MORGANTOWN — There will be no quarterback controversy at West Virginia this year.
Dana Holgorsen took care of that when he named Clint Trickett his starter before camp opened, and it probably was a good thing because there would be people harping today as camp closed with a spirited scrimmage.
The last hour of the scrimmage was open to the media, and at least while the media was present, Trickett’s first-team offense was shut out by the first-team defense, while his backup Paul Millard threw a couple of touchdown passes against the second-string defense.
The first was to K.J. Myers and the second to freshman running back Dontae Thomas-Williams.
Still, there was no disappointment with Trickett’s play.
“I think he had a great camp,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. “I thought as camp ended up, you typically — like today, I thought the defense responded and had a really good day, which is good to see, but for the most part I think he executed pretty well.”
That the defense played so well was, of course, welcome news after it struggled terribly over the past two seasons, ranking in the bottom fifth of all BCS teams.
Much emphasis was put on pass defense, both through the rush and in coverage.
The rush did seem to be improved, especially from newcomer Shaquille Riddick, a transfer from Gardner-Webb who has been the sensation of the camp.
Riddick was working with the second defense and applied constant pressure to Millard or William Crest, the freshman who showed all the tendencies you would expect out of a freshman in his first scrimmage.
“We gave up a couple of passes today,” defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said when asked about the progress his team has made in pass coverage. “That’s offense executing well and some of it was on us not getting on our man or dropping into the wrong zone.
“But we’re getting better,” Gibson continued. “Are we a straight lockdown man team? No. We’re not built for that, but not many teams are.”
Gibson said his biggest concern as camp closed is tackling.
“We are out of control. The biggest mistake we saw yesterday was guys’ heads down, running full speed, reaching … that’s not how we teach it. You’ve got to see what you are hitting,” Gibson said. “We have a whole terminology sheet we give them on tackling … what kind of form we want and we want to do it, so you just have to keep pounding it in them.”
In live work on Friday, there were 22 missed tackles, but after working on it in the morning, Gibson said he thought they missed only two tackles in the scrimmage.
Offensively there is much work to be done, although Dawson didn’t sound too concerned because they were using the scrimmage more for evaluation purposes than preparation.
“We wanted to develop some chemistry with the first group and figure out who are twos are. There were a lot of snaps today — a lot of backup guys in there taking reps — so we’ll see who we can trust and who we can’t,” Dawson said.
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The most notable absence in the final scrimmage of camp was that of returning starting cornerback Ishmael “Icky” Banks, who was not in uniform and when Gibson was questioned about it, he would only reply:
“You’ll have to talk to coach Holgorsen.”
Only assistant coaches were available following the scrimmage.
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Also not on the field for the final scrimmage was a player everyone wanted to see, Pitt transfer Rushel Shell, a running back.
This was done as precautionary measure. According to running back coach JaJuan Seider, “he took one in the quad” on Friday.
Shell is expected to go as the No. 1 or No. 2 running back.
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As West Virginia’s summer camp ended, the two deepest positions seemed to be at linebacker on defense and running back on offense.
The way Gibson sees it going into two weeks of preparation for Alabama, he has six players who will rotate in and out at the linebacker positions – will linebackers Edward Muldrow and Brandon Golson, mike linebackers Nick Kwiatkoski and Al-Rasheed Benson and sam linebackers Isaiah Bruce and Wes Tonkery.
The running backs are five deep with Shell, Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie, while there is a freshman, Thomas-Williams from North Carolina who has opened some eyes.
They would like to redshirt Thomas-Williams, but still have not made that decision.
“You hate to take away a redshirt if you are only going to use him sparingly,” Seider said. “Right now it’s hard enough to get the other five in there.”
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Christian Brown raised some eyebrows when he was moved from nose to defensive tackle, switching with Kyle Rose.
So where was Brown when they opened the scrimmage to the media on Saturday? Back at the nose.
“It’s not permanent,” assistant Tom Bradley explained. “Rose is still a little banged up, so we moved Brown back there so he could get some work in the middle. We can move guys around because they play more than one position. Rose has some nicks and bumps, not something to worry about.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel