The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 22, 2014

Mountaineers bringing their show to the fans

Spring practice starts March 2, will include sessions open to public

By Cam Huffman
Sports Editor

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen wants Mountaineer football fans to know that the team that takes the field in 2014 will be much improved from the one that stumbled to a 4-8 finish in 2013.

And the coach, entering his fourth season at WVU, wants to do more than tell them. He’s allowing the fans to see for themselves.

Holgorsen will be putting his team on display for all to see this spring, holding four open practices for fans to come check out the Mountaineers. Fans won’t necessarily have to come to Morgantown to see the team, either. Holgorsen is taking his group to Wheeling and Charleston to give fans in other parts of the state a chance to see the Mountaineers in their own backyards.

The spring session will open on March 2 with three non-padded practices in Morgantown before spring break. The team will then take the spring break week off and return for 12 padded practices over four weeks.

The first open practice will be March 22 in Wheeling. On March 29, the team will open the stadium in Morgantown up for a practice, and on April 5 the Mountaineers will make the trip south for a practice in Charleston. It will all conclude with the annual Gold-Blue Spring Game on April 12.

“We want all of Mountaineer Nation to be able to come and see the product we’re putting out there,” said Holgorsen. “I think everybody’s going to be pleasantly surprised with what the product’s going to be. We’ve got a lot of returning guys and the schemes are going to be relatively similar on all three sides. Hopefully the outcomes will be a little better.

“We want you to come support the team. You’ll show us your support, and we’ll show you what it’s going to look like in 2014. Hopefully we’ll make you guys proud.”

Holgorsen said he came up with the idea on his own, and after working through some compliance details, decided to make it a reality.

For the first time in Holgorsen’s career, WVU will have 70 scholarship players ready to compete in spring drills, and he’s confident that depth can lead to better results.

“Everybody wants to win,” he said. “Nobody wants to win more than me, this coaching staff, this team and Mountaineer Nation. I understand how much it means.

“There were some disappointing losses last year, but I can promise you we’re going to work harder, we’re going to have more continuity and we’re going to have more experience. I encourage everybody to come see what you think. Our guys are excited about spring ball, and they’re excited about 2014. I do think the product will be improved.”

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Holgorsen also updated the injury report during Friday’s pre-spring meeting with the media. He said quarterback Clint Trickett, who started the majority of the games for WVU in 2013, will miss the spring after offseason shoulder surgery. The Florida State transfer will do some throwing work during the spring, but he won’t participate fully.

Trickett is expected to be cleared by the middle of May and will compete for the starting job this summer.

Senior linebacker Wes Tonkery will also miss the spring after shoulder and thumb surgeries in the offseason. He’s expected to be cleared July 1. That’s also the expected return date for fellow linebacker Jared Barber, who is recovering from a knee injury.

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Holgorsen announced his coaching positions Friday, as well. The offense will remain much the same with Shannon Dawson serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Lonnie Galloway will handle wide receivers, with JaJuan Seider coaching running backs, fullbacks and tight ends. Ron Crook will head the offensive line.

“We should show more continuity,” Holgorsen said. “We don’t have a whole lot of first-year players, and we have a whole bunch of coaches coming back that know how to work together.”

Defensively, there will be a few shakeups.

Aside from a new defensive coordinator in Tony Gibson, WVU will have a new defensive line coach in Damon Cogdell and a new safeties coach in Joe DeForest, who will also remain the special teams coordinator. Gibson will shift from safeties to linebackers, along with his coordinator duties, while Brian Mitchell will be back with the cornerbacks.

There could be some movement in those positions, though, after the announcement of the hiring of Tom Bradley following Friday’s press conference. Which position Bradley will coach, and how that will impact the other assignments, will be announced at a later date.

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