MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — While West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen spotted abundant reasons for optimism Thursday, the first day of preseason camp also revealed a nugget of severe injury news.
Redshirt freshman Jacky Marcellus, projected to be a versatile component at slot receiver, will miss the season after undergoing knee surgery.
“He’s out until January,” Holgorsen said.
The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Marcellus was featured on Jet sweeps, reverses and quick screens during the spring, as coaches sought to utilize his quick-twitch elusiveness. While the injury discards an offensive weapon, Holgorsen said West Virginia’s inside receiver depth remains better than at any point during his previous three seasons. That’s saying something considering Tavon Austin was here for two of those seasons.
“Jordan Thompson looks good and Daikiel Shorts looks good,” the coach said before referencing the potential for using fullback Cody Clay and veteran running backs Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison in the slot.
Perhaps the best option is sophomore Wendell Smallwood, who on Tuesday was cleared of witness intimidation charges in Delaware, reversing a potentially messy scenario in which he was extradited in connection to a murder case. Smallwood was back in the fold at practice Thursday and back in the good graces of his coach, who implied he remained at No. 2 on the depth chart behind Dreamius Smith.
“Smallwood is where he was at the end of (spring),” said Holgorsen. “He had a great summer. Obviously, he was not with us for about a 10-day period, but he is an intrical part of what we’re going to be doing offensively.”
Newly enrolled freshman Lamar Parker also Holgorsen’s attention in the slot: “He made some plays today that surprised me.”
Nickel back K.J. Dillon (sprained ankle) is expected to be sidelined a week, and Buck linebacker Brandon Golson (shoulder surgery) should be cleared for contact within a few days. Senior inside linebacker Jared Barber, who gingerly jogged around the field in a red jersey Thursday, may be out until September as he recovers from ACL surgery.
Freshman offensive line signee Amanii Brown and junior tight end Russell Haughton-James are expected back by the first day of classes Aug. 18.
While West Virginia sorts out eligibility issues blocking the arrivals of offensive lineman Dontae Angus, receiver Jacob McCrary and junior college defensive back Jaylon Myers, another three-star recruit has come and gone.
Offensive lineman Walter Rauterkus “decided not to play football,” according to Holgorsen, and returned to Avon, Ohio. “He was here during the summer decided this was not for him, so he went home.”
Junior college offensive tackle Justin Scott also has yet to report.
Senior cornerback Travis Bell, a nine-game starter in 2013 who had been suspended from the team during the spring, was back at practice Thursday.
Bell was charged with DUI a day after last season’s final game, which followed an arrest in February 2013 for misdemeanor domestic battery.
Darien Bryant, a former Rivals three-star tight end recruit who spent the past three seasons at Vanderbilt, participated in practice just days after arriving in Morgantown.
A redshirt junior with two years remaining, the 6-4 Bryant is immediately eligible as a walk-on after graduating fom Vandy. He reportedly hopes for a chance to contribute on offense after working sparingly as a defensive end reserve with the Commodores.
“I don’t know—he’s been here a day,” Holgorsen said. “I just met him last night. We’ll talk about guys that have made plays.”