The annual end to spring training, the West Virginia Blue-Gold game is tomorrow, April 25th, at 1 p.m. Tickets will be $10 at the gate, and WVU student will be admitted for free with their student ID. All proceeds from the game will be donated to the WVU Children’s Hospital. There will be specific parking instructions, and certain guidelines for entrance to the stadium.
As is tradition, the Blue team will include the members of the WVU football team defense, and in white – for the gold team – will be the offense. Fans are reminded that there won’t be any autographs, meet-and-greets etc. following the game, and that a Fan Day will be held in August.
Players to Watch
Though the incoming players still need to be evaluated later this year, there are plenty of players that have impressed Head Coach Dana Holgorsen and you will more than likely be seeing regularly during the 2015-16 season for the Mountaineers.
Skyler Howard – Howard has recently received Holgorsen’s approval as the number one quarterback. Last year, Howard stepped in for retired quarterback Clint Trickett after Trickett was injured with several concussions throughout the year – some of which, he admits, went unreported. During that time, Howard stepped in to the starting position for the first time in the Iowa State game to conclude WVUs regular season. In that game, Howard completed 21 passes and made 3 touchdowns to overcome a point deficit and lead the Mountaineers to victory. During that game, Howard gained 69 yards in only 7 rushing attempts – the most from a WVU quarterback since Jarrett Brown in 2009. Howard went on to lead the Mountaineers in the Liberty Bowl as he threw for 346 yards and completed 3 touchdowns.
This year, Howard has been focusing on improving his knowledge of the offense, and getting as many reps as possible with potential starting wide receivers Shelton Gibson and Daikiel Shorts. Holgorsen recently said about Howard, “His teammates believe in him. The coaches believe in him. He is doing well.” What’s Howard’s task on Saturday? Getting all of WVU to believe in him. That is – if they don’t already.
Shelton Gibson – Last year, as a red-shirt freshman, Gibson finished with a season best 47 yard reception against the Aggies in the Liberty Bowl. Gibson played in 12 games for the Mountaineers – 242 plays (203 on special teams).
This year, Gibson was named as the #1 wide receiver by Dana Holgorsen, alongside Daikiel Shorts. Gibson, recently, has been taking reps with clear-cut quarterback, Howard. Similar to the chemistry between Trickett, White, and Alford) last season, Shelton Gibson and Skyler Howard seem to have a good off-field, out-of-practice chemistry. Gibson says of his relationship with Howard, “He’s my boy. I go home with him sometimes and we get to work on (timing) there, or when I’m down (on the practice field).” Are Gibson and Howard the new WVU Football dream team?
Daikiel Shorts – Last year, Shorts – now a Junior – played in 13 games, with a start in four. He totaled 24 catches for 346 yards, and completed two touchdowns. His season high plays took place during the game against Maryland at 85 plays. During the game against Iowa State, in which Howard led the Mountaineers during his first start of the season, Shorts completed his 2nd touchdown on a 15-yard pass from Howard. As a freshman, Shorts played in 12 games for West Virginia, seeing a start as wide receiver in 9 of them.
This year, Holgorsen has name Shorts as the #1 wide receiver alongside red-shirt sophomore, Shelton Gibson. Holgorsen announced in a press conference on the 11th of April that he had moved Shorts from the inside to the outside as Wendell Smallwood began to establish himself as the top inside receiver. Shorts is adjusting to the position, and making great gains quickly. Will Shorts live up to Holgorsen’s expectations during the Blue-Gold game?
Wendell Smallwood – Last year, Smallwood played in 13 games for the Mountaineers, with a start in 9 of them. He established himself as West Virginia’s #2 rusher with 148 carries for 722 yards and the completion of 2 touchdowns. Smallwood continued to impress as he became the Mountaineer’s fourth-leading receiver (31 catches for 326 yards).
This year, it’s not question why Holgorsen turned to Smallwood to solve the inside receiver problem. Smallwood is a good possibility to fill Holgorsen’s #1 inside receiver position, giving Holgorsen the ability to push Shorts to the wide receiver position and increase West Virginia’s offensive ability.
Rushel Shell – Last year, Shell competed in 12 games, starting in 8, after having his red shirt lifted after the 2013 season to fulfill NCAA transfer requirements. Shell became WVUs leading rusher with 176 carries of 788 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 21 catches for 140 yards.
This year, Shell is getting in a lot of reps, however, Holgorsen says he has yeat to see Shell take anything over from all he accomplished and learned last year. Shell is still performing well, and Holgorsen commented that he is happy to have four or five addition players to develop – since the position takes a beating – to step in when another needs to come out.
Are you ready to see your Mountaineers’ progress through the spring training season? Check them out as they compete in the Blue-Gold game Saturday at 1 p.m.
In the meantime, stop into Mountaineer World and get geared up early for Football season!