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Mountaineers Searching for Next Big 12 Star

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MORGANTOWN -

Dana Holgorsen and Big 12 football coaches as a whole lost quite a bit of production to graduation and National Football League training camps. The lack of returning star power leaves many of them facing questions about where the points and the tackles will come from.

The West Virginia head coach doesn't believe that those questions warrant much consideration, though. After all, there was a time when the Geno Smiths and Tavon Austins of the world weren't known commodities, either.

"The Big 12 lost a lot of receivers to the NFL last year. There are some guys waiting in the wings, maturing and developing that we just don't know yet," Holgorsen said Monday. "I can say that about our guys as well. We have some guys that are going to develop into some pretty good players."

It may take until the season begins, or even a few games in, before there is a real idea of who those pretty good players will be. At this point, the Mountaineers have a lot of bodies competing for positions. Those bodies may appear to possess talents that will translate onto the field, but there isn't any way of being certain of that until they actually get out there against Big 12 competition.

Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson is optimistic about the depth on his side of the ball, but he remains aware of the fact that just because there are players doing well in practice doesn't mean they will find the same success on game day.

"Football's about a lot more than just a play," Dawson said, referencing the repetitive nature of practice. "It's about what's the situation? Where are we at on the field? It's about thinking through the game, too. Until we put the guys under that pressure and in those situations, we don't know people's understanding of the game."

Dawson is confident that the staff has recruited capable athletes who can get the job done physically, but the mental part is where they are still learning their full potential.

In recent days, the situational football has begun in Morgantown and there are consequences for positive or negative plays on both offense and defense. No, there isn't a game on the line and an impact on the team's overall record, but bragging rights in practice can go a long way toward motivation.

Until the past few practices, the offense may have been running a play into a defense that is designed specifically to stop it, whereas in the regular season, that wouldn't happen – at least not purposely. Now, with the chains set up to display the down and distance, the coaches on both sides of the ball are calling the same plays they would in a game.

"We're working on red zone and goal line stuff. We're working on third-down stuff," Dawson said. "It's certain situations where if we're not necessarily in a great play, it's the offenses job to get us in a good play and make checks. We can't take negative plays."

These are the days that will help determine who is ready to step up and make a run at being the next big thing for West Virginia football in the Big 12. Of course, the position everyone seems to have their eye on is at quarterback, where Holgorsen continues to find the good and the bad in each player's game.

On Monday, Clint Trickett took the snaps with the first-team offense.

"Clint Trickett has a presence to him," said Holgorsen. "Every rep he takes he gets better and does some good things. They all make good decisions at times but because of inexperience, they make poor decisions that get them in trouble. The guy that reduces the poor decisions will be the guy that wins the job. I think they are all capable of being pretty good."

Holgorsen said that redshirt freshman Ford Childress had his best day since he has been a Mountaineer over the weekend and Paul Millard shows his experience in the system while making both the best and worst decisions of anyone in the group.

"There is a fine line. (He has) the Texan gunslinger mentality - you don't throw for 4,500 yards in a senior season without being able to take some risks," said Holgorsen. "You do not want to handcuff him either because if you handcuff him and not give him the ability to be able to make decisions and pull the trigger, you (might) get to the point where they are afraid to make mistakes."

These players will have to step up and recognize that this team truly does belong to them now. It is no longer the Geno and Tavon Show of the past and each has an opportunity to be that next guy Holgorsen speaks of.

They're just running out of time to prove it. 

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