West Virginia coaches face lengthy to-do list this spring


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If there's a quick way to characterize spring football at West Virginia this year, consider the words of offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson: "Usually spring is boring. It won't be boring this spring."

Not by a long stretch.

The Mountaineer coaching staff is tasked with finding a new quarterback to replace Geno Smith, replacing a pair of All-American level receivers, converting an offensive lineman into a serviceable center, and getting better on defense from the line to the secondary.

It will be as compelling a spring as there has been in Morgantown for some time.

"Personally, I'm excited about watching it," Dawson said. "I'm talking about all positions. Very seldom do you have this much competition. It's going to be fun."

Coach Dana Holgorsen said this week he does not anticipate naming a quarterback by the spring game on April 20 and instead will let the competition carry through fall camp. Backup Paul Millard and redshirt freshmen Ford Childress are expected to be frontrunners, with true freshmen Chavas Rawlins and transfer Logan Moore also in the mix.

Holgorsen said he sees the next 15 practices, spread over six weeks, as a golden opportunity to take a closer look at the whole operation.

"It is an opportunity, and Shannon and I have been talking about this for a while from an offensive standpoint. Let us re-evaluate everything, and let's start coaching these guys real hard," Holgorsen said. "Coach [Joe] DeForest and I have been talking about it from a program standpoint and from a special teams standpoint what we need to do to make it better. That is called coaching. Coach [Keith] Patterson and I have been talking from a defensive standpoint as far as where we are at and what we have to do to get better. It is exciting, and we are pretty motivated to get out there and start coaching."

The offense will see the most overhaul.

As interesting as the quarterback competition will be after the loss of the program's most prolific passer of all time, equally compelling will be the search to find replacements for Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey and the whole receiving corps. The duo were among the best receiving tandems in the country last year. Add in the loss of the team's third most productive receiver -- J.D. Woods -- and the cupboard is bare.

Statistically, very little production is returning at the receiver position, and the door is wide open for several to emerge: sophomore K.J. Myers, redshirt freshman Devonte Mathis, junior Connor Arlia and sophomore Jordan Thompson, who leads that group with just 85 receiving yards.

Newcomer Daikiel Shorts, who enrolled in January, and Kevin White, from the junior college ranks, also will have opportunity.

"Now if they can run routes and hold up to the actual grind of football? That's what we're here to find out," Holgorsen said.

The player who leads the team in reception production is, in fact, running back Andrew Buie, who had 300 and change last year.

"We don't have a lot of production. There's a lot of untested guys out there," Dawson said.

The offensive line loses four-year starting center Joe Madsen and guards Josh Jenkins and Jeff Braun.

Holgorsen said Pat Eger will get a shot at center, sliding over from right tackle, and left tackle Quinton Spain is "big, fast and strong" after an offseason workout program.

At running back, the team loses short-yardage stalwart Shawne Alston but returns Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie.

Defensively, the team will transition to new coordinator Keith Patterson, who was promoted after sharing the title with DeForest last year. Patterson will get seven starters back from last year's group, which was the worst ranked passing defense in the country for most of the year.

The team used five young corners last year who will need to improve this spring, and it must find replacements for a pair of linebackers, Terence Garvin and Josh Francis, lost to graduation.

Looking ahead

What: Blue-Gold Game, the traditional end to spring practice.

When: Time TBA April 20.

Where: Mountaineer Field.

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