High School Football

Holgorsen faces unknowns about Spavital, seniors for bowl

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Dana Holgorsen knows where West Virginia is going this bowl season. Now it’s a matter of finding out who is coming with him to the Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Fla., when the Mountaineers face Syracuse on Dec. 28.

Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital already expressed an interest in retaining the role for one more game after accepting the head coaching job at Texas State. But as Holgorsen noted on Sunday, he hasn’t been in touch with Spavital since he took the Texas State job. Both coaches were out on the road recruiting this weekend.

“I haven’t heard from Jake since his press conference. He’s been buckled down with recruiting and so have I,” Holgorsen said. “He was a hot commodity at several schools. He settled on Texas State, which is great for Texas State and the Sun Belt Conference.”

Holgorsen said Spavital kept him in the loop as he interviewed for jobs. He is Holgorsen’s first coordinator to land a head coaching position at another Division I program.

The door is open for Spavital to rejoin the staff for the bowl game, though Holgorsen is preparing to take on Spavital’s usual duties as offensive coordinator.

“That is 100-percent his decision,” Holgorsen said. “I will take over any duties he cannot do, whether it’s coaching quarterbacks, game-planning or calling plays. If he can make it, he’ll do so. If not, I will handle all those responsibilities. I’ve done that a little in my time.”

Holgorsen was West Virginia’s play-caller before hiring Spavital in 2017.

Whether it’s Spavital or Holgorsen calling the plays, it remains to be seen if quarterback Will Grier will be the one throwing the passes. Following the loss to Oklahoma, Grier said he had not yet thought about whether or not he would play in a bowl game because he was so focused on the Big 12 championship game. The return of Spavital, with whom Grier is close, could potentially bode well for his odds of playing.

Receiver David Sills already committed to playing in the game.

“I’m 100-percent dedicated to this program,” Sills said following the Oklahoma game. “We’ve put way too much time and effort in together. I’ll 100 percent be playing in the bowl game.”

Left tackle Yodny Cajuste, another potential first-rounder, is an unknown after missing the end of the Oklahoma game with a leg injury.

Several potential NFL draft picks have elected to sit out their team’s bowl games the last two years after Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith’s devastating knee injury in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl. (Ironically, Smith has repeatedly stated he has no regret about playing in that game). Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver and LSU cornerback Greedy Williams are among the players who have announced they’ll be sitting out bowl games this year.

But sitting out also can backfire. WVU running back Justin Crawford did not play in last year’s Heart of Dallas Bowl and still went undrafted.

“I don’t know [if anyone will sit out]. I think that’s a question that every head coach in the country is going to be asked,” Holgorsen said. “We’ve got a recruiting weekend next weekend before we reconvene as a football team and see where their mind is.

“I do know this. We’re an outstanding football team. Top-15 all year. Averaged 54 players per game. We had an awesome senior night to remember, though unfortunately we came up short at the end. Those guys mean an awful lot to me.”

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