Freshmen on Field No Excuse for WVU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Freshmen on Field No Excuse for WVU

Keith Patterson says WVU youth won't be an excuse Keith Patterson says WVU youth won't be an excuse

There is a common theme in discussions with many of West Virginia's recruits.

Talk to those who are considering the Mountaineers or the 13 who have committed already, and one reason for their interest in the program tends to be the same.

In speaking with the coach who is recruiting them to WVU, these high school prospects truly believe they can make an impact on the field in year one in Morgantown. That is what many of them tell you they have been promised by one member of the staff or another.

The promise is not that if they sign, they will start as freshmen. It isn't even that they will see special teams action, either. The promise is that if they come in and work and prove themselves in practice, when the reps don't count, they will remain in the lineup when they do.

Many recruits want to be shot straight throughout the courting process. They would rather hear the truth, regardless of how that matches up with their own expectations, than have a load of empty promises to dump out after an uneventful freshman season.

It is always better to exceed one's goals than to fall short of them.

What just about every high school athlete who WVU is seriously fighting for have in common is a belief that he will be racing up and down Mountaineer Field, between the white lines, on game days as a freshman. The staff has not only told these players to expect this, but they've also shown them as much.

Seven true freshmen played for the Mountaineers in the 2011 season, a year in which the current coaching staff was only partially involved throughout the recruiting process. Of those seven, four played on offense and three on defense. Four of them started. 

In 2012, with nine starters returning offensively and just seven defensively, battles exist not only for positions on those sides of the ball, but on special teams as well.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen said earlier in camp that he expects the number of true freshmen that will see action this fall to jump into double digits. He feels that there is no other choice for a team that is looking to develop quality depth.

On Saturday, WVU co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest admitted his unit got a scare when it had to place four true freshmen on the field in Friday's practice.

If that is what gives WVU the best chance to win, those players will remain. As it stands, they are mostly stepping in due to injuries to those ahead of them on the depth chart. DeForest hopes he will have healthy bodies once the season begins.

"It concerns me. I hope if you're a West Virginia fan, it concerns you," DeForest says of the four freshman in the rotation. "You've got to go with you have and there's no excuses. We're not going to make an excuse and say we've got to play young guys. It doesn't matter. It's our job to get them ready."

Just as rookies in the NFL are known to make greater impacts than was once the norm, a freshman in college is coming in better prepared to play with the veterans. Their bodies may be ready; the next step is their heads.

"It is different than it used to be," WVU co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson says. "These kids are coming in so physically talented. The weight
programs and the coaching in high school football are so much better. The kids
are so much more prepared when they get here. A lot of that has to do with the
seven-on-seven tournaments and the tournaments they are playing in during the

DeForest won't go so far as to say that the four freshmen who took the field on Friday's practice are the best at their positions, but he does buy into the fact that they can be down the line. This is merely their first audition for what will one day be a starting – and starring – role.

"They're competing and they're getting used to the speed of the game against one of the best offenses in the country. That's what excites me," says DeForest.

On defense, a new scheme can almost be an advantage to young players who know nothing else at the college level, while the veterans work to forget portions of what they learned in years past.

The longer this staff has to implement its system and get the entire team on the same page, the lower the likelihood that freshmen become counted on.

But the coaches, from Holgorsen on down, have made it clear that a player's class will not determine his contribution and that message is not being lost on those who considering wearing the old gold and blue in the years to come.  

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