The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

May 21, 2014

Holgorsen says WVU won’t be scared of ’Bama

Any fan who follows West Virginia football, even casually, knows what’s right around the corner. After a disappointing 4-8 finish in 2013, the Mountaineers won’t exactly ease into things this fall.

The first name on the schedule is Alabama. On Aug. 30 at 3:30 p.m., the Mountaineers will take the field in front of an ABC television audience at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and face a team that has won three national titles since 2009 and is coming off an 11-2 season that was perfect until back-to-back losses to Auburn and Oklahoma to end the year.

To say that WVU faces a tough task in the opener would be like breaking the news that Crimson Tide fans don’t cheer for Auburn.

But Mountaineer head coach Dana Holgorsen, entering his fourth season as the WVU mentor, is confident his team will be ready.

“I can promise you this,” said Holgorsen Wednesday, speaking to a crown at the WVU Coaches Caravan at Calacino’s. “When our kids walk into the Georgia Dome, they will not be scared. We’re going to get in there and fight our (butts) off.”

The first step in preparing to face the Crimson Tide, Holgorsen said, is to focus on the Mountaineers. When practice officially begins Aug. 1, WVU will spent three weeks of practice geared toward getting better, ignoring any game plan for Alabama. Only during the final 10 days, Holgorsen said, will a game plan start to take shape.

Fortunately for Holgorsen and crew, preparations can begin a little earlier. Thanks to a new NCAA rule, coaches will be able to spend some time with the players during the summer. Although they can’t do anything with a football, they can be a part of workouts and film study.

“I think that means the summer will be more beneficial than in the past, especially for the younger players,” said Holgorsen. “We’ve sat in many living rooms and promised parents that we’d take care of their kids once they get on campus, and we weren’t able to coach them. Now we’ll be able to keep our eye on them.”

The eyes of the rest of the Mountaineer Nation will be on the quarterback position. Neither junior college transfer Skyler Howard or senior-to-be Paul Millard did enough during the spring to lock up the starting spot, keeping the door open for Florida State transfer Clint Trickett.

The senior-to-be started most of the games for WVU last year but battled injuries after an impressive debut during which he led the Mountaineers to a win over Oklahoma State.

Trickett missed the spring after offseason shoulder surgery, but Holgorsen said the son of former WVU offensive line coach Rick Trickett stood behind the quarterbacks and worked on communication all spring. He’s been cleared to throw and is expected to be ready for the start of practice.

“He has a chance to be a really good player for us.” said Holgorsen. “He just needs to focus on staying healthy and managing the game. He can’t put his body in harm’s way.”

Injuries, Holgorsen said, have kept Mountaineer fans from really ever seeing the real Clint Trickett

“He played really good for a couple quarters (against OSU) and then he got hurt,” said Holgorsen. “I don’t think he was the same after that. By no means have I anointed him as the starter, but I do think he’ll be better than he was a year ago.”

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Holgorsen also had plenty of praise for Shady Spring High School graduate Houstin Syvertson, who made a couple of tackles, including a sack, in this year’s spring game.

The walk-on will be a redshirt-freshman this season and has changed his area of focus from punting to playing linebacker.

“He’s a great hometown kid,” said Holgorsen. “He did a great job academically while he was redshirting. I don’t know whether his future is as a punter or as a linebacker. You don’t know how he’s going to develop. But we’re happy to have him on our team. He’s a great teammate, guys like him and he works really hard. Smart kids that work hard are probably eventually going to play a lot.”

Holgorsen said guys like Syvertson also play an important role in teaching other players the importance of Mountaineer football to West Virginia residents.

“We’ve got so many players from so many different states,” he said. “We try to educate them on what it means to be a Mountaineer. But it really does help to have some guys from the state take other guys home with them and get them around people that really understand West Virginia football and what it means. It really does a lot more than me standing in front of them and telling them.”

— E-mail: chuffman and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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