The weather outside was frightful, indeed, but there was a buzz Sunday afternoon inside the Caperton Indoor Facility as West Virginia opened spring camp with its first practice.
Minutes before practice, university officials announced the cancellation of today's classes as the largest snowfall of this unrelenting winter fell on Morgantown, bringing freezing temperatures and blizzard conditions to campus.
“We actually thought about canceling this [practice], just because I had heard they were going to cancel school, but guys were eager.” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I asked all the coaches what their opinion on it was, and they were probably even more eager than the kids were. So we decided to go ahead and get started.”
The coaching staff has a couple new faces this season, headlined by senior associate head coach Tom Bradley, a longtime Penn State assistant under Joe Paterno. Holgorsen said Bradley, who spent 11 years as defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions, will work with the defensive line and mentor first-year defensive coordinator Tony Gibson.
“He’s going to be great recruiting Western Pennsylvania, and he’s going to help me a lot,” Holgorsen said of Bradley. “He’s been in this profession for 35 years and has seen it all. … He’s going to bring a lot to the table, and we’re fortunate and excited to have him on board.”
Assistant coach Damon Cogdell, the other offseason hire, will coach the linebackers. Cogdell played linebacker at West Virginia in the late 1990s.
With an older team returning this season, Holgorsen said he will be “less patient with mental mistakes.”
“They should have a handle on what we’re doing,” he said. “We’ve got to get them better at the actual product.”
Early depth chart
West Virginia’s initial spring depth chart revealed very few surprises.
Listed at the starting offensive tackle spots — the primary positions of concern entering the spring — were redshirt junior Marquis Lucas, a converted guard, and redshirt sophomore Adam Pankey.
Redshirt sophomore running back Rushel Shell, a Pitt transfer, debuted at third in the loaded running back ranks, behind senior Dreamius Smith and sophomore Wendell Smallwood. Smith and Smallwood saw limited carries last season behind Houston transfer Charles Sims.
The only position change revealed by the depth chart, it appears, was junior K.J. Dillon moving from safety to strong-side linebacker. Dillon had been the perceived front-runner to start at free safety.
Holgorsen announced that redshirt senior cornerback Travis Bell has been suspended indefinitely from the team.
Bell started nine games for the Mountaineers last fall but was arrested Dec. 1 for DUI and driving with a suspended license. It was his second arrest in 10 months.
Holgorsen said he has not considered whether he might reinstate Bell for his senior season, but added, “I wanted to keep him on scholarship and keep him in school so he can work toward his degree.”
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.