Quotes from Coach: AP Poll, O-Line Progress and Scholarships Added

MORGANTOWN – Fall camp is in the rear view and it is “mock week” in Morgantown, which is intended to simulate a regular game week.

The count down to kick off is well underway as the Mountaineers are now just 11 days from the season opener against Virginia Tech. On Tuesday, head coach Dana Holgorsen held his first press conference of the 2017-18 season.

“I really wish this was game week. It seems like we’ve been practicing for a month, and we almost have been. It just makes sense to me and there’s actually some talk out there and I think the schools and the NCAA and all the rest of them will revisit here in the off-season, I don’t know why the first game couldn’t be this weekend,” Holgorsen said.

“There are whole lot of FCS games this weekend and there’s even three or four FBS games this weekend. There’s only so much you can do practicing against each other. It’s going to be five full weeks before the first game and that, to me, is insane.”

The Mountaineers received more time off than usual and Holgorsen added it was beneficial for the student-athletes, but he still thinks the same result could be accomplished in two or three weeks.

Holgorsen and the assistant coaches started to introduce Virginia Tech on Tuesday, and next week they fully dive in and will have more on information on the keys to success against the Hokies.

So far, what the Mountaineers do know is where they, and their first opponent, sit among the nations best. The preseason AP Top 25 Poll was released on Monday afternoon and WVU landed at No. 22 and Virginia Tech at No. 21.

Oklahoma (No. 7), Oklahoma State (No. 10), Kansas State (No. 20), Texas (No. 23) are the other Big 12 teams that earned a spot in the poll.

Holgorsen agreed based on what the Sooners and Cowboys have done in the last couple of years they both deserve to be at the top.

“They both looked really good in their bowl games last year and finished the season strong. Oklahoma State beat Colorado, which was a 12-1 team and I think Oklahoma beat Auburn, which people said Auburn was a top 10 team and Oklahoma beat them pretty good,” he said.

As for WVU’s rank near the bottom, “If you want people to talk about you like that, then we needed to win our bowl game and have more of our returning starters coming back.”

*Redshirt senior Ka’Raun White and juniors Gary Jennings and David Sills will be leading the receivers this season. The group recently took a hit with the transfer of Jovon Durante and the suspension of sophomore Marcus Simms for the opener.

In 2016, White finished with 48 catches for 583 yards and five touchdowns. Jennings saw action in all 13 games and tallied 10 receptions for 165 yards and two touchdowns. In 2015, Sills caught the game-winning touchdown in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl. He finished the season with seven catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns.

Those starters have never been a question mark, but over the past three weeks, Holgorsen has made it known that isn’t the case when it comes to the back-ups. isn’t “thrilled” and would like to see some guys step up and take over those roles. Currently, junior Dominique Maiden (X), redshirt freshman Druw Bowen (Y/H) and redshirt junior Ricky Rogers (Z) are the back-ups listed on the depth chart.

“Typically, you play more than three. We have bodies. I’m not going over to (defensive coordinator Tony Gibson) and saying I need to borrow three corners and a safety to move them. We have bodies; we’re a little low on scholarships there, I realize that, but we still have guys on scholarship that need to earn it and get out there and play hard and practice hard and improve.”

Sophomore running back Kennedy McKoy will be incorporated in the pass game as well. He has received praise over the last few weeks for his efforts and has solidified himself as a top four receiver.

“He’s been our best H since last spring. He has shown versatility to be able to do things in the backfield, much like we did with Wendell (Smallwood) a couple of years ago before he was the main guy at running back,” Holgorsen said. “Right now, Kennedy is capable of being the main guy but Justin Crawford is pretty good. So, we’ll use McKoy in a lot of different ways, which he did in the spring.”

Last season, McKoy caught 9 passes for 64 yards and one touchdown.

But of course success in the pass game starts upfront. The offensive line lost the experience of leader Tyler Orlosky, Adam Pankey, Tony Matteo and Marcel Lazard. It does return experience in redshirt senior Kyle Bosch, redshirt sophomore Colton McKivitiz and redshirt junior Yondy Cajuste. However, when it comes to back-ups, the experience is thin.

Cajuste returns after a season-ending injury and redshirt sophomore Kelby Wickline is the No. 2 guy at left tackle. Bosch is the starter at left guard followed by redshirt freshman Chase Behrndt. Replacing Orlosky at center is redshirt sophomore Matt Jones and redshirt junior Ray Raulerson. The o-line is rounded out by redshirt senior Grant Lingafelter and redshirt freshman Josh Sills at right guard and McKivitiz, who filled in for Cajuste last season, at right tackle.

 “I’ve been happy with their progression. It’s still the same concern – depth is a problem right now,” Holgorsen said of the progress of the offensive line. “We just have a lot of young guys that are the backups. But the continuity I see is improving. I think Matt Jones has done a good job at center and he has some older guys around him, so I think they’ve been improving.”

*Holgorsen also provided an injury update on redshirt senior cornerback Corey Winfield and the rest of the team, and luckily, there is nothing new to report.

“I don’t think he’ll practice today but he’s going to be fine. I’m expecting to get him back in a couple of days,” Holgorsen said of Winfield.

“The two long-term guys are still the two long-term guys. Marvin (Gross Jr.) is progressing nicely and he should be fine, Corey is progressing nicely and he should be fine. David Long and (Jacob) Buccigrossi are the only two long-term guys right now that are out.”

Redshirt senior safety Shane Commodore and redshirt senior receiver Alex Marenco III are now former walk-ons as Holgorsen announced they have been placed on scholarships, saying they both were very deserving with a great work ethic and GPA.

The No. 22 Mountaineers and No. 21 Hokies will meet on Sunday, September 3 in Landover, Maryland, to kick-off the 2017 season. Coach Holgorsen and the rest of the coaching staff and players will provide more of a game plan for the opener next week. Make sure to stick with WV Illustrated for the latest updates.

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