MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Monday brings West Virginia players back to campus for the first team meeting of preseason camp. And on Tuesday, precisely seven months since winning the Cactus Bowl, comes the first practice.
Here are a handful of camp storylines for a team picked seventh in the Big 12 and playing the underrated card:
Sibling rivalry: Which of the White brothers—receiver Ka’Raun or safety Kyzir—will prove more consequential? Both are juniors, though Ka’Raun is several years older and coming off a stellar bowl performance in Phoenix. He followed up with a spring, fueling coach Dana Holgorsen’s recent projection for a big season.
“Don’t sleep on Ka’Raun,” he said.
And Kyzir? He was projected as 2016’s starting Spur even before arriving from Lackawanna College, which says a lot about his four-star talent (and also a lot about the lack of conviction currently afforded Marvin Gross and redshirt freshman Deamonte Lindsay).
Despite missing most of June’s workouts with what Holgorsen described as “a tweaked leg,” Kyzir is 100-percent medically cleared and 99.9 percent likely to man the most crucial spot on Tony Gibson’s rebuilt defense.
Figuring on freshmen: Given the lineage of first-year players making their marks during Holgorsen’s five seasons—Karl Joseph, Dravon Askew-Henry, Daikiel Shorts, Dustin Garrison, Daryl Worley, Wendell Smallwood and Jovon Durante—the eventuality seems probable.
Kennedy McKoy and Marcus Simms made their early enrollments count during the spring, and we’ll soon observe how adept the 150-pound Steven Smothers is at avoiding college defenders.
Coaches spent the summer sessions working him at slot receiver.
“We had him at a position, we taught him what to do, and we watched him come in and out of his cuts,” Holgorsen said, “but I don’t have any feedback on what he can and can’t do” in full-contact action.
Defensive end Reese Donahue contributed ahead-of-schedule this spring and saw his odds of early playing time increase when Larry Jefferson was dismissed. Still, the freshman to watch on Gibson’s side of the ball is Brendan Ferns, a coveted recruit who can play inside or outside linebacker.
Cutting footloose: Speaking of freshmen, there’s Jonn Young arriving from Advance, N.C., with a chance to earn WVU’s punting job over Billy Kinney and perhaps challenge Mike Molina for interim field-goal duties during Josh Lambert’s three-game penalty.
Young arrives bearing the Chris Sailer stamp of approval and you can bet Holgorsen and Mark Scott won’t hesitate to shuffle kickers in camp ahead of the challenging nonconference schedule.
The cornerback chronicles: The spring rotation featured seniors Nana Kyeremeh, Antonio Crawford and Rasul Douglas, but now the competition heats up with Iowa transfer Maurice Fleming and juco arrivals Mike Daniels and Elijah Battle.
Under first-year position coach Blue Adams, any combination is possible, considering those six cornerbacks have combined for only five career FBS starts.
Their development wields vital implications, determining whether Gibson sticks with man coverage (thereby turning loose more blitzers) or feels compelled to drop into zone.