West Virginia gathered for its second open spring practice in Morgantown for the upcoming 2015 season last Saturday. Prior to the practice, Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen met with the media to provide updates and share a few insights on how his team is progressing.
Below are some notes from that briefing, along with some observations from practice:
** The biggest piece of news to come from the event was that Daikiel Shorts has been moved from inside receiver, where he was listed on the pre-spring practice depth chart, to outside receiver. It's a move that was made partially out of necessity -- "We need outside receivers," Holgorsen said -- but it's also a testament to how he has looked in some of the team's early practices.
Shorts is taking the place of Vernon Davis, Jr., who was previously listed as one of the team's two starters at outside receiver. Shelton Gibson is the other, though this is all obviously subject to change.
"We need to find a wideout," Holgorsen said of Shorts. "He’s going through some growing pains with that right now, but he’s an experienced receiver who’s got good size and good speed. He’s right now our top guy at the outside."
** At a time of year when news is often in short supply, the arrest of defensive lineman Kyle Rose was one of the main stories surrounding the team last week. Holgorsen said Rose has been suspended all week and has "cleaned this entire weight room."
During the team's practice, he was walking and running stairs under the supervision of a staff member and was even cleaning garbage from the bleachers (though with it being April, I was wondering what kind of trash was actually in the stadium).
"That type of behavior is not going to be tolerated under any circumstances," Holgorsen said. "With that said, Kyle has been a four-year guy that has done the right thing on and off the field for four years.
"He has taken care of business academically and has played a lot of football. We’ll handle it internally, and he understands what is expected of him as a senior leader."
** Darrien Howard is "starting to come into his own a little bit" on the defensive line and is taking second-team reps, along with redshirt freshman Jaleel Fields.
** Depth is the biggest issue right now in the secondary, though with the confidence the staff has in the starters, it's not a pressing issue. Jaylon Myers, listed as a No. 2 cornerback on the pre-spring depth chart, has been hampered by an illness and did not practice Saturday. Malik Greaves, a No. 2 safety, has been hurt, as has Jarrod Harper.
** Each of the team's quarterbacks is smart and is doing a good job of absorbing everything thrown their way.
"They’re still a ways from where they need to be, but I’m going to start repping them for the rest of the spring," Holgorsen said.
For anyone who hasn't seen him live, freshman David Sills has kind of an awkward throwing motion that's a little hard to describe (here's a highlight video of him from 2013 if you want to see it).
When asked about it, Holgorsen said "I have to work on that. I have seen enough of him. The thing that impressed me so much the other day is what he did with his legs. He’s a real athletic kid, and he is real smart. He has to get the ball out a little bit quicker."
** When asked about quarterback Skyler Howard in the backfield, Holgorsen had an interesting quote about how he's pieced together this group of quarterbacks, which seems like more of a departure from a traditional pocket passer like he had last year with Clint Trickett.
"We talked about this a little bit, but we try to recruit more athletic guys," he said. "I’m not going to sacrifice the passing ability, but I will sacrifice probably some height and the arm strength for the athleticism. That’s what we started recruiting."
** Speaking of Howard, he looked the best of any of the quarterbacks I saw Saturday. Granted, the time that we saw them operating on offense was limited to the final 20-30 minutes of practice, but his passes seemed the most on point and you could clearly see that he has the most game experience of any player in the group. On the first play of the red-zone drills at the end, he connected with an open Gibson on a well-thrown pass for a 30-yard touchdown.
** Gibson had a couple of noticeable drops and looks like he still has a little work to do. Again, it's early, so these early struggles may just be that.
** When looking at the receivers, none were more impressive Saturday than Shorts. He caught pretty much any pass thrown his way and he displayed the kind of shiftiness, speed and agility that allowed him to get a good amount of yards after the catch, something the Mountaineers will likely need this season with a collection of inexperienced quarterbacks who will likely struggle early with their deep ball accuracy.
It doesn't take too long to watch him to understand why Holgorsen talks about Shorts like he's the team's top wide receiver. He certainly looks that way.
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