No. 17 WVU Opens Season Today Vs. Vols

Holgorsen still unsure who will start at tailback

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The hype and the practices are over.

Now it’s time for No. 17 West Virginia University and Coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff to show Mountaineers fans what they can expect to witness when the 2018 edition of the Mountaineers run onto the field today at Bank of America Stadium for their showdown with Southeastern Conference member Tennessee.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” Holgorsen explained during Tuesday’s press conference. “We’re expecting them to be very multiple on offense. We don’t know which quarterback they are going to go with. What they ask them to do, I would imagine, is pretty similar whether it’s No. 2 (Jarrett Guarantano), the guy that they had last year, or the transfer from Stanford (Keller Chryst). We’ll look at that and figure it out.

“They’re going to have three or four backs that they’re going to want to hand the ball to a lot, a lot of tight ends, fullbacks. They have a big, experienced offensive line, guys that have a lot of playing time with them, and their receiving corps looks awful good to me as far as what their stature is; their production level is good. (Marquez) Callaway is a really good kid, 6-2, 200, made a bunch of plays for them last year. The (Jauan) Jennings kid looks good as well; he was hurt most of last year, but two years ago, he was incredibly productive. They have dudes on offense; it’s going to be a challenge. I’m glad we have such great continuity on defense with our coaching staff to be able to adjust to what they do. Good coaches make adjustments quick in game one, and we’re going to have to get a feel for what they’re doing and communicate it with our coaching staff and make adjustments on top of that.”

But, first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt ‘s Volunteers won’t be the only team with a few unknowns.

“I don’t know yet; we have a week of practice, honestly,” Holgorsen quipped when pressed on who would start at running back behind (Will) Grier.

“A couple of the ‘or’ that I put on there (the game depth chart) were really, honestly, in fairness to our players that are actually competing for those jobs. If I’m Coach Pruitt, I’m probably answering that and believing the same thing. They probably have a lot of position battles going on that they’re still trying to figure out who is starting. That bothers (the media) way more than it bothers us.”

One thing is certain will be the atmosphere fans from both institutions will raise when they gather in what is known as ‘The Queen City.’

“I know our fans have been pointing toward this game since the end of last year,” Pruitt said. “Everyone wants to see what the new coach and his staff will bring to a program that has a very illustrious history.”

WVU has had mixed results when facing teams from the SEC. The Mountaineers enjoyed a five-game winning streak, starting with a 49-38 win over Mississippi in the 2000 Music City Bowl and continuing through a 34-17 win over Auburn in 2008.

But, the well went dry over the next five meetings before West Virginia topped Missouri by a 26-11 margin to begin the 2016 campaign.

Tennessee is 7-6-1 all-time against members of the Big 12 and has lost five of its last six meetings with the league, including a pair of setbacks at the hands of Oklahoma in 2014 and 2015.

“It’s always Game 1, this more than others in recent past as far as how quick can, we make adjustments with what they do,” Holgorsen said. “They’re going to probably have to make a few adjustments with what we do as well; that’s just what game ones are about.”

The Mountaineers have been picked as a 9.5-point favorite against the Vols.

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