High School Football

‘Zero academic casualties’ put West Virginia at full strength for bowl

Coach Dana Holgorsen announced “zero academic casualties” entering West Virginia’s first Russell Athletic Bowl practice in Orlando on Friday.

“Nope, we are all good to go,” he said. “We ended with a 2.53 team GPA, which is the highest it’s been since I have been here, tracking it back since 2011.”

Holgorsen’s contract includes a $20,000 incentive for a 2.6 team grade-point average, ranging up to $30,000 for a 3.0 GPA.

The coach recognized the work of academic advisor Brittney O’Dell, an Orlando native in her second year at WVU.

Like most bowl teams, the Mountaineers have been stung by poor grades in the past. Senior center Joe Madsen was academically ineligible for the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl, and last season’s Cactus Bowl went on without four West Virginia players, including cornerback Daryl Worley and Jovon Durante.

Updating injuries

Durante’s knee appears healthy after landing awkwardly in pursuit of an incomplete pass during the regular-season finale against Baylor.

“He is good,” Holgorsen said. “He will play a good bit at that outside spot.”

Durante shifted outside in that game a week after Ka’Raun White suffered a broken leg at Iowa State. The sophomore enters the bowl with 32 catches for 309 yards and two scores.

A week after defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said Spur safety Kyzir White had returned to practice, Holgorsen said the junior’s broken hand “still needs a little more time to heal.”

The plan remains to play Kyzir White against Miami, though the breakout game Marvin Gross produced against Baylor has coaches feeling better about Plan B. Gross earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors after making an interception, two sacks and forcing a fumble.

“It doesn’t matter how much (White) plays. We are not going to have to rely on him as much based on Marvin Gross coming up in the one game he played,” Holgorsen said.

“We have depth there — that’s why this team has been good, they are able to overcome things like that. (White) is suited up. He will be out there. He will have a little bit of wrap on his hand, but other than that he is good to go.”

Howard on recharging

Before last season’s Cactus Bowl, quarterback Skyler Howard used the month-long break to recover from wrist and ankle injuries. He posted the second-best passing day in WVU history with 532 yards and five touchdowns.

Aside from a Week 1 rib injury, Howard has enjoyed mostly prime health this fall. While the postseason break provided time to recharge, he said the other position players needed the most time to heal.

“These other guys have to hit every day in practice. I only have to do it on weekends, so my job is a lot easier,” he said. “I get beat up on Saturday and then get all week to recover. They get beat up on Saturday and have to go head-to-head on Tuesday. I feel for those guys.”

Miami’s reputation

Calling plays hasn’t been the only adjustment for Miami’s first-time offensive coordinator Thomas Brown. He also has acclimated to the Hurricanes’ program and, in the process, dispelled some myths about it.

“Coming down here, so many people told me so many negative things about the players in Miami, whether it was from a recruiting standpoint or the guys we have on our roster. But there have just been very few issues. From Day 1 those guys almost bought in to exactly what we wanted them to do,” Brown said.

“I thought we would have to come in and put the hammer down and yell and kick half the team off. The perception of what people say about Miami and Miami kids — some adults tried to scare me out of it and scare my wife and kids out of it. It’s been phenomenal to be around our guys. They’re not perfect, but they’re very coachable and they’re hungry and they want to be great.”

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