MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen addressed the media today at the Milan Puskar Center.
We’re finally into game week sitting here after 23 or 24 practices of camp. We’re going to try to get ourselves in the best position that we can to get ready to play the first game, and we’re not there yet. Luckily, we’ve got practice for the rest of the week to get in the position to play a good William & Mary team.
Last week was the first week of school, and it was full of many distractions. I can’t begin to tell you how many inconveniences we had to deal with. We got that out of the way last week, and this week we can have a real game week, which will get us much more prepared for an actual game. We have not really discussed much about William & Mary until this point. We did the same thing last year against Marshall, and we will do the same thing next year against Alabama.
Today is when we start prepping for William & Mary. They bring some different challenges. They play in a difference conference that is the best FCS conference out there. In the last 10 years, they’ve beat numerous 1-A opponents and have won national championships. William & Mary is a team that has beaten 1-A teams, and much like last year when we played James Madison, you’ve got to be on guard when you play a team like that. They’re very well coached. Jimmye Laycock has been there for 34 years. How do you maintain your job for 34 years if you don’t know what you’re doing? His kids will play very hard. They’re a lot better than how they ended last year. They had some quarterback issues last year with some injuries, and they played three different guys. Hopefully we’re not in that situation this year. Defensively, they’re very sound. Offensively, they’re going to try to control the clock and get out there and run the ball.
Much like we’ve gone into the last two years, we have to figure out what we do well and what our team is all about. We have to treat this week the same as we do next week; we should enjoy the process of a game week. You only get about 12 of them, so we will enjoy the process this week and then get out there and look forward to a fun afternoon in Morgantown.
On naming a starting quarterback
It’s the same as it’s been. We’re going to rep both of them (junior Paul Millard and redshirt-junior Clint Trickett) this week. Paul and Clint will get 50 percent of the reps, but we will still keep (redshirt-freshman) Ford (Childress) ready to go.
I feel good about having three quarterbacks that we can put out there ready to play ball. If it gets to that, we will deal with it. Who’s going to start? I don’t know. Paul or Clint will start. They will both play. Potentially all three of them will play. At this point, they’ve done nothing to warrant not playing quarterback here. It’s going to take some game reps and putting these guys in situations where they have to respond to really know what we’re working with.
The guy that we’re going to give the most reps to is going to take care of the ball and make good decisions about handoffs, interceptions and all of that. They have to take care of the ball and minimize the negative situations such as turnovers and giveaways.
We don’t live in a perfect world. Would I rather have a three-year starter returning at quarterback? Yeah. What we’re dealing with right now is the same as what 30-50 other schools are dealing with. It’s college football and graduations (happen). That opens the door for the next star to be born. You lose a couple tremendous guys, but that opens up the door for some other guys to get some snaps in and make some tremendous plays, too. I’m not going to sit here and worry or lose sleep or gripe and moan about not having those guys. I’m excited about the guys we’ve got, and I’m looking forward to going out there and watching them make plays.
On overlooking William & Mary
You can’t overlook them or anyone else in that conference. Villanova has won a national championship. Delaware has won a national championship. They’ve beaten a lot of 1-A teams. Last year, William & Mary almost beat Maryland, and the year before they beat the University of Virginia. It goes on and on.
Do we want to be the next ones on that list? I don’t think so. We want to take these guys serious. We should be excited to play - it doesn’t matter who we play. We’re tired of practicing against each other. We’re tired of doing offense and defense against each other. It’s time to focus on somebody else, regardless of who that is, and we should be excited to play.
On what the Mountaineers do well
No clue. I wouldn’t tell you if I knew anyway. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel here. Everyone knows what we do defensively and offensively; special teams is a bit more of a mystery.
You can turn the tape on from last year and figure out what we do differently. Is (defensive coordinator) Keith (Patterson) going to add some different wrinkles to it? Yes. Are we going to have some different wrinkles offensively based on who our personnel is? I would assume that will be the case. There are new coordinators for special teams. There’s probably a pretty good chance of change, and when you see what the product is you’ll be able to notice the distinct differences. As a fan in the stands, I doubt you’ll notice very much.
On freshmen playing in the first game
There aren’t as many freshmen on the depth chart as there were last year. If you remember, we played eight or 10 freshmen defensively last year. Everyone wants to know why we were bad defensively last year - that’s probably one pretty good sign. Secondly, we were in the Big 12 which had five of the top-eight offenses in the country. That makes it challenging. We didn’t lose a ton of personnel defensively to warrant concern. We did offensively.
We have a lot of inexperienced guys. Whether they’re guys that were or weren’t in the program, there aren’t a ton of guys who have taken college snaps. So it can be a concern to some, and it can be exciting to others. I take in the exciting part. I can’t wait to see those guys and see what they’ve got. (I want to) see which guys respond well to the atmosphere of 65,000 people in the stands and being on national television. Some guys will elevate their game and some guys will get wide-eyed and not do what we want them to do. We have to identify that, and there’s only one way you can identify that.
Defensively they’ve developed. I’ve seen them up close and personal for the last three weeks. I’m excited to see it on Saturday.
On senior wide receiver Ivan McCartney’s return
I’ve seen some differences in him. I think it matters a lot more to him now. Whatever issues he was dealing with last year, I don’t see him dealing with them this year. Is he going to be a difference maker? We will see on Saturday. He’s had a good camp and has been able to maintain relative health. Has he had some sore limbs over the last three weeks? Yes. Did it prevent him from practicing? No, which is different from what I’ve seen over the last few years.
