It's not very often you have a position battle during bowl preparation rather than summer camp, but with the injury to starting spur safety Terence Garvin, the defensive staff has been keeping an eye on Wes Tonkery and Shaq Petteway.
Garvin has been banged up for most of this year and needed to have knee surgery following the season finale against South Florida. He had 72 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two interceptions [including one for a touchdown] this season and his absense as a leader with be missed, but his potential replacements hope to fill the void.
"We lost a great player in Terence Garvin," Dana Holgorsen said. "We have other guys that have stepped up and gave us a bunch of reps. I'm looking forward to those guys getting in there and making plays."
Shaq Petteway, a true freshman from Ohio, is transitioning from the bandit safety spot to spur. Since he played linebacker in high school, safeties coach Steve Dunlap thought he would be better suited as a spur.
"Before I was playing bandit and now I'm playing spur," Petteway said. "It's been a lot of learning and a lot of studying with Terence, trying to get familiar with everything that I need to know for the game if I end up starting. The spur is like playing down as an extra linebacker and playing a lot of passing schemes but other than that it isn't that much different from the bandit."
Wes Tonkery, a redshirt freshman from Bridgeport, is also trying to get on the field as a replacement for Garvin. Tonkery says that Garvin is also helping him prepare in case he wins the job.
"He helps me out a lot during film session and he'll tell me if I did something wrong or what I should have done," Tonkery said.
Although he wants to win the job, Tonkery is more worried about the team's success than his own personal gain for the future.
"I haven't really thought about what this could mean for me down the road," Tonkery said. "Maybe a little bit before I go to bed sometimes but I'm not trying to worry about that right now and just stay focused on the game."
One thing that many WVU fans may be losing sleep over is whether or not the Mountaineer defense can slow down Clemson's All-American tight end Dwayne Allen. Tight ends have plaqued West Virginia all season, none worse than the road game against Syracuse. But luckily for WVU, the struggles may have peaked against the Orange.
"In certain plays with our defense, [the spur safeties] have to cover the tight end," Petteway said. "[Allen] is a good tight end. We've been watching a lot of film on him, but it's just another game and we have to be ready to play."
"We watched a lot of film on [Allen] and we took that Syracuse game as a learning curve," Tonkery said. "Obviously we've improved since then."
For both players, it would be their first career starts. On a stage as big as a BCS bowl, it would not be surprising if there were a few jitters before and during the game.
"It's going to take a couple plays for me to get my feet wet and to go out there and be able to play the game hard like I know how," Petteway said.
With the game fastly approaching, a decision will be made on whom will start, but do not be surprised if both see the field throughout the game.