Spring time the right time for experimenting with offensive personnel

West Virginia offensive coordinator Jake Spavital has quarterback Will Grier and an urge to experiment with personnel packages this spring.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Beyond stressing fundamentals and sharpening technique, spring affords a trial-and-error approach to offensive personnel packages.

“It’s a time to do some experimentation, and we’re getting more of these tight end bodies, so it’s been fun getting to mess around with this stuff,” West Virginia offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said. “This stuff we’re putting in, I think a lot of it’s going to stick and continue on into the season.”

The addition of sophomore transfer Jovanni Haskins gives West Virginia a new downfield threat at tight end, and he’ll have company once signees TJ Banks and Mike O’Laughlin arrive the summer. The other tight end working this spring, senior Trevon Wesco, has grown into a lineman-sized 270 pounds. While he can’t rival Haskins for athleticism, Wesco is agile enough to block on the perimeter which can make him useful on screens and wide runs.

“Jovanni is long and he’s strong,” quarterback Will Grier said. “We know he’s going to be really good in the passing game and we’re bringing him along in the blocking game. Plus Trevon is in their banging every day. I’m really excited about adding them in and broadening what we did on offense.”

West Virginia’s tight ends have been mostly invisible in the passing game during Dana Holgorsen’s seven-year tenure. Cody Clay’s nine catches in 2013 were the single-season high. Wesco has made one reception during each of his two seasons at WVU.

Shuffling at Sam

The ACL injury that put linebacker Quondarius Qualls’ season in peril has defensive coordinator Tony Gibson making contingency plans.

Junior college signee Charlie Benton, who was competing with Qualls at the Sam spot, now becomes the stand-alone leader.

Dylan Tonkery, a nine-game starter at Will linebacker last season, has shifted inside to Mike and would shuffle to Sam only under extreme necessity. Redshirt sophomore Brendan Ferns, besieged by season-ending injuries in his first two years, is working as the backup at Mike and will get a look outside.

“Ferns has never played Sam but that may be an option. So here in this last week we’re going to get Ferns some reps there,” Gibson said.

Adding to the injury problems, former safety Exree Loe was slotted to work at Sam this spring but he has been ruled out with a pectoral injury.

The timetable for Qualls’ rehab leaves open the chance of contributing next season — a scenario that likely would require him to be cleared by mid-August. If he’s not healthy until late September, a medical redshirt becomes probable.

Will Grier on haircut: Says his wife “wanted it shorter.”

Hair apparent

Amid the vacuum of actual spring practice news, Grier’s transformation from shoulder-length mane to a modern pompadour became a topic. Was his haircut a prelude to the Heisman?

“I did the long hair thing, but I didn’t really like the way it looked, to be honest with you. I kind of got tired of it. I think it was just time for a change,” Grier said.

“My wife wanted it shorter, so I chopped it all off. It was getting kind of crazy long, and now I look a little bit cleaner again.”

Plus he’ll no longer need the headband.

Cornerback departs

Reserve cornerback Kevin Williams has left the team, a source confirmed. The redshirt junior from Pompano Beach, Fla., appeared in five games the past two seasons.

Notes on newbies

Former Michigan cornerback Keith Washington and former Ohio State safety Josh Norwood — both of whom spent last season in the Mississippi juco ranks — have impressed coaches this spring with their play-making and football-first approach. “You don’t have to worry about them going to High Street,” Gibson said. “That’s not why they’re here.” … Early enrollee Josh Chandler is taking heavy reps at Will linebacker. … Romney native Evan Staley went 6-of-7 on field goal tries last season but said he welcomes the addition of Western Kentucky transfer Skyler Simcox: “I really like having Skyler here. It puts pressure on all of us and that competition makes us all better.”

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