The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

August 2, 2013

Football season is here

WVU takes the field for first practice

By Cam Huffman
Sports Editor

— It’s officially college football season.

West Virginia University opened its 2013 summer camp Thursday in Morgantown, 30 days before the season opener Aug. 31 against William & Mary, and head coach Dana Holgorsen seemed pleased with what he saw.

“The energy level was good, the attitude was good and everybody is excited about getting back to work,” said Holgorsen after the first of 15 practice sessions before the start of classes. “I think our guys are in phenomenal shape. I like the way our team looks.

“I give Mike Joseph and his (strength and conditioning) staff a lot of credit. They have done a great job over the last nine weeks.”

Holgorsen said it was difficult to learn much more about his team on the opening day. He’ll gain a much clearer understanding, he said, after the first couple of practices when the players put on pads and begin to hit. For now, his focus is on making sure his players learn the right way to practice.

“We are still going to go through our install,” he explained. “You do your best on teaching technique, but without actually colliding, it’s hard to teach a lot of technique. So you just look at the way guys communicate, the tempo they play with, the attitude they play with, the energy they play with and then getting in and out of the huddle.

“I was pleased with how that went, and the guys have been practicing all summer. This was the first time we were able to match it, but I didn’t see a whole lot of mental busts.”

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Most of the attention throughout camp, at least until a starter is named, will be on the battle to replace Geno Smith, the school’s all-time leading passer, at quarterback.

Florida State transfer Clint Trickett wasn’t part of the battle during spring practice — he was still officially a Seminole — but it appears as though he’ll be a factor as the summer progresses.

“He’s good,” said Holgorsen of the son of former WVU offensive line coach Rick Trickett. “He’s seasoned. He doesn’t get nervous. You can tell he’s got some game experience.”

It’s also clear, Holgorsen said, that he’s new to the Mountaineer approach.

“When he’s looking at me on the sidelines and I’m signaling, he just kind of stares right through me,” said WVU’s third-year head coach. “Because it’s not automatic to him right now, which is to be expected.”

For the first few days, though, Holgorsen said he’s trying not to make judgments on Trickett, or the two returning quarterbacks, Paul Milliard and Ford Childress.

“We’re just running plays right now to get all of the offense installed,” he explained. “We’ll start getting into more situational stuff where they have to understand what the situation is, get us in better plays, and that’s where I’ll start judging whether they can be the guy or not.”

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The other area that will be closely scrutinized during camp is the Mountaineer defense, which set historic marks for futility in 2012.

“Do we have to talk about last year?” Holgorsen asked when questioned about the elephant standing in the Milan Puskar Center. “I’d rather talk about 2013. We all understand the situation we were in last year; we’re not going to keep focusing on what happened defensively in 2012. It’s a lot of the same people, who are now a year older. It’s really pretty close to the same system, and we have a lot more depth. So I’m pretty excited about where we’re at.

“I was impressed with their energy,” he continued of the play of his defense during the first practice. “We’re so much deeper and so much more experienced, and it shows.”

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WVU will return to the practice field today and Saturday before an off day on Sunday. The Mountaineers will then practice six straight days before the annual Fan Day, which is scheduled for Aug. 11 at 1 p.m. in the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility.

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