MORGANTOWN-The wait is over.
No. 11 West Virginia and second-year head coach Dana Holgorsen opens fall practice at 5 p.m. under the watching eyes of Mountaineer fans around the country and, for the first time since the 1991 season, as the member of a new conference-the Big 12.
"It (fans talking about the Big 12) is an everyday thing any more," explained redshirt sophomore linebacker Wes Tonkery, a graduate of Bridgeport High School. "I'm excited to get the season started just so we can get the talk slowed down."
Photo by Jim Butta
Parkersburg native Josh Jenkins, right, will be one of nearly 100 players second-year head coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff expect to report for the opening day of practice at WVU. The Mountaineers are coming off a 10-3 season a year ago.
WVU's move has resulted in ticket sales that have resulted in tickets for home games against Marshall, Kansas State, Maryland and Baylor being suspended. Tickets for the Mountaineers' home clash against TCU (Nov. 3) and Kansas (Dec. 1) are still available as well as three of four road contests.
Holgorsen and his staff will welcome back nine starters on offense, seven on defense and five specialists.
Among the familiar faces when the old gold and blue has the football will be former-Parkersburg standout Josh Jenkins, who missed the entire 2011 campaign while recovering from a knee injury he suffered during the spring of 2011.
"I'm looking forward to fall camp because, after you get done with the summer, it's just a good feeling to look at yourself and see where you were and where you are come the fall," explained Jenkins, the Mountain State's only two-time recipient of the Hunt Award. "It's always exciting. You get to see what all the work you put in is for when you step out onto the field."
In addition to Jenkins, who will return at left guard, West Virginia's offense will have senior Geno Smith at quarterback, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and J.D. Woods at wide receiver, Ryan Clarke at fullback, and Pat Eger, Joe Madsen and Jeff Braun on the line. That number does not include redshirt sophomore Quinton Spain, who played in all 13 games and started against South Florida, and sophomore running back Dustin Garrison.
Garrison led the team in rushing with 742 yards and six touchdowns on 136 attempts, but a left knee injury prior to the Orange Bowl kept the Texas native out of WVU's 70-33 victory over Clemson as well as spring drills.
Defensively, a new scheme (3-4) as well as a new coaching staff will greet returning starters Jared Barber (LB), Will Clarke (DE), Darwin Cook (DB), Terrence Garvin (DB), Brodrick Jenkins (DB), Doug Rigg (LB) and Jorge Wright (DL).
Former-Parkersburg South standout Michael Molinari returns as the team's starting holder and backup punter. Seniors Tyler Bitancurt and Corey Smith are back as the team's placekicker and punter, respectively, while Austin again will be the team's primary return specialist.
West Virginia opens the season against instate foe Marshall University in the Friends of Coal Bowl at noon on Saturday, Sept. 1.