Holgorsen Talks WVU’s Upcoming Season
Grier, transfers headline discussion
MORGANTOWN — Football coaches from the Big 12 Conference gathered recently to update fans about what they can expect to witness when the season opens in September.
And, like he has done every year since West Virginia joined the 10-team conference in 2012, Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen took his turn answering a variety of questions during a 10-minute teleconference.
Many of the questions asked were of the obvious variety. One in particular — Will WVU be improved in 2018? — won’t be known until the Old Gold and Blue hit the field against Southeastern Conference member Tennessee on Saturday, Sept. 1.
“I think we are a confident group,” Holgorsen said. “Anytime you have as many starters coming back, you should be better, and in a better place with timing and schemes and all those things. We’re another year better with Jake (Spavital) calling plays and with (Joe) Wickline on the offensive line.
“Nothing replaces another year.”
Tops among those returning on offense is senior quarterback Will Grier.
“We’ve known who the starter at quarterback was going to be (in the spring) about the last five years,” Holgorsen said.
Grier, who suffered a season-ending hand injury and missed the team’s final two games, was back in form during the spring and enters his final season in Morgantown as the Big 12’s ‘poster boy’ on offense.
Grier comes back after throwing for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns while completing 250 of 388 attempts (64.4 percent) and 12 interceptions.
“You feel real good when you have a fifth-year guy, but that makes us challenge the and the next guy,” Holgorsen said. “You saw what happened last year late (with the injury to Grier). You have to have the next guy go in and play at a high level. No one wants to hear those excuses that your quarterback was hurt.”
But, Grier’s absence was felt and the resulting play of backup Chris Chugunov, who elected not to return to the program this spring, was key in the Mountaineers’ three-game losing skid to end the season.
“If you ask Will (Grier), all he’s going to talk about is efficiency. But I like how he makes everyone around him better. He’s coaching guys on the field, he knows where the other 10 guys on the field are supposed to be on the field. It helps us from a coaching perspective.”
It also helps to have a pair of backups — University of Miami transfer Jack Allison and incoming freshman Trey Lowe III — who made big strides during the 14-practice spring season.
A trio of players which Holgorsen and Spavital are hoping will provide more offensive punch in 2018 are redshirt freshman running back Alec Sinkfied, wide receiver T.J. Simmons and tight end Jovanni Haskins.
“We are anticipating new guys helping us. T.J. had a good spring, and Jovanni gives us a new dimension at tight end.
“(Alec) Sinkfied at running back, he has twitch that I haven’t seen since I’ve been here.”
There were some ‘testy’ moments during Holgorsen’s latest interview and they came when he was questioned about the Mountaineers’ defense and fifth-year defensive coordinator Tony Gibson.
“People questioning our defense is nothing new, but Coach Gibson has done one of the best jobs in college football over the past half decade,” Holgorsen said. “I liked our progress on that side this spring. I feel better about our defensive line now than at any time last year.”
Several mid-term additions made their appearances felt during the spring and drew some comments from their veteran leader.
“We have had about seven midterm guys come in on defense; and maybe the one who made the most noise during the spring is Charlie (Benton) at outside linebacker. I like where he is.
“Josh (Norwood) at safety is a guy that will help us. Keith Washington at cornerback broke a finger and missed the last week of spring, but he will help us.”
Just how much won’t be known until after WVU’s matchup with the Vols.