MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- When the circus finally ended Thursday night with Dana Holgorsen explaining that Geno Smith was merely absent from practice to spend time with family following the death of his grandmother, we actually learned some fairly good information about how the team is coming together.
Camp wraps Saturday then class begins next week.
Thursday night was Holgorsen’s last “briefing” with the media, and players were supposed to be available today before a power outage stretched to the Milan Puskar Center, pushing them back to tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.
That’s the same time assistant coaches are available for the last time before game week.
Let's get to the info learned:
* Depth Chart
Holgorsen said the team hopes to have a working depth chart by Tuesday. Now of course things will change before the team’s Sept. 1 opener against Marshall, but he was fairly candid that they can't go into game week without knowing where the two-deep stands.
“We’ll work towards getting it settled on Tuesday. Sunday will be a lifting and running day and Monday will be a day off, because it’s the first day of school. We’ll regroup and get it relatively in order for Tuesday,” he said. “We don’t want to go into the real game week having to rep three people at each position, you can’t do it. I don’t mind repping three at each position next week, but then the next week we have to narrow it down to who will play.”
* Starting receivers
He named four starters at receiver – Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey (ya think?) but also proclaimed true freshman Jordan Thompson and senior J.D. Woods have earned his faith to be considered starters at this point.
Note that Ivan McCartney – who was in a green jersey yesterday – was not in that group.
* Where is the depth chart most unclear still? The D-Line.
He said he counts the Buck linebacker position when he’s talking about that group, and wants to whittle the number down to 12 from 15 right now. He expects eight or nine players will ultimately play.
Holgorsen: “We’re still repping about 15 guys on the D-line, which you can’t do that. You have to narrow it down to the guys you feel good about playing and practicing to where you can see guys separate themselves.”“I’d say we will carry 12, but if we’re playing 12 that means nobody has established themselves, that’s still too many to play,” said Holgorsen. “We don’t have to narrow it down at this point. We’re going to have to start narrowing it down next week. I would guess that eight-to-nine probably need to play.”
* Running back battle
Shawne Alston is emerging at running back – something we knew in the beginning of camp -- but considering Dustin Garrison is out of a green jersey and presumably into full contact, this is still notable.
Holgorsen noted Alston’s leadership and his toughness.
“He’s very physical and tough. He’s in shape and healthy. He’s really playing well,” he said. “He doesn’t necessarily have the best parts in the world, so we need to protect his good man parts.”
Because they are such different types of backs, if Garrison is ready to go Sept. 1 the two of them, along with Andrew Buie should be used frequently.
* Backup QBs get more reps
If there was any silver lining to Geno’s absence this week, it’s that backup Paul Millard and freshman Ford Childress have been getting a lot more reps in camp. Smith takes at least 50 percent of the reps available at practice, so his absence means the two of them get way more snaps. Yes, way more.
“Ford’s a guy who is talented, but he is where Paul was a year ago from a knowledge standpoint and a rep standpoint. It goes from getting 20-25 percent of the reps to getting 50 percent of the reps, which means they get better,” said Holgorsen. “They look like young, inexperienced backup quarterbacks out there and the more they rep the better they’ll be at it.
“Heaven forbid ever having to be in that situation to have to put them in with the first string, because Geno clearly makes everybody else around him better. Both Ford and Pat, who rep with the first team, don’t necessarily make everyone around them better.”