FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Greetings from beautiful South Florida, where West Virginia and Clemson practiced for the second day in preparation for the Discover Orange Bowl.
Mountaineers defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and select defensive players met with the media this morning, along with Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris and select offensive players.
The big story of the day, of course, were the injuries that keep mounting for West Virginia. Running back Dustin Garrison is out for the game, the third West Virginia starter to be declared out. On Casteel's side of the ball, West Virginia will be without safety Terence Garvin. Redshirt freshman Wes Tonkery and true freshman Shaq Petteway have been working the position during practice but no starter has been announced.
"We'll still work those two kids the next two or three practices, and they're both going to play," Casteel said. "That's what happens when you get an injury; a kid has to step up, and the next guy goes. I know that they're excited to play. We've been through those situations before, so those guys will be ready to go."
Eain Smith and Darwin Cook could be relied upon even more with Garvin out.
"I think the key is letting the kids get in and get settled in," Casteel said. "For some of these kids, obviously this is a big game for them. Once they get in and settle in, they're going to find it's no different than any of the other games that they've played.
"But our leaders will settle those guys down, and they'll be ready to play."
Playing with young players like Petteway and Tonkery is going to be something West Virginia will have to get through, the way it did when Garvin missed the Cincinnati game with a knee injury. Smith started in place of Garvin in that game, but the coaches don't seem to want to move him for this game.
Garvin was third on the team with 72 tackles. With the way Clemson likes to throw the ball, and the talent the Tigers have at the skill positions, they could take advantage.
"Will it change our thinking?" Morris asked. "We're going to do what we do. We've got to be able to be who we are, what got us to this point in the season. You know, we try to do a good job of mixing up the run and the pass. So are we going to change our thought process? No. And if we were, I couldn't tell you.
"So it's one of those type of deals. We feel like we've got to make sure that we do the things that got us here, protecting the football, being physical, playing physical and being aggressive. That's who we are, that's who I've been since 2002, and it's not going to change.
"You know, it's unfortunate. I heard the injury report, and that's unbelievable. I hate that for that young man. What a great football player. But again, we've got to do what's got us here to this point."
Both head coaches offered statements about the way practice, which was closed to the media, went Saturday afternoon:
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said receiver DeAndre Hopkins practiced and is good to go for the game. "He’s back and it and looked fine," Swinney said. "Probably could’ve practiced yesterday, but we just wanted to have another day to evaluate him but I thought he moved around pretty good. Other than that, we’re physically in good shape, just have to mentally get dialed in."
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen named his captains for the game: linebacker Najee Goode, center Joe Madsen, quarterback Geno Smith and cornerback Keith Tandy.
Former Mountaineers who were at practice Saturday were Grantis Bell (WR, 1985-88), Johnny Dingle (DL, 2005-07), Dale Williams (OL, 1991-93) and James “Puppy” Wright (LB, 1991-94).
Also in attendance at Saturday's practice was former Miami coach Randy Shannon and Florida Atlantic assistant Kurt VanValkenburgh.
“Practice went fine today," Holgorsen said. "We consider this our Tuesday practice so we were getting into our normal routine for the game week. The weather has been outstanding and I can see that our players are getting excited for game day. The player’s focus has been good, and they have been working hard. We are down here to win a football game, and I think our mix of preparation and fun has been good.”