By Cam Huffman
For The Register-Herald
Forget the formations, position changes and battles for starting spots. There are uniforms to evaluate.
An illustration of just how big uniforms have become in college football, West Virginia University held an official uniform unveiling prior to Saturday’s Gold-Blue Spring Game, and all the buzz prior to kickoff was about the team’s fashion.
The new Nike uniforms feature 27 different combinations of gold, blue and white. The Mountaineers will have a white helmet for the first time since 1979 and a gold helmet for the first time in history.
The uniforms incorporate the Mountain State’s history and traditions in a number of different ways, including the state motto, “Montani Semper Liberi” stitched inside the back collar of all three jerseys. A canary image is stitched inside the front collar, representing the canaries that miners once used to detect gasses when entering the mines.
The number style, unique to WVU, has sharp points and edges, inspired by a miner’s pickaxe.
“Overall, I like our new look, and I know our players do too,” said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. “It was time for a change, and I am glad that we could incorporate a little of the state’s pride and history in this set of uniforms. You can’t even begin to put a value on how much uniforms and the look of your team plays in the recruiting game. We are pleased with the new look, and now it’s time to turn our attention to summer conditioning and getting prepared for the 2013 season.”
“I can’t wait for the season to start so we can break them out,” echoed senior defensive lineman Will Clarke. “It’s going to be great.”
The recent trend in college football has been for coaches to play two quarterbacks if one candidate doesn’t distinguish himself as the clear starter.
Holgorsen obviously doesn’t subscribe to that theory.
When asked during the postgame interview session if he would be opposed to playing both, his answer was short and to the point.
“I would” said the coach, answering almost before the reporter could even finish the question.
But he doesn’t expect that to be an issue, either.
“Every time that we’ve come out of spring without a leader at quarterback, it’s been a battle in camp,” said Holgorsen. “Three weeks into camp, somebody usually separates himself, and that better happen.”
Ford Childress — one of the top candidates, along with Paul Millard — said that Holgorsen’s refusal to play both signal callers puts pressure on the players, but he doesn’t see that as a negative.
“It puts pressure on us in the right way, to try to better ourselves every day,” said Childress. “When you have a guy neck-and-neck with you, you try your absolute hardest on every snap. I think that will be good for us.”
While fans walked out of Milan Puskar Stadium Saturday afternoon talking about the 123-yard, three touchdown performance out of sophomore wide receiver Jordan Thompson, the WVU coaching staff doesn’t seem to be buying into the hype.
The coaches were happy with what they saw from “Squirt,” the most obvious choice to fill the role that Tavon Austin played for the Mountaineers last fall, they also took a cautious approach to that evaluation.
“He did last year in the spring, too,” said Holgorsen. “He will go down in the history books as the greatest spring game player of all-time. Until he actually does that in a game, we’re going to call it like it is. And I haven’t seen him do that in a game yet.”
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson was equally reserved.
“I’m not talking about Jordan,” said Dawson with a chuckle. “If I talk about him, he’ll go thinking he’s got it figured out, like he always does. So I wish everybody would not talk about him and just let him be Squirt.
“He had a good day. I’ll give him that. But he needs to have a good day on some big days, where there’s an opponent on the field.”
Travis Bell, who has spent most of the spring at safety, was at cornerback on Saturday, a move the coaching staff indicated took place only two days before the final practice of the spring.
The move seemed to work well, as Bell was credited with the game’s only interception.
“He made one play where the receiver just forgot to block him,” said Holgorsen. “I probably could have made that play. On his interception, he undercut it, but the ball was so underthrown.
“My point is, we will study the film for different things, but he’s embraced it. He’s 180 pounds, but he can run fast and he has great conditioning. So it’s an experiment we’ll keep looking at.”
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.