(Junior wide receivers) Kevin White and Mario Alford are questionable and have foot problems. (Junior running back) Andrew Buie, (freshman wide receiver) Shelton Gibson and (junior linebacker) d’Vante Henry are all redshirting. (Junior linebacker) Shaq Petteway has surgery Friday. (Sophomore cornerback) Nana (Kyeremeh) is recovering well. (Redshirt-freshman offensive lineman) Adam Pankey is progressing well, but he’s probably not going to play this week.
On Andrew Buie’s status
He’s got to develop mentally and physically. We’re going to leave it at that. He’s not going to play this year. I fully expect him to be ready in the spring. He had to make some decisions. Did we force him to redshirt? No. He just felt like it was in the best interest for him and in the best interest for the program to save his year.
On issuing redshirts
I didn’t want to play 12 freshmen last year, but I had to. (Freshman linebacker) Isaac McDonald is another one who is redshirting. He came in late and isn’t ready to play. (Freshman defensive lineman) Darrien Howard is here now but it doesn’t look like he’s ready to play. We haven’t been able to get him in pads, so I don’t know where he’s at right now. (Freshman safety) Malik Greaves, (freshman wide receivers) Ellijah Wellman and Jacky Marcellus, (junior offensive lineman) Stone Underwood, and (freshmen offensive linemen) Marcell Lazard, Tyler Tezeno and Grant Lingafelter will all redshirt.
All of these guys, they could get pulled based on depth, injuries and a lot of other stuff. The program is in pretty good shape depth-wise. If you can get all of those guys to develop over the next year and not lose a year, that is great.
(Cornerback) Daryl Worley, (safety) Jeremy Tyler, (linebacker) Marvin Gross, (wide receiver) Daikiel Shorts and (running back) Wendell Smallwood are all technically true freshmen, and they’re all ready to play.
On positions and depth
Hot hands. Whoever gets the hot hands when he hands the ball off, and we get yards - they’re going to keep getting the ball. They’re all going to play. (Sophomore fullback) Garrett Hope is going to play tight end and halfback. We have bodies that can give us snaps back there, and I feel very good about it. I haven’t been able to sit here the last two years and say I feel good about it. I have always had about two or three, and now I feel like we have that depth, and I’m excited. (Redshirt-sophomore wide receiver) KJ Myers has done a phenomenal job.
You’ve got guys that haven’t been through this before. Shorts has really impressed me. He’s just a true freshman, but he’s really impressed me so he’s going to be one of the first ones to be trotted out there. How much they play will depend on what I see out there.
What are our personnel groupings going to be? One of them is being figured out now, and the rest will be figured out on game day. A lot of questions will be answered on Saturday, and I’m not going to be able to give you those answers until then.
On holding back against William & Mary
I’m for whatever we have to do to move the ball forward. We’re doing whatever we’ve got to do to stop the opposing team from moving the ball. If that means putting your best foot forward, then I highly recommend putting your best foot forward. We will game plan William & Mary just like we game plan Oklahoma next week. They’re going to watch tape on us, we’re going to watch tape on them, and we’re just going to have to assume that that’s how we play all the time.
On Ford Childress
Ford’s got four years of eligibility. If you look at a lot of guys in the past that have been successful, they were much the same. Brandon Weeden didn’t have a freshman year, Geno Smith was thrust in to game eight or nine of his freshman year and Clint Trickett was the third-team quarterback last year and ended up starting seven or eight games. You better keep your head up, study hard and work hard because you never know when your number is going to be called, and you better be ready to make the most of it.
That’s Ford’s mentality right now, and I expect it to be like that until his number is called. It could be this year, it could be next year or it could be the year after that.
On the inside receiver position
(Sophomore wide receiver) Jordan Thompson is healthy and will play. Mario Alford is going to get better and play. (Redshirt-freshman wide receiver) Devonte Mathis is getting better and will play. We’ve got these guys that can go in and play. The deeper we are at running back, the better we like it. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that we can put in the game that takes away from the importance of having a two-deep at the inside receiver spot. It’s more important to have a two-deep for outside, which we don’t have.
On first game expectations
I just want to see what the kids’ mentalities are like, and to see more than anything which guys get wide-eyed. Nothing gets guys more in position than a game does - you can figure out their mental toughness. Guys that haven’t jumped offside all camp may get flinchy and jump off during a game because it’s a game. We try to put them in as many situations as we possibly can.
I think we did a good job in January starting with a challenging offseason and a lot of practice in the spring and in camp. You can’t simulate a game, though. I don’t care who you’re playing. With this many new guys who haven’t taken snaps at all, you’ve got to look at them to see what their state of mind is. If they remain calm, get wide-eyed or go into a shell, we’re going to evaluate it all.
The only reason we reduced Ford’s reps is because he hasn’t taken a snap in college. Clint has played in three high-profile games. Paul has been put in there on several different occasions and has at least taken snaps in college. None of it will be compared to running out as the starting quarterback, which Clint has done on some occasions. Because those guys have taken the snaps, that’s why we reduced (the practice reps) to them. Hopefully, we get a chance to play all three of them.