The news from the Mountaineers tonight, before they lapsed into a week-long media blackout: The red-headed middle linebacker is back, and first-year players litter the depth chart.
Reed Williams, the team’s top tackler a year ago, was permitted by team doctors to return to tackling in practice beginning Wednesday. That will mark his first meaningful contact since the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 2, when he was named defensive MVP and soon after underwent surgery on both shoulders. “Been awhile,” said Williams, who added that doctors remained unsure whether he would be ready in time to start or play for the Mountaineers’ Aug. 30 opener with Villanova.
As for the Mountaineers’ youth infusion, 11 true freshmen and redshirt freshmen hold spots across the 58-player positional depth chart released today. Among the prime names listed: freshman Tyler Urban of Norwin High at the first split-wide tight end (as opposed to Will Johnson at fullback/tight end); ballyhooed recruit Josh Jenkins at backup right guard (behind Jake Figner); third-team quarterback Bradley Starks, a redshirt freshman, at backup Z-receiver (behind Tito Gonzales); Seneca Valley’s Don Barclay, another redshirt freshman, at backup left tackle (behind Ryan Stanchek) even though his line coach considers him in the competition for first-team right tackle; freshmen Ryan Clarke and Ricky Kovatch at backup fullback (behind Johnson); and a pair of first-year fellows at free safety, redshirt freshman Eain Smith backed by freshman Robert Sands.
Recruits Mark Rodgers and Zach Hulse – but not Terence Kerns – were listed at tailback behind Noel Devine, but sophomore Jock Sanders is expected to help with backup duties.
“We got 12, 13 guys we’re counting on,” said Doc Holliday, the associate head coach filling in for new coach Bill Stewart, who was otherwise occupied with the blessing of Mountaineer Field tonight. “To be honest with you, that’s not a good situation you want to be in. You’d like to red-shirt all your freshmen. The thing is, you try to get yourself and your program in a position where you don’t need freshmen to come in and play.”
Holliday added the Clarke, previously hampered by a hamstring injury, has missed time due to a case of pink eye. He said Clarke, once he returns, must lose about 12 pounds off his current 252. “He’s still too fat,” said Holliday, who coaches fullbacks and tight ends. “If he can get down to 240, he’ll probably be a player for us.”
Other new additions: Alric Arnett is the first team X receiver; Chris Neild and Pat Liebig are vying for starting nose tackle; and spur safety is still a competition between Boogie Allen and Sidney Glover. Though several safeties are expected to play early.
-- Chuck Finder