West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen met with the media Friday afternoon to provide updates on a wide-ranging number of topics including which players will and won't be available for spring practice along with the official assignments for the assistant coaches.
Redshirt senior Clint Trickett will be able to gradually throw during the course of the spring but he will not participate in practices as he recovers from shoulder surgery. Trickett is currently participating in meetings and preparing himself mentally to get ahead of the curve, but will not be cleared until around mid-May, Holgorsen said.
In his absence, West Virginia will rely on returning senior quarterback Paul Millard, junior college transfer Skyler Howard and former wide receiver Logan Moore, who began his career at quarterback before being moved last season.
While Holgorsen has not observed Howard in a football setting yet, he has noticed that players have gravitated toward him during workouts and he has been very attentive asking questions and showing that the game is important to him.
Other players that will be unavailable this spring includes: Wes Tonkery who is recovering from shoulder and thumb surgeries and Jared Barber, who is working his way back from a torn ACL that he suffered in the Texas game, both players are expected to be cleared July 1. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Tyler Tezeno also is still recovering from knee surgery and will miss a large portion of spring drills.
On the opposite end of the spectrum West Virginia will get several key players back for the spring with redshirt freshman safety Malik Greaves, redshirt junior linebacker Shaq Petteway, redshirt junior running back Dustin Garrison, redshirt sophomore nose guard Christian Brown, redshirt sophomore cornerback Nana Kyeremeh and junior Ricky Rumph all cleared to play.
As for position changes, Karl Joseph will move from free safety to strong safety according to Joe DeForest, freshman linebacker Davonte James will move to defensive line as an end, offensive guard Marquis Lucas will move from guard to tackle and former offensive lineman Brandon Jackson will make the transition to nose guard to help out the defensive front.
"I asked him if he could hold a gap. He told me he could flip the center and the two guards at the same time," he said.
Although it had been widely speculated and previously reported by WVSports.com, Holgorsen confirmed that safeties coach Tony Gibson will assume the role of defensive coordinator after the departure of Keith Patterson to Arizona State.
Gibson, in his second stint with the Mountaineers, will provide continuity for the defense and doesn't plan to change much outside of a few minor things such as the terminology for the one-time BUCK position will now be referred to the WILL. The Van, W.Va. native will work primarily with the linebackers moving down from his spot as an assistant in the secondary last season and West Virginia will continue to deploy a three-man front with many of the same tendencies.
"When I announced it to the team the other day he got a standing ovation," Holgorsen said.
Newcomer Damon Cogdell, a former West Virginia linebacker, will handle the defensive line and former defensive coordinator Joe DeForest will coach both the special teams and safeties. For now, the rest of the assignments on defense and offense will remain the same although West Virginia is still in the process of attempting to hire one more coach.
Holgorsen said that they are currently in the interviewing process, but a report Friday afternoon said that former Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley is expected to accept the job. Regardless, Holgorsen said that they would be going after the best coach available.
"It's about the right guy," he said.
Aside from the on-going quarterback battle, Holgorsen said that the biggest challenge facing his team from a roster standpoint will be identifying who exactly the offensive tackles will be. While they have some players that can compete there, it will be trying to sort through those to find some consistency at the position.
However, Holgorsen feels very strong about the interior of the offensive line even going as far to say that Quinton Spain and Mark Glowinski might be "one of the better guard combinations in the country." As well as offering some positive remarks on the development of redshirt sophomore Tyler Orlosky.
West Virginia coaches and players came together to vote on spring captains this season and while they won't carry over until the fall, Mike Molinari, Quinton Spain, Cody Clay, Karl Joseph and Nick Kwiatkoski were selected for the honor.
When asked about the ten-second rule that will be proposed Holgorsen said that he didn't view it as a big deal and that he actually went slower with tempo last season more than any other time in his career. Still, the head man said he didn't agree with the rule or believe it's a good rule in nature.