WVU Sports with Mike Casazza

About that depth chart…

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… didn’t happen Tuesday. I know one was being put together, and perhaps that was just so we’d have one in the game notes we receive five days from now.

It’s been 15 days since the last depth chart, and many things have changed. Let’s hazard a guess at what might be when we see the next two-deep.

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Experiment tomorrow (unless it’s already today)

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FBH caught me in the act. I was working on something the other night that’s going to, I hope, jump into our weekly rotation. That’s the good news. The bad news? No more chats. The other good news? Facebook Live!

Here’s our tentative plan. At 12:15 p.m. EST every Thursday, we’ll have the Four-Minute Offensive. (Get it?!?!) It’s a condensed version of the chat. Extraordinarily condensed. The questions and the answers will happen live, and I’ll hustle through as many (that won’t get me fired) as I can before time expires. I’ll send out the reminder, as well as the link you need, here and a few other places before it begins. You can re-live the magic afterward.

What FBH caught me in was a YouTube live stream, which I don’t like quite as much. That’s upsetting, because YouTube has been good to us and because you can monetize it, but it’s wonky and requires you to jump through some sign-up hoops. For the F-MO, all you need is the link.

Tomorrow — or if you’re reading this Thursday, today — will be our maiden voyage. It’s entirely possible this blows up in our faces and we go to YouTube. Either way, it’s not an occasion to miss.

Ooh! Defensive lineman film! Watch the quarterback wig out at the 0:42 mark.

You could get used to that, and maybe Mr. McDougle will make it so. He’s currently committed to Washington State, but he’s planning a visit to WVU soon.

Perhaps mammoth junior college defensive lineman Walter Palmore will follow suit. WVU extended him a scholarship offer just recently, and Palmore and WVU running back Justin Crawford were high school teammates.

The Mountaineers need defensive linemen in the 2017 class, and the condition was made to feel a bit more pressing when one player de-committed last week.

Yet WVU might make good on a player changing his mind if a former Pitt commit decides to choose the Mountaineers when he announces his decision Friday.


The premise of the story today is that West Virginia feels really good about who and what it has at running back. The Mountaineers once loved to use two-back sets, but you really need three running backs to pull that off, and the Mountaineers didn’t have that last season, But with Rushel Shell, Kennedy McKoy and Justin Crawford — and depending how the next few days go, possibly also Martell Pettaway — WVU threatens to use more two-back sets this season.

We thought Wendell Smallwood leaving early might hamstring the running game, but Dana Holgorsen rather likes what he sees, even if he did see it coming.

“With Kennedy’s development through spring, we knew we had something with him,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We know what Russ can do. I thought we had signed a pretty good player with Crawford, and he’s been every bit as good as advertised.

“We’re probably, from a depth perspective, in a much better place than we were a year ago. Any time you lose an NFL guy and say you’re in a better spot because of more bodies, I think that’s pretty exciting.”

But let’s do what’s en vogue. Let’s discuss Crawford and let’s do so with a talking point not new to these parts.

Is he fast?

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Mock game week!

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Dana Holgorsen had a real news conference today, and the highlight is the news that starting left guard Adam Pankey is suspended and will miss at least the opener against Missouri. Tony Matteo will take his place.

I didn’t follow up on this with anyone, but I would presume Pankey isn’t practicing. I will also presume that started last week. There are two weeks before Sept. 3. That’s three weeks of inactivity. He’s a veteran, I know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Pankey, provided he’s reinstated, doesn’t start or doesn’t play much against Youngstown State. There’s an open week between the game against the Penguins and the subsequent one against BYU.

Also, we’re getting a revised depth chart later that reflects where things stood after Saturday’s closed scrimmage. I don’t want to ruin the surprises, but from what I understand there will be some noticeable changes, including a new role for the indispensable Khairi Sharif.

Hey! This was a good play. It was one of the many times West Virginia’s defense did one of its Things really well last season … as well as one of the rare times it took advantage of one of its Things.

The Mountaineers forced 31 turnovers in 2015. That was one of the best totals in all of college football. The Mountaineers totaled 122 return yards. More than one-third of that total comes right here — and Terrell Chestnut had a 32-yard interception return touchdown against Kansas — and 26 of the turnovers had zero return yards.

That, I have to think, is hard to do.

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Jovon Durante is an inside receiver, and life is a lot different inside than it is outside. It sounds and it has looked like he’s doing just fine inside and that his speed and his slippery moves make him a matchup problem for larger and less-twitchy defenders. With the ball in his hands, he’s like few others on the roster.

That’s the benefit.

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Can’t explain why, but Marvin Gross has had my attention for three years now. I couldn’t believe he was playing — and doing OK — as a true freshman in 2013. I figured the redshirt in 2014 was overdue. I probably wasn’t surprised he wasn’t a factor last season, because spur is hard and because K.J. Dillon was the spur. I probably was surprised he was the first-team spur in the beginning and then the end of the spring and then the beginning and the end of camp.

Now, do I believe he’s going to start there? Not quite. I keep hearing Kyzir White is the guy there and that we’ll see why, but who knows what happens with Gross? He’s an almost imperceptible player who I can’t keep my eyes off if after all these years, all those silly stats in high school and all the different roles in college.

“He’s got all the talent in the world,” Caponi said. “He just needs to take care of business on his end and show that he can produce and be effective in situations we ask him to and need him to.”

You are looking live at Maurice Fleming prior to the Aug. 13 scrimmage. At that point, he was being used on the punt, punt return, kickoff and kickoff return teams — not first-team for all of them, but auditioning for a much as he could get —  and the coaches were OK with that because he’s good at all of it.

The trouble, if you want to call it that, was that he was also a first-team cornerback that day. He can’t do everything. He could try, but he wouldn’t be effective.

He’s going to play in the secondary. He might be a starting corner. Or he might be the nickelback. Or he could start at corner and slide over to nickel on third own. Or he could be the corner or the nickel and play safety on passing downs. But he’s going to play, and that much was clear after he arched brows from the moment he arrived in June to the end of camp last week.

In short, it was exactly what Fleming and the Mountaineers anticipated.

He chose the Mountaineers because their top three cornerbacks from 2015 are gone, but Fleming said he felt he could use his experience to give his new team a leader.

He only made 31 tackles in 33 games at Iowa, and he started just once. He hasn’t tackled anyone in a game yet, and WVU hasn’t picked a starter among Fleming, three other fifth-year seniors and two junior college transfers.

But he’s already showing others his ways.

“He’s special from the aspect that he understands how to practice,” Gibson said. “Every single drill he does is full-speed. If you have to watch a kid and the way he works, it’s not even close. He stands out among them all.

“But I expected that from him. He’s a fifth-year kid. It’s not his last chance, but he knows this is his last year of football at the collegiate level, so he’s all in.”