Big winners so far during fall camp
Published: Thursday, August 18, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 18, 2011 19:08
It happens every fall.
When teams begin practice, there are always players who aren't expected to play well but emerge as contenders. There are players who might have had high expectations going into camp, and they don't live up to them.
The same has happened since West Virginia University began practice on Aug. 5.
Here are some of the Mountaineers who have impressed the most up to this point in camp:
Wide receiver Ryan Nehlen
It's safe to say Nehlen caught everyone by surprise this spring.
The redshirt junior walk-on who has yet to catch his first pass in a regular season game came out of nowhere to be one of the most impressive receivers during spring practice.
Still, people were skeptical that he would just become the next in a long line of players to have a great spring and then disappear once fall came around.
Then camp started, and Nehlen hasn't disappointed.
Head coach Dana Holgorsen has praised the Morgantown native multiple times since camp started, calling him the most consistent receiver on the team.
It seems like now, especially with oft-injured wide receiver Brad Starks missing some time already this fall, Nehlen has continued to do what he needs to do to make sure he can make an impact in the WVU offense this season.
Running backs Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison
People knew the two newest faces in the WVU backfield had a lot of talent when they committed to the Mountaineers.
Some even expected one of them to come in and take the starting job. It appears that could be true.
At this point in camp, Holgorsen has said Buie and Garrison are right now neck and neck with another freshman, Vernard Roberts, to start.
What's interesting about the two is that, although they're both similar in size, they are admittedly two different runners.
Garrison describes Buie as being a speed back who can make just about anybody miss, while Buie said Garrison is one of the most patient running backs you're going to see.
With those two, plus Roberts, the Mountaineers should have three running backs who will continue to have a tough competition for the majority of the carries.
Inside receiver Devon Brown
Brown led Wake Forest in catches the last two seasons, but not many people knew quite what to expect from him this season at WVU.
Obviously at inside receiver, he has some tough competition to go up against in junior Tavon Austin and senior Tyler Urban if he wants to see the field. But at this point in spring, it looks like he's shown that he'll be just fine fitting in with the rest of this offense.
From the first day of camp, Brown impressed Holgorsen, who said a big part of his quick adjustment this fall was the fact that he got to participate in seven-on-seven drills with the rest of the offense over the summer.
Cornerback Pat Miller
Heading into this season, the Mountaineers were looking for someone to step in and fill the void left by cornerback Brandon Hogan.
Prior to the start of camp, it was between Miller and Brodrick Jenkins for that spot on the field opposite Keith Tandy. And thus far, Miller hasn't looked like he wants to be the one to lose that spot.
Cornerbacks coach David Lockwood said a lot of the strides Miller has made this fall can be attributed to added maturity.
"Miller is starting to show he can be an every-down corner," Lockwood said. "Last year, if he didn't make a play, he came back and went through the motions. This year he's playing faster. He's starting to mature."
Dana Holgorsen, Jake Spavital and Shannon Dawson's arms
For the first week of practice, Holgorsen, quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital and inside receivers coach Shannon Dawson were helping out quite a bit in practice, thanks to only having two quarterbacks on the roster following the departure of freshman Brian Athey to Illinois State.
In an attempt to not put any more stress on Geno Smith and Paul Millard's arms than they were already going to have, the three coaches participated in drills, throwing passes to receivers.
But finally, West Virginia was able to bring in two more quarterbacks for this season in walk-on Ian Loy and Kentucky transfer Michael Burchett.
That means more bodies to come in and take some of the pressure off of Smith and Millard to make all the throws during practice. But, it also means less time with the Athletic Training staff for the three coaches.