Finally, game week has arrived.
West Virginia will open its 2013 season on Saturday by hosting William & Mary. After nearly a month of practice, the Mountaineers are focused on the Tribe in a noon start at Milan-Puskar Stadium in Morgantown.
William & Mary is an FCS opponent that has normally been competitive, but were 2-9 last season for long-time head coach Jimmye Laycock.
“They bring some different challenges. They play in a difference conference that is the best FCS conference out there,” West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “In the last 10 years, they’ve beat numerous 1-A opponents and have won national championships.
“William & Mary is a team that has beaten 1-A teams, and much like last year when we played James Madison, you’ve got to be on guard when you play a team like that.”
Holgorsen has been busy looking for answers from a team that finished 7-6 last season. Among the departures was quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
The quarterback situation was narrowed to two options on Monday, with Paul Millard and Florida State transfer Clint Trickett still challenging for the top spot, with Ford Childress waiting in the wings.
“I feel good about having three quarterbacks that we can put out there ready to play ball,” Holgorsen said. “If it gets to that, we will deal with it. Who’s going to start? I don’t know. Paul or Clint will start.
“They will both play. Potentially all three of them will play. At this point, they’ve done nothing to warrant not playing quarterback here. It’s going to take some game reps and putting these guys in situations where they have to respond to really know what we’re working with.”
As for who will get most of the work, it depends on how they perform.
“The guy that we’re going to give the most reps to is going to take care of the ball and make good decisions about handoffs, interceptions and all of that,” he said. “They have to take care of the ball and minimize the negative situations such as turnovers and giveaways.”
West Virginia is also looking for answers to replace Austin and Bailey — which could include Ivan McCartney and injured Kevin White — while Texas Tech transfer Charles Sims appears set at running back, with Andrew Buie — who led the Mountaineers in rushing last season — redshirting this season.
“He’s got to develop mentally and physically,” said Holgorsen Tuesday after announcing that Buie, freshman wide receiver Shelton Gibson and junior linebacker d’Vante Henry would all be using redshirts this season. “We’re going to leave it at that. He’s not going to play this year. I fully expect him to be ready in the spring.”
Buie was partially a victim of depth, but Holgorsen hinted that there was a little more to the story.
“He had to make some decisions,” said WVU’s third-year coach. “Did we force him to redshirt? No. He just felt like it was in the best interest for him and in the best interest for the program to save his year.”
“(Buie’s) got to develop mentally and physically. We’re going to leave it at that,” Holgorsen said. “He’s not going to play this year...”
Holgorsen was asked during a Tuesday press gathering about what the Mountaineers will do well when the season begins.
“No clue. I wouldn’t tell you if I knew anyway,” Holgorsen said. “We’re not going to reinvent the wheel here. Everyone knows what we do defensively and offensively; special teams is a bit more of a mystery...
“There are new coordinators for special teams. There’s probably a pretty good chance of change, and when you see what the product is you’ll be able to notice the distinct differences. As a fan in the stands, I doubt you’ll notice very much.”
With a visit to Big 12 foe Oklahoma on the slate for next week, Holgorsen was asked more than once about his Mountaineers overlooking the Tribe.
Don’t count on it. The Colonial Athletic Conference is regularly among the top FCS leagues, and Holgorsen has reminded his players of some of the upsets they have pulled on FBS teams over the years.
“Do we want to be the next ones on that list? I don’t think so.” Holgorsen said. “We want to take these guys serious. We should be excited to play — it doesn’t matter who we play. We’re tired of practicing against each other.
“We’re tired of doing offense and defense against each other. It’s time to focus on somebody else, regardless of who that is, and we should be excited to play.”
Oklahoma can wait. Holgorsen is anxious to tee it off, no matter who the opponent might be.
“Much like we’ve gone into the last two years, we have to figure out what we do well and what our team is all about,” he said.
“We have to treat this week the same as we do next week, we should enjoy the process of a game week.
“You only get about 12 of them, so we will enjoy the process this week and then get out there and look forward to a fun afternoon in Morgantown.”
Finally, game week has arrived.
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