Notebook: Mountaineers add juco receiver 12 days before opener

West Virginia quarterback Will Grier looks to make a throw during preseason practice drills.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Junior college receiver Isaiah Esdale joined West Virginia on Tuesday, a late scholarship addition.

“A pretty thick three-for-three guy,” Holgorsen said. “He’s on board, and he’s in school today. We’re excited to have him here.”

A 6-foot-1 sophomore, Esdale played at Eastern Arizona College with the WVU offensive linemen Michael and Joe Brown, and rewinding further, he played alongside David Sills in high school at Eastern Christian Academy. Holgorsen said Esdale “got lost in the shuffle a little bit” after the academy closed.

Isaiah Esdale

“If you look back at our success rate with Eastern Christian kids, it’s been high,” Holgorsen said. “He’s played with David. He was a little younger than like Daikiel (Shorts Jr.), Wendell (Smallwood), and Kenny (Bigelow Jr.). But he’s older than like Leddie (Brown).

Esdale’s arrival 12 days before the season opener doesn’t portend much playing time, particularly with WVU loaded at receiver. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital was unsure about how soon Esdale could find a role.

“He hasn’t even been in the meetings. I haven’t seen him run around yet. He looks the part, but is he in game shape? I don’t know yet,” Spavital said.

When a reporter asked Spavital, “When can you get Isaiah game-ready?” the coordinator presumed they were talking about lineman Isaiah Hardy.

Throwing shade on 2017

Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson kicked more dirt on the grave of 2017’s porous defense, and indirectly at departed lineman Adam Shuler, who’s now at Florida.

“I’ve always trusted my instincts but I went against it last year, and we played guys on this defense who didn’t deserve to play for West Virginia,” he said. “I knew it going into the season and I let it ruin our season.”

Gibson said he allowed himself “to be held hostage” by some players who didn’t care about the program.

“I’m not talking about our seniors. I’m talking about guys who played and are no longer with the program,” Gibson said. “I regret it and I hate it for Kyzir White and Al-Rasheed (Benton) who had to go through it.”

Scrimmage feedback

Both coordinators found things to cheer about during the recent scrimmage that was closed the media.

Gibson said “the kids reacted well” to being in placed 2-minute and 4-minute drills, along with some tempo periods.

Spavital liked seeing the first-team offense score on three of the opening four possessions, but then the starters’ production flattened out.

“They’re bored and I think they’re ready to go play Tennessee,” he said. “I get it, but we’re better than that.”

Return game

West Virginia is working Marcus Simms, Alec Sinkfield, Gary Jennings, freshman Sam James and even David Sills at kick returner. Simms fielded 31 of the team’s 40 returns last season, averaging 26 yards with a long of 80.

The punt-return rotation includes Jennings, Simms and sophomore Tevin Bush. Simms handled 17 of WVU’s 22 punt runbacks in 2017. He averaged 5.8 yards with a career-best of 23.

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