Some talented freshmen bid for berths on starting teams
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- If there was a moment K.J. Dillon wanted back, it came Monday night when he was lined up at safety on a goal-line drill.
He turned his head at the snap, swiveled back, and J.D. Woods was gone -- out of his sight in a heartbeat, leaving him momentarily frozen in the grass.
Welcome to the life of a true freshman at West Virginia, where the football coaches have made it clear in training camp that the opportunity is there for those trying to crack the lineup this fall.
"I don't know what I was thinking," Dillon said. "I looked one way, I turned around, and my man was gone. I didn't know where to go."
There are five freshmen looking for playing time at receiver, newcomers hold backup slots at both offensive guard positions, freshmen provide depth for the defensive line and two freshmen defensive backs are starting at the safety positions.
Dillon made his debut with the first-team defense Monday, stepping in for Darwin Cook (groin). The offense worked its tempo for more than 50 snaps, the fastest in camp so far.
"My head was spinning a lot, I ain't going to lie," Dillon said.
"It was the first time we were in a high tempo, but it was also my first time running with the 'ones'. Those two together, it was crazy."
Karl Joseph is at free safety and was the only freshman whose name was printed at No. 1 on the depth chart handed out at the start of camp.
Imarjaye Albury is listed behind Jorge Wright at nose tackle and is one of the freshmen who enrolled in January.
Jordan Thompson also enrolled in January and flashed his skill in the spring game, all but locking up one of the inside receiver positions.
He isn't the only one competing for time: Devonte Robinson (6 feet 1, 170 pounds), Devonte Mathis (6-2, 210), Will Johnson (6-6, 245) and Travares Copeland (6-1, 170), a former high school quarterback, are all in the mix.
"They're not going to look you in the eye and tell you they expect something out of you," Johnson, who is built like an NFL tight end, said of the coaches.
"It's more the situations they're putting you in, that'll show they trust you."
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said time will tell who gets in the lineup, but that all five are bringing the right frame of mind to practice.
"The attitude of that group is extremely high," Dawson said. "The morale of that group is really high. For one reason or another, I really don't know why, they enjoy going out there and learning."
Redshirting won't be discussed, said coach Dana Holgorsen, for another several weeks.
"Nobody wants to sit out," Mathis said. "Everybody wants to get in there and play with these guys, but, if the coach sits us down for the season, it's for a reason."
Then there are the offensive linemen, two guards from Ohio who advanced to the two-deep by the first week of camp: left guard Adam Pankey, who already looks the part at 6-5, 324, and right guard Tyler Orlosky, 6-4, 285.
"Ideally we would like to redshirt 'em," line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said.
"But, if they deserve a chance to play, then we're going to play them. I've never seen it. I've never had two freshmen be in the first two groups."
Orlosky said the most difficult part of adjusting to the college game is not the size and speed, but the mental side -- learning the offense and remembering new techniques.
"My head spins some trying to learn the plays. The upperclassmen help me get through it," he said.
"Coach B said that he would prefer to redshirt all of his freshmen. That's what I came in expecting. This is a nice little surprise, being with the 'two's'."
Pankey said there is a lot more thinking involved working with Bedenbaugh.
"Coming out of high school, you can just muscle somebody because you're bigger than them," Pankey said. "Now you've got to use steps, use proper technique, so there's a little bit more of a learning curve."You're thinking about an assignment, what you've got to do, thinking [about] where you're going, who you've got. It's a lot, a lot more thinking."
First Published August 15, 2012 12:00 am