MORGANTOWN – It was a dark and stormy day in Touchdown City.
“Perfect,” said WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen with a smile. “I reminded them of Maryland last year.”
If you need reminding, the Terrapins rolled the Mountaineers by 37-0, mostly in a rain at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Now, though, the question in the Mountain State is how much does this WVU team remind Holgorsen of last year’s 4-8 team?
We’ll get to that in a bit.
First, know there was news to come from Holgorsen’s Monday press conference with the media. The coach addressed the current situation regarding true freshmen and redshirting.
“We’re in the position to redshirt a lot of them,” Holgorsen said. “My best guess would be we aren’t going to redshirt Dravon [Henry] or William [Crest]. That’s a good position to be in. Donte-Thomas Williams, we will continue to evaluate. Physically he could be fine, but you don’t want to use up that year if he’s not ever going to play.”
If you follow closely you probably know Henry, a defensive back, Crest, a quarterback and, apparently, punt returner, and Thomas-Williams, a running back, were three of WVU’s top recruits.
Second, there was news concerning the running back position. Big news.
When asked about the spot, Holgorsen didn’t hesitate to spit out a name.
“Rushel Shell looks great,” said the coach. “He had two or three runs where you can see why the hype is there. He’s getting much more comfortable and his ball security is good. He runs people over.”
Later, Holgorsen said Shell “may have the [team’s] best ball skills” and that he “runs angry.”
“He can surprise you in the open field,” Holgorsen added. “I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve seen out of him.”
Shell, who transferred from Pitt before sitting out last season, could be the second straight transfer to start for Holgorsen. Charles Sims, who transferred from Houston last season, started. Shell, however, had a more impressive high school resume than Sims. I’ll boil it down to this: Shell was a first-team All-USA Today player. He set a national record with 39 consecutive 100-yard games, which eclipsed the record set by Sims — former Oklahoma great Billy Sims, that is. Need I go on?
Holgorsen went on to call Wendell Smallwood “the most versatile” back in camp. He didn’t forget to mention holdovers Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie.
After Shell, though, the most interesting running back nugget dealt with senior back Dreamius Smith.
“We have to get him going,” Holgorsen said of Smith. “There are a lot of bodies at his position, so we’re going to put him in a situation [Monday] afternoon and see if he can carry the load. He’s coming from a knee scope about a month ago. We did this on purpose and fed the other guys the ball early so that he could get his legs underneath him.”
Interesting, no? In addition, Holgorsen praised receivers Kevin White, Mario Alford, Jordan Thompson and Daikiel Shorts and said he’s seeking two more to make the wideout rotation. The candidates: KJ Myers, Devonte Mathis, Shelton Gibson and Vernon Davis. Gibson was a highly sought recruit that didn’t qualify academically last season.
Other tidbits were that Crest, a highly regarded quarterback, is still in the mix as a punt returner. Thompson might be the leader there, though, and is having a “phenomenal camp,” according to the coach. Smallwood and Alford seem to be the leaders in regard to kickoff returns, although he named cornerback Daryl Worley, Gibson and Henry.
What may have been most striking, though, was Holgorsen’s attitude toward his offense. There was an air of confidence. I asked what the coach feels this unit can do over the previous couple.
“I was talking to [defensive coordinator Tony Gibson] the other day about this,” Holgorsen said. “We’re able to give [the defense] about every [look] they’re going to see because of our depth, because of the different guys we have.
“We can go empty [backfield] and give [the defense] that. We can go two-tight end [set]. We can go one tight end with a fullback, pro set. We can go four-wide [receiver set]. We can go with three wide [receivers] and two backs. We can go with the quarterback run game. We can go with power football. We can go up-tempo and throw the ball all over.
“We have the capabilities offensively to do all that. Whether we decide to do all of that will [boil down to] game planning.”
His confidence was a ray of sunshine for WVU fans on an otherwise rainy day.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.