MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For most of 14 practices all through the spring, West Virginia was on the market battling the chilly, drizzling rain, some sleet, and robust winds.
It was nearly just like the shadow of final 12 months’s disappointment was nonetheless being solid over them.
But Saturday, spring bloomed. At least, they known as it the Gold-Blue Spring Game, however it was extra like we skipped spring altogether. It was summer time, the thermometer hovering proper via 80 levels, that massive orange disc radiating from the sky above.
An omen? Perhaps. Certainly, it was apparent that this might be a brand new 12 months, a special 12 months.
New offensive coordinator Graham Harrell had promised pleasure. He promised to attempt to rating each time his offense took the sphere and, even when the rating was solely 22-21 in favor of the Gold staff, issues clearly had modified as time after time there have been large performs, all of them creating a brand new confidence and angle.
And they did it with three quarterbacks who most likely received’t be beginning, the place carrying an indication that claims “Reserved for transfer J.T. Daniels from Georgia and USC.”
But nobody was hanging his head. They have been competing, pushing, urgent, throwing the ball on the market and letting the likes of Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Kaden Prather, Sam James and Morgantown High’s walk-on broad receiver Preston Fox, who leapt out of the shadows of obscurity and right into a locker room scholarship presentation after catching 5 passes for 117 yards within the recreation.
“The offense last year was a little more conservative,” mentioned Prather, whose day included 4 catches for 43 yards, together with one troublesome downfield toss to his again shoulder. “We took our time. Coach Graham likes to take shots so it’s going to be more exciting.”
Two examples of how issues modified over the low season. At halftime, Garrett Greene was having a troublesome time of it, simply 1 for 3 within the first half, two badly overthrown passes to open receivers downfield.
But how did he come out to start out the second half? Bang and increase. He threw 44 yards to Bryce Ford-Wheaton on the primary play of the half, then on the second completed off the drive with 31 yards into the tip zone to Ford-Wheaton, the receiver snaring every go with 9.6 levels of dive problem.
“No question. We’re going to try and take a lot of shots and score a lot of points,” he mentioned, a smile creeping throughout his face.
“We’ve had a lot of deep balls this spring … and I mean a lot,” Prather mentioned. “We haven’t come down with all of them, but we have been working the over-the-shoulder ball a lot. We know we can go up and catch it. Doing it over the back shoulder makes it a little harder on us, but it’s getting easier.”
Attitude, confidence, pleasure. That’s what Harrell is constructing into his offense.
And everybody will get it.
Chad Scott, the working backs coach who ran for the successful Gold staff, noticed it because the third quarter drew to a detailed. The Gold staff had the ball, fourth and a couple of on the Blue 43.
“When the time ran out at the end of the third quarter, the guys come to the sideline, right? We got this true freshman at quarterback, Nicco Marchiol, just got here,” Scott mentioned.
Now, you’ll anticipate a real freshman to pay attention intently for the following play, perhaps shrug his shoulders and settle for the concept that with an entire quarter to go, it would even be good to punt them deep.
Not Nicco Marchiol.
“He comes over and says ‘Coach, let’s go for it.’ All those guys, they go ‘Let’s go for it.’ They gravitate to that. In their minds they are invincible. So he gives us a play call to go for it.”
Marquan Rucker runs for a primary down and, in the long run, Rucker winds up scoring the game-winning landing on an 11-yard run.
The 12,678 followers mentioned to be there appreciated what they noticed, and the staff appreciated them appreciating it, if you happen to can unscramble that.
“You always have to remember the things people said,” guard James Gmiter mentioned after the sport. “You have to keep your receipts. We talk about that all the time. It was kind of nerve-racking going out there in front of all those people. They gave us a hard time last year, but we’re a different unit now.”
They are totally different due to the brand new offense, which builds a brand new angle.
And Preston Fox could symbolize that angle.
“He’s been productive. We put him on scholarship in the locker room, so those are some of the best moments. His parents came to the locker room, and he earned his scholarship. He’s been super productive,” Brown mentioned. “The next step for him is he has to do it against the top guys. I’m really pleased for him. He’s a guy who got an opportunity, and he made the most of that opportunity during these 15 practices. He earned the scholarship.”
His teammates have seen what the one-time Mohigan did.
“Preston?” Prather mentioned when requested about him. “I remember Graeson (Malashevich) got his scholarship last spring and we’ve all been waiting for them to give one to Preston. We were all like, ‘Coach Brown, what’s going on here. What are you waiting for?’”
And when it got here?
“We were all excited, for sure. If anyone deserved it, it was P-Fox. He’s very consistent catching balls like that. When he does it, it’s like ‘There goes Preston again.’”