West Virginia plays its spring football scrimmage Saturday—the last for incomparable quarterback Pat White; the first for running back Noel Devine; the first as head coach for Bill Stewart; and the first in some time without Steve Slaton, Darius Reynaud, Owen Schmitt, and many of the players who made helped engineer consecutive 11-win seasons, Top-10 finishes, and bowl victories.
The media accounts of spring ball, as seen through Stewart's ever-optimistic eyes, make the Mountaineers' defense look like a cross between the '86 Bears and the Spartans at Thermopylae.
The offense, meanwhile, had added new offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen's Wake Forest wrinkles into WVU's spread-option zone-read offense—including a maneuver called the "orbit motion," which I can't even begin to imagine.
On some days, according to Stewart, the offense sounds like one of Paul Westhead's basketball teams. On other days, the Four Horsemen.
The immovable, granite statues of the Four Horsemen, that is.
There's more motion than Mullen's offensive tricks, however. A lot of players are in transit from one position to another.
Backup quarterback Bradley Starks is gaining notice—at wide receiver. Linebacker Zac Cooper has been moved to rush end. Running back Eddie Davis was moved to slot last year, and then to defensive back this year. Will Johnson was moved from wide receiver to tight end. Thor Merrow (great name) was moved from undersized nose tackle to oversized fullback.
Further, some potentially key players—such as running back Terence Kearns—are not practicing yet. Also due to arrive this summer and likely to see action this fall are heralded Hawaiian defensive end Tevita Finau, 4.31 defensive back Jerome Swinton, and California running back/championship sprinter Mark Rodgers.
Bottom line: It's hard to know what this team will look like—which is why I'm debating driving over for Saturday's scrimmage to take a peek for myself.
Stewart has said it won't be a full game, owing to a lack of offensive linemen, and the forecast calls for afternoon thunderstorms, which definitely swings me into the "not" category.
But kickoff is at noon, and if it looks like the weather will hold up, I'll go...and take pictures, too, to post here.
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