Drills Start For WVU

MORGANTOWN – The 2018 West Virginia University football team took its first steps toward challenging for a Big 12 Championship and College Football Playoff berth Tuesday when Coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff welcomed back a solid roster that includes starting quarterback Will Grier and All-American wide receiver David Sills V.

“Well, actually, the story that appeared (Wednesday) wasn’t exactly correct,” said Holgorsen, who begins his eighth season at the helm of the Mountaineers. “We actually got started on Saturday doing some things.

“The NCAA has some rules about wanting schools to start with some non-contact practices so that’s what we have been doing. It doesn’t exactly look like football, but we are able to get some teaching done.”

And, not every player expected to be on the roster will be around when the annual Gold/Blue Scrimmage takes place on April 7.

“Chugs (Chris Chugunov) is going to graduate and move on,” Holgorsen said. “(Linebacker) David Long is out and is rehabbing from shoulder surgery as is Lamont McDougle. So, those guys won’t play.

“But, other than that we are about as healthy as you can expect us to be after not having played since December.”

Holgorsen, who has the fourth-longest coaching tenure at WVU behind Don Nehlen (21 years), Art Lewis (10) and Ira Errett Rodgers (9), has broken up practices into three different segments.

The first chunk includes six practices before spring break, the second set of six practices following that break will lead the team into Easter recess with the final three workouts occurring prior to the spring-ending scrimmage at Milan Puskar Stadium.

“Excited about this group,” Holgorsen said. “It’s probably the most veteran group since I’ve been here. I just like where the guys are now.”

Adding to that excitement is the return of Grier and Sills.

Grier made a huge splash with fans when he completed 250 of 388 passes for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns prior to having his season cut short with a broken hand suffered in the first quarter of a 28-14 loss to Texas.

That excitement continued with the announcement that Sills, who led D-I receivers with 18 touchdowns in 2017, would also be back to give the Mountaineers one of the most talented receiving units it has seen since the days of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

“Obviously, those two coming back is huge,” offensive coordinator Jake Spavital explained. “They developed such a connection last season and we expect that to carry over to this season.”

Defensively, veteran coordinator Tony Gibson welcomed back his entire staff from a season ago.

“Yeah, that is big,” Gibson said. “We were able to go to some other schools as a staff and learn some things that we feel like we can incorporate into our system.

“And, you’re not having to spend time coaching a new assistant into how we like to do things on defense, so you can spend more time on developing players.”

As far as goals for the upcoming season, Holgorsen was a little less talkative.

“The list I have is too long to talk about,” Holgorsen said with a laugh. “The 2018 team is a different team from the one we had in 2017.

“We (the coaches) have to figure out who is going to start before we can set any goals.”

And, that process has just begun.

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