MORGANTOWN — The NCAA’s new rule permitting players to play up to four games while retaining a redshirt season has already led to an adjustment in West Virginia’s weekly preparation.
Thursdays are no longer treated just as a rest-and-recovery day for WVU players prior to game day. The coaching staff is also using the day to prepare younger players since there is a possibility of them seeing the field in November.
“We now understand they can get pulled up from the ‘junior varsity’ to the ‘varsity’ in case we need them,” coach Dana Holgorsen said during his Monday night radio show. “Our Thursdays are now recovery Thursdays and developmental Thursdays.”
In the past, scout team players were primarily focused on mimicking whatever opponent the Mountaineers had coming on the schedule. That will still be the case this week with Kansas State on the docket, but an element of the Mountaineers’ own playbook will be spliced in, as well.
Holgorsen said that WVU’s graduate assistants coach the younger players in their weekly scrimmage to the tune of 50-60 snaps.
“We haven’t done that forever because we’ve been so entrenched with scout-team work,” Holgorsen said. “You get in such a scout-team mode that you don’t hear our language. They’re hearing Kansas State stuff and not our stuff. This gives us an opportunity to coach them just like our older guys.”
The new approach has the Mountaineers’ first- and second-year players at an unprecedented level of preparation at this stage of the season, Holgorsen believes.
“It’s worked out really good,” Holgorsen said. “We’ve had more and better developmental work at this point than I’ve ever seen. It’s allowed us to really look at how we do things.”
In the past, Holgorsen was hesitant to play scout team players late in the season because they’ve focused so little on their own team’s playbook. That should no longer be such an issue.
“They’ll know what they’re doing instead of plugging them in and say ‘go run fast,’ ” he said.
Scout teamers who have caught Holgorsen’s eye thus far include receiver Randy Fields, offensive lineman Michael Brown, tight end T.J. Banks, defensive lineman Tavis Lee, safety Kwantel Raines and quarterback Trey Lowe.
Holgorsen remains optimistic about running back Alec Sinkfield’s return, though he hasn’t put a timetable on it. Sinkfield rode a cart into the locker room against Youngstown State after an ankle-area injury.
“Sink is still a little banged up, but I have a feeling he’s gonna heal quick,” Holgorsen said. “Competition has a way of doing that.”
Overall, Holgorsen is happy with his team’s health after its impromptu bye week.
“Two games in, we’re as healthy as we’re going to be,” Holgorsen said. “We’re going to be eager to play. If any advantage exists [from not playing], it’s because we want to play so bad.”