Columns/Opinion, Football, Sean Manning, WVU Sports

What we might have seen if WVU had played spring game

MORGANTOWN — While WVU’s spring practice was capped off with a successful “Walk the Talk with Dana Holgorsen” to benefit WVU Medicine Children’s hospital and the Hoss Foundation, many fans probably felt a little empty with the annual Gold-Blue spring game being canceled.
No tailgating, no marching band and no excuse to drink a beer at 10 a.m. on a Saturday.
But other than that — football wise — the spring game is nothing more than a glorified practice.
There isn’t much to take from any spring game. Most fans already know who the stars are, who is going to contribute the most and who isn’t.
There are heroes of spring games past who went on to not do much of anything. Remember Logan Heastie? The 5-star wide receiver from Virginia enrolled early and competed in spring camp, hauling in a slant during the 2009 spring game and bursting into the open field, showing off the blazing speed that made him one of the most coveted recruits that year.
Heastie announced his transfer a couple weeks later.
So with the cancellation of this year’s spring game, there were not any outlandish expectations put on someone who probably won’t live up to it, nor were there any outrageous hot takes that a particular star didn’t play well so the entire 2018 season is doomed.
An underrated result is that the game was not televised, so Tennessee and new head coach Jeremy Pruitt don’t have film to cherry-pick like Holgorsen and staff will when the Volunteers play at 2 p.m. April 21, on the SEC Network.
But here we are, 4 1/2 months from the season-opener, and we all feel a little empty inside. There was no grand finale to spring practice, so here is what we would have seen had the Mountaineers taken the field at Milan Puskar Stadium on April 7:
Quarterback Will Grier hasn’t thrown a pass in front of a large crowd since breaking his right hand against Texas, on Nov. 18. From all indications from the coaching staff, he’s full-go, and what we would have seen in the spring game is the same Grier that we saw throw 34 touchdowns last year.
When Grier wasn’t on the field, Jack Allison and Trey Lowe would have been. We did miss a chance at seeing Lowe, a highly touted true freshman, who offensive coordinator Jake Spavital believes is a steal. If all goes as planned, though, we won’t get a chance to see Lowe play until next year’s spring game.
“Who’s that?”
That would likely have been the reaction to whoever was playing nose tackle at any particular time. The only returnee with any experience is Darius Stills, who will be a sophomore this fall. While help is coming, it wouldn’t have been in the spring game. Walk-ons Brenan Thrift and Connor Barwis would have had their moments to shine.
Linebacker is in a similar position to nose tackle, with the Mountaineers hoping to get by until reinforcements arrive this summer. Dylan Tonkery, following his move inside, is the only linebacker with significant experience. However, Morgantown natives would have been thrilled to see one of their own, Morgantown High alum Shea Campbell, getting reps.
“He made the most of the opportunity,” defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said of the former Mohigans safety. “That kid’s going to be a player — he’s going to play.”