MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Some good news and notes on this Good Friday to get your Mountaineer sports weekend revved up …
* Good weather is expected for Saturday’s Gold-Blue Spring Game at Milan Puskar Stadium. The mercury is anticipated to reach the mid-70s by early afternoon when the Mountaineers hit the field at 1 p.m. for their two-hour public scrimmage.
Earlier this week, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said he expects to get “about 100 reps” on Saturday.
“The two scrimmages that we’ve had we’ve got about 100 each so the spring game is about the same thing,” he said. “We’ll do it like we’ve done in the past. We won’t pick teams or any of that goofy stuff that some other teams do. It will be just doing what we’ve been doing with the scrimmages because that’s kind of what they are used to and I feel like that’s the best way to get more work to close out the spring.”
Of course, all eyes will be on Florida transfer Will Grier
at quarterback on Saturday. The former Parade Magazine national high school player of the year completed 106-of-161 passes for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns in six games during his redshirt freshman season in 2015 with the Gators before his departure.
Grier passed for 271 yards with four touchdowns on 24-of-29 passing against Ole Miss and had a season-high 283 against Tennessee in leading the Gators to a 6-0 start.
The word is Grier is developing nicely this spring while getting a good handle on Jake Spavital’s offense.
Grier will be going against a remodeled Mountaineer defense that must replace eight starters from last year’s unit that fared exceptionally well in wins over Missouri, Kansas State, Texas Tech, TCU, Texas and Baylor.
The player to watch on that side of the ball is sophomore outside linebacker David Long
, who makes up for a lack of size with his downhill playing style. I am told the defense Tony Gibson will be putting out on the field in 2017 will be somewhat smaller than last year’s, but likely a step or two faster.
* While you watch the spring game tomorrow, keep in mind some key parts won't be on the field. It will be interesting to see what the depth chart will look like when Holgorsen releases his next one after the spring has concluded, and when he eventually makes it public.
* Fox Sports college football reporter Bruce Feldman was on campus to take in West Virginia’s closed scrimmage last Saturday afternoon. Feldman was making the rounds, hitting Pitt earlier in the week and also observing practices at Penn State and Ohio State.
Look for something from Feldman on West Virginia in the coming days on the Fox Sports website.
* The West Virginia University baseball team has an opportunity to make a major statement with this weekend’s three-game series against second-ranked TCU in Morgantown. The Horned Frogs are once again at the top of the Big 12 standings with an 8-1 conference record and have been the one league foe WVU has struggled to defeat since joining the Big 12 in 2012.
After taking the first game of a three-game series against TCU in Charleston in 2012, the Mountaineers have dropped 11 straight to the Frogs, including last year’s gut-wrenching extra inning loss in the Big 12 tournament championship game.
West Virginia overcame an early eight-run deficit and led 10-9 heading into the bottom of the ninth, but the Mountaineers were unable to shut the door.
TCU (27-5) is seeking its fourth straight trip to the College World Series while West Virginia (19-12) is looking to snap its 21-season NCAA Tournament drought.
Tonight’s game will be the first-ever televised nationally from Monongalia County Ballpark, with Fox College Sports Atlantic handling the telecast. The game will air locally on Nexstar Media Group’s network of statewide affiliates.
Sunday’s game will also air locally on Nexstar.
Free live streaming of the Saturday and Sunday contests will be available at WVUsports.com.
* Earlier this morning, the Pittsburgh Pirates announced that West Virginia’s makeup date against Penn State, originally scheduled to be played in University Park, will now take place on Wednesday, May 10 at PNC Park.
I believe this will be the first time the Mountaineers have ever played at PNC Park, which opened in 2001.
Through the years, West Virginia has played numerous games in local professional baseball venues, dating back to the turn of the century when WVU and Pitt used to meet annually at old Exposition Park.
WVU has also played baseball games at Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Municipal Stadium in Cleveland and Griffith Stadium in downtown Washington, D.C.
General admission tickets are priced at $10 and are available through the Pittsburgh Pirates’ website.
* WVU Director of Athletics Shane Lyons has been invited to participate on a panel discussion being organized by the Big 12 Conference on “Race and College Athletics” that is taking place at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta on Wednesday, April 19.
The talk will begin at 4 p.m. and will be streamed live on Watch ESPN.
* Former West Virginia University men’s basketball standout Mike Gansey was named NBA Development League Basketball Executive of the Year for 2016-17, the league announced yesterday.
Gansey is general manager of the Canton Charge where his basketball operation decisions helped the Charge to a 29-21 record this year in clinching its sixth straight playoff appearance as a No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. Canton used 19 different players and 18 different lineup combinations yet still made the playoffs.
Gansey has had a leadership role over Canton’s basketball operations since 2012 while also serving as a scout for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Canton’s parent organization. Gansey was selected Executive of the Year by a peer vote.
* West Virginia University senior center Lanay Montgomery
heard her name called in the third round of last night’s WNBA Draft by the Seattle Storm.
She was the 30th player overall picked.
Montgomery is the true definition of a developmental player, coming to Morgantown from the Academy of the Holy Cross and redshirting her first season in 2013. She went from averaging 5.8 minutes per game as a freshman in 2014 to becoming one of women’s college basketball’s top defensive centers by the time she was a junior in 2016.
Her senior season in 2017 saw her average 10.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game in leading the Mountaineers to a Big 12 tournament championship victory over favored Baylor and the program’s ninth NCAA Tournament appearance under coach Mike Carey.
Montgomery becomes the sixth West Virginia player picked in the WNBA draft since 2004, and she was one of only four players taken from the Big 12 this year.
The question is: How many players selected in the WNBA Draft began their college career as a redshirted player?
The guess here is not many, if any.
That’s a credit to Mike Carey and his hard-working coaching staff, and it’s also a credit to Lanay for putting in the effort to improve her game during her five years at West Virginia University.
* Congratulations to Nathan Adrian
on recently being named Big 12 Conference men’s basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year and to Amelie Currat
, who was selected as the league’s women's swimming and diving Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
* Junior gymnast Zaakira Muhammad
has qualified to compete at the 2017 NCAA National Gymnastics Championships being held tonight at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis.
Muhammad will be competing in the second semifinal session as an all-around performer.
She is West Virginia’s first individual qualifier since 2014 and only the second under veteran coach Jason Butts.
The event will be televised on ESPNU beginning at 8 p.m. before switching over to ESPN at 9 p.m.
Good luck Zaakira!
* And finally, I didn’t know Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney, but I did have one brief interaction with the well-respected football executive, who died yesterday at 84.
It happened during the summer when the Steelers were transitioning from Three Rivers Stadium to Heinz Field and once played a preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown. I was waiting in the elevator with a handful of Pittsburgh media members and pro football executives when the door opened and Rooney stepped in.
In unison everyone said “hi, Mr. Rooney” - not “hi Dan.” He was always referred to as Mr. Rooney.
That’s the respect he earned and you sensed it immediately in his presence.