Challenges, Opportunities Await WVU as Camp Begins - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Challenges, Opportunities Await WVU as Camp Begins

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Paul Millard is one of three quarterbacks fighting for the starting job. Paul Millard is one of three quarterbacks fighting for the starting job.
MORGANTOWN -

Camp opens today for West Virginia University football and while the first day of preparation for the season doesn't quite have the same feeling as the tailgating and actual kickoff on Aug. 31 will for fans, it's essentially a very physically demanding Christmas morning for the coaches and players.

Ever since they walked off the field together on April 20 after the spring game, the members of the 2013 Mountaineers have worked to get better in anticipation of the competitions that would surely start anew with a Thursday evening practice. And there are plenty of competitions to be had this year as camp begins.

The position that will garner the most attention is that of the quarterback because, well, it's the quarterback. For any team, it is a natural leadership role and one of the faces of the program, but for a Dana Holgorsen-coached team, it's all the more important.

An effort to replace Geno Smith's production will have the spring's candidates – junior Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress – fighting for snaps with newcomer Clint Trickett.

The prevailing opinion among many, including this one, is that the former Florida State quarterback came to WVU for a reason and the spot will be his once the season starts. Despite assurances from both Trickett and Holgorsen that nothing has been guaranteed, the experience Trickett brings along with the fact that he chose the Mountaineers over other programs that apparently offered him a starting job says something about what he felt he could accomplish at a school where his father used to serve as offensive line coach.

This isn't to say the two Texas products will simply roll over and let Trickett take their job, but the only change on the depth chart may be at the starting spot with both back-ups the same as in 2012.

It's the position Trickett and the other quarterbacks will be throwing to, though, that may be the most up in the air. With the top three receivers from last season now participating in NFL camps, there are receptions to go around in an offense that offers plenty of them. Throughout the spring, no one seemed to rise above the rest of the group, but in that Gold-Blue Game, there were two who shined.

Small, speedy Jordan Thompson lit up the final scrimmage for the second time in his two years at WVU and again positioned himself to enter camp as a favorite for an inside slot position. He got that starting job last year, but failed to keep it as he brought very little production to the offense. Now, with a year under his belt and more opportunities with the departure of Tavon Austin, it is his time to show up and prove his worth.

Kevin White, the transfer, also impressed in the spring game and impressed in the eye test. At 6-foot-3, 211 pounds, he showed a burst of speed to go with his imposing size and could prove to be one of the biggest threats in the WVU air attack.

Many eyes on this opening day will turn to the freshmen and transfer receivers who are making their debut to see if any of them will live up to their hype and make names for themselves as the potential replacements to some serious production at their position.

In the 30 minutes of practice open to the media, it isn't likely that much will be seen of Charles Sims' abilities, but this kid could be the talk of the camp. The Houston transfer running back comes to the Mountaineers and is penciled in as the starter and as a reason why this Holgorsen offense could have a very new feel to it with a real focus on the ground game.

Don't tell that to the likes of Dustin Garrison, Dreamius Smith and Andrew Buie, each envisioning their own role at running back as being quite significant to the team's success.

Somehow the questions on defense are fewer than they had been a season ago and after watching how poorly that unit played, that's a bit of a surprise. A far more experienced group of defenders will line up for the Mountaineers this year and the prevailing opinion is that they are heading in a different direction under new coordinator Keith Patterson's tutelage.

When you ask the players for some tangible reason why the defense is better, there is no clear response, but the intangibles are off the charts.

There are players on this team that have played with quality WVU defenses before experiencing what faced them last year and they have no intentions of experiencing it again. If Patterson can be the better answer at DC than Joe DeForest, and all indications are that he is, then whatever talent exists on the roster should rise to the top.

A big help for the defense is that last year, in a search for answers, there were a lot of players thrown into the lineup who may otherwise have ridden the bench. There is real depth in terms of game experience on that side of the ball that should keep bodies fresh against the fast-paced offenses that define Big 12 football.

But alas, we know close to nothing as camp begins (to be honest, based on the results, very few knew much of anything about last year's team at this time, either) and therein lies much of the intrigue of the 2013 Mountaineers.

They are in many ways starting from scratch and it all gets underway tonight at Milan Puskar Stadium.

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