MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Cornerback Hakeem Bailey and defensive end Ezekiel Rose, newcomers from the junior college level, have made instant impacts during West Virginia’s spring practice.
Bailey is vying for a starting job against seniors Elijah Battle and Mike Daniels, a competition that only figures to heat up once Syracuse graduate transfer Corey Winfield arrives this summer.
“Hakeem is having a good spring. I like where he’s at,” said Mountaineers defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “He’s long, athletic, can run, and he’s smart — understands football.”
The 6-foot Bailey is an Atlanta native who came to WVU via Iowa Western Community College. The 6-foot-2, 266-pound Rose also is new to Morgantown after a two-year strict at East Mississippi Community College.
“Zeke’s been repping with the first or second group all spring,” Gibson said.
Pitts making progress
As a four-star recruit with home-state ties, Derrek Pitts faces big expectations. As a newcomer whose high school classmates are still completing their senior years in South Charleston, he faces a steep adjustment.
Gibson said Pitts, like most freshmen, is flummoxed by the pace of practice.
“When the horn blows and guys are going everywhere to the next drill, I always say run in place if you don’t know where the hell you’re going. Derrek runs in place a lot,” he said.
Working at Bandit safety, Pitts is taking second-team reps behind junior Toyous Avery.
“You can see his effort, how he strains,” Gibson said. “He’s going to play. He’ll play immediately to give us some depth or he may even win a position. “
At the midpoint of spring practice that represents progress for Pitts, a two-way standout in high school who also known for his splashy special-teams returns.
“He’s come a long way since the first spring practice,” said West Virginia safeties coach Matt Caponi. “He is understanding what we’re asking of him at that position,” Caponi Being a young guy, a midyear high school kid coming out, he still needs to work on some things, but that’s what film room is for and that’s what my job is for.”
Field vs. box
Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital plans to call plays from the sideline, just as he did at Texas A&M and Cal. He also noted that offensive line coach Joe Wickline will return to the field after spending 2016 in the upstairs booth.
“He was like a caged animal up there,” Spavital said. “It’s time to set him free.”
Injuries? Don’t ask
Before Tuesday’s practice, head coach Dana Holgorsen drove up in a golf cart and teed off on some media members for being preoccupied with spring injuries.
“I’m not going to talk about injuries ever again,” Holgoren said. “I know it sounds like I am irritated and I am. We are going to talk about guys that play football. We aren’t going to talk about injuries anymore. If you are guilty, you are guilty, if you are not guilty, then ignore what I am saying, but too many people focus on injuries. This time of the year, who cares?
“We are trying to get guys healthy. We aren’t going to wear people out. Our job is to get guys ready to go that first Sunday night and that’s what we are going to do. In the meantime, I’m not going to talk about it.”