Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

WVU FOOTBALL ; Early Enrollees Adjust Quickly for Mountaineers

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

WVU FOOTBALL ; Early Enrollees Adjust Quickly for Mountaineers

Article excerpt

MORGANTOWN - West Virginia welcomed nine freshmen to the football team in January, players who enrolled early not to escape high school but to accelerate college during the 15 spring practices. So far, so good for a few of them and for WVU's offense, defense and maybe even special teams.

"You come in and you've got prom coming up, you're riding on a Blue Bird and you should still be taking senior English, WVU offensive coordinator Joe Wickline said. "These are some mature guys to be able to come to college and take a load of coursework and go through what we put them through downstairs [in the weight room] and the demands we have upstairs.

"The spring's a little lighter. It's not the same as other times, but by the same token, they should still be in high school, so from a maturity standpoint, we like what we have.

Cornerback Jacquez Adams, offensive lineman Jacob Buccigrossi, defensive lineman Reese Donahue, running back Kennedy McKoy, defensive lineman Jacob Pooler, quarterback Cody Saunders, receiver Marcus Simms, linebacker Logan Thimons and safety Dylan Tonkery each graduated from high school early and started taking classes at WVU on Jan. 11.

Spring football began March 13, and Thursday was WVU's 11th practice. Coaches say McKoy and Donahue will play in the fall. McKoy has been praised for learning quickly and giving the offense what Wendell Smallwood provided the past three seasons. He's also worked as a kickoff returner.

The coaches believe Donahue, a two-time first-team all-state selection at Cabell Midland and the first player to win the annual prizes for the state's best lineman and defensive player, should have had more scholarship offers than WVU, Cornell and Purdue.

"He's progressed really well, just as we thought he would, WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. "He's a guy we never planned on redshirting. He'll keep repping and get to the point we can use him this fall.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Donahue will play on the defensive line, but special teams coach Mark Scott said he could also be one of the blockers on kickoff returns because he can handle the mental and physical requirements.

"Physically, he's like everyone else who's still young, but obviously he's put himself in a good position because he's stronger than most young guys coming in, defensive line coach Bruce Tall said. "But mentally, you can't graduate early unless you have some smarts up top. He's sharp. He picks everything up. He's got a notebook he's already filled. He's really attuned to the mental part of the game.

It's possible Adams, Pooler, Simms and Thimons play, as well. Pooler is 6-2 and 290 pounds, but Gibson said he "needs to learn to be a little more aggressive. Simms