WVU to plug redshirt players into key open positions
CHARLESTON — This season is the first time college football teams have been able to take advantage of a rule allowing players to participate in up to four games and still maintain redshirt status.
For West Virginia University (8-3), the rule has been a blessing. On Friday, Dec. 28, in the Camping World Bowl against former Big East Conference rival Syracuse (9-3), the Mountaineers — hit hard by injuries and departing players — will be able to plug in players who, in the past, would not have been eligible to play.
That starts at quarterback, where West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said he expects freshman Trey Lowe to split playing time with Jack Allison.
The Mountaineers will use two quarterbacks to take the place of senior Will Grier, who elected to skip the bowl and focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.
Holgorsen said he’s been pleased with what he has seen from the pair of quarterbacks so far in practice.
“I couldn’t be happier with what Jack’s doing out there,” Holgorsen said. “He’s spinning that thing now. And Trey, that new redshirt rule is awesome. We’d be in deep crap if I didn’t have that rule right now. So Trey gets to play and he’s going to play and I can’t wait to see what he does.”
The Mountaineers also have players available at receiver to help fill in for departing senior Gary Jennings, who will miss the Camping World Bowl to give a bum ankle more time to heal before he begins his NFL Draft preparation.
True freshmen Sam James and Bryce Wheaton were mentioned as redshirt possibilities to help fill out the receiver spots along with senior David Sills against the Orange. James is a former high school Class 6A 400-meter state champion in Georgia, while Wheaton, who checks in at 6-foot-3, is a third-generation Mountaineer. His grandfather and uncle — Garrett Ford Sr. and Garrett Ford Jr. — both played running back for West Virginia.
Junior-college transfer Michael Brown has seen action in three games this season along the offensive line for WVU and was mentioned as a possible starter at left guard. Tight end T.J. Banks, center Briason Mays and linebacker Quondarius Quails all also fall into the category of redshirt players who can help fill out the roster against Syrcause.
LONG WANTS A WIN: Junior linebacker David Long was the consensus Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year and an Ail-American selection after having one of the best seasons in WVU history. He doesn’t get too caught up in the individual honors; however, there is one thing he hasn’t done during his Mountaineer career he’d like to cross off his list — win a bowl game.
Long was a redshirt during West Virginia’s last bowl win — the 2015 Cactus Bowl against Arizona State. Since then, the Mountaineers were beaten by Miami in the 2016 Russell Athletic (now Camping World) Bowl and lost to Utah in last season’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Asked if he had started any of the process to see where he stood in the eyes of NFL scouts, Long said he had not given it much thought while he continues to focus on Syracuse.
“I haven’t really thought much (about) it; I’m just worrying about this game,” Long said. “I haven’t won a bowl game since I’ve been here. Redshirt year, we beat Arizona State, but other than that I haven’t been a part of winning bowl games. That’s what I’ve been focusing on.”
Long, a self-described “sore loser,” said narrow losses on the road at Oklahoma State and at home against Oklahoma were a tough way to close the Mountaineers’ regular-season schedule, but the Camping World Bowl appearance provides an opportunity to get a bad taste out of their mouths.
“Those were definitely two hard losses, especially to go out and end the season that way,” Long said. “We can’t go off on a bad note, that’s been the message. Go out there and still have a solid record of 9-3 — go out there and get a win.”
ORANGE UPDATE: Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said Friday he does not expect senior defensive back Antwan Cordy to play against WVU, but the Orange are in pretty good shape, health-wise.
According to a Syracuse.com report, two starters — senior tight end Ravian Pierce and junior strong safety Evan Foster — were both back at full strength during Friday’s practice. Freshman cornerback Trill Williams, freshman receiver Taj Harris and sophomore safety Devon Clarke wore green jerseys during the Orange’s practice to indicate limited availability.
CAMPING WORLD BOWL: WEST VIRGINIA (8-3) VS. SYRACUSE (9-3)
WHEN: 5:15 p.m. Friday, Dec. 28, Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
RADIO: WWQB 102.3-FM