"I think we're in the clear. It's a miracle,'' Holgorsen said. "It's the first miracle of the season. A couple of guys, I had some very serious reservations about and they got cleared.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.