MORGANTOWN — West Virginia’s football roster grew and shrunk unexpectedly Thursday, the first day of preseason practice. Coach Dana Holgorsen announced three additions, two players who have yet to arrive, a season-ending injury and a decision to give up football.
The Mountaineers were also without four players to injuries that will last from a few days to a few weeks.
“We’ve still got good numbers and a lot of healthy bodies and that makes it exciting as we continue to look forward,” Holgorsen said.
Holgorsen said defensive back Jaylon Myers, a junior college All-American last season, and Dontae Angus, a big lineman who was a signing day surprise, have not been cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center.
There was neither mention nor official word on freshman receiver Jacob McCrary and junior college offensive lineman Justin Scott. McCrary was on Thursday’s roster. Scott was not. Holgorsen didn’t mention McCrary and Scott when explaining the situation with Myers and Angus.
Also new to the team was tight end/fullback Darien Bryant, a postgraduate transfer from Vanderbilt who was at practice and who Holgorsen only met Wednesday. He’s walking on at first and will be eligible right away with two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Additionally, Holgorsen said redshirt freshman receiver Jacky Marcellus is out until January after knee surgery and freshman offensive lineman Walter Rauterkus, who enrolled earlier in the summer, left the team.
“He decided not to play football,” Holgorsen said. “He was here for the summer and decided this wasn’t for him, so he went home.”
Safety K.J. Dillon sprained an ankle on break and will be out for about a week. Offensive linemen Russell Haughton-James and Amanii Brown will be out until around the first day of school, which is Aug. 18. Linebacker Jared Barber is about a month away from practicing as he recovers from a torn ACL.
Linebacker Brandon Golson, who had shoulder surgery in the summer, is practicing but without contact.
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Shaquille Riddick, a Football Championship Subdivision All-American at Gardner-Webb last season, practiced with the Mountaineers. He’d been on campus throughout the summer, but hadn’t been allowed to participate in any summer workouts because he’d yet to graduate from G-W.
The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Riddick was listed as the first-team defensive end in a depth charted WVU issued Thursday, but it was later discredited by Holgorsen, who said Riddick began as the third-string end.
That same depth chart also omitted freshman defensive back Dravon Henry at free safety. Holgorsen said last week Henry was the favorite at the position entering camp.
“He’s big and fast and changes direction good,” Holgorsen said. “He’s got a real good mentality and picks things up quickly. He’s ahead of the curve for a true freshman, that’s for sure.”
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The Mountaineers also welcomed back a pair of players from past transgressions. Defensive back Travis Bell, who was suspended for the spring after a DUI arrest in December, and running back Wendell Smallwood, who was arrested last month and eventually cleared of a felony charge of witness intimidation, both practiced.
Smallwood was never suspended, but was away from the team for more than a week and wasn’t listed on the debunked debut depth chart.
“He’s where he was at the end of camp,” Holgorsen said. “He had a great summer. Obviously, he wasn’t with us for about a 10-day period, but he’s an integral part of what we do offensively.”
Holgorsen’s staff is grooming Smallwood to replicate what Charles Sims did last season, and Holgorsen said in the spring Smallwood was probably the team’s best slot receiver. Losing Marcellus, who was merely an option, and lacking proven players opposite sophomore Daikiel Shorts, figures to enhance Smallwood’s value as a slot receiver.
Holgorsen believes WVU has a list of players, both new and old, that make the situation “better since I’ve been here.”
“Jordan Thompson looks good, Daikiel Shorts looks good, and those were our two inside guys last year,” Holgorsen said. “K.J. Myers is doing a little bit there right now and he’s been here more than any receiver we have. He’s going into his fourth year, so he knows every position and he’s got the body type to play inside or play outside.
“(Freshman) Lamar Parker is an inside guy, and he made some plays (Thursday) that surprised me. He’s another option, and then we’ve got all those running back guys we’ve talked about. Wendell can be an inside receiver. Andrew Buie’s done a good job being an inside receiver.”
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Quarterback Clint Trickett is no longer on Twitter after apologizing last week for something he shared that degraded women and, specifically, what it’s like to watch football with them. Holgorsen said the entire team was reminded of social media responsibilities, expectations and consequences at a meeting Wednesday night.
“He made a mistake and he released his statement and I told him to get rid of all social media,” Holgorsen said. “If you abuse it, it’s going to be gone.”
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.