Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

April 4, 2014

WVU football comes to Charleston

BECKLEY — The West Virginia University football team might have Willie Nelson blaring through the speakers on the bus as they’ll be on the road again today, holding a practice at the University of Charleston’s Laidley Field today at 1 p.m.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen has already taken his team to Wheeling Island Stadium this spring and will hit the southern part of the state today, giving fans an opportunity to see the Mountaineers without driving all the way to Morgantown.

So far, the plan has worked out well.

“We were thrilled with how things went in Wheeling,” Holgorsen told the West Virginia MetroNews State-wide Sportsline Thursday night. “It had a little bit of a road game feeling to it. Our guys showed up in the morning, we had some meetings and we jumped on the bus. It felt like we were going to play a road game.

“The majority of our team hadn’t been to that stadium before, and the people of Wheeling did a wonderful job of making us feel comfortable. The weather was good, the fans showed up and it was an energized, spirited practice. We got a lot out of it.”

While the Wheeling practice was filled with a lot of individual work that Holgorsen said was difficult for the average fan to comprehend, today will be more of a scrimmage, giving fans an opportunity to see how players perform under game conditions.

“We’re getting toward the end of spring, which means we’re going to concentrate more on playing football instead of a lot of individual work,” said Holgorsen. “We’ll stretch, do a fun Oklahoma drill that gets everybody’s juices flowing, we’ll do some special teams stuff and then we’ll just put the ball down and play some football.”

A lot eyes will surely be on Skyler Howard, the Riverside City College transfer, who is expected to compete for the starting quarterback job after a successful junior college career that saw him throw for 3,151 yards and 33 touchdowns last season.

“He’s competitive,” said Holgorsen. “It means a lot to him. You want him to be further along that he is, but he has to go through the process. But I love his attitude. We have to kick him out of the building because he spends so much time there. He has a lot of work to do, but his work ethic is great.”

Mountaineer fans are sure to also be closely watching a defense that has been the team’s biggest weakness the last two years, finishing among the bottom of the national standings in both total defense and scoring defense.

According to Holgorsen, those in attendance should be pleased with the progress.

“I couldn’t be happier with how our defense is playing right now,” said the coach, preparing for his fourth season with the Mountaineers. “We have depth, we have better talent across the board and their attitude is good. We’ve got four guys in that room that have been defensive coordinators, and they’re giving good advice. (New defensive coordinator Tony Gibson) stands in front of the guys, and the guys play for him because they like him.”

Today’s practice is open to the public and free of charge. An autograph session will take place on the field at the conclusion of practice.

“I think it’s going to be a great day,” said Holgorsen. “It’s a good spring afternoon. There’s room for about 19,000 fans in the stadium, and our kids get excited about this. I know the fans will be excited about getting to see their Mountaineers, and our kids really do look forward to traveling the state and the autograph session.”

• • •

Virginia Tech will host an open scrimmage for the public today at Lane Stadium beginning at 3 p.m. It is expected to last two hours. Admission is free.

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

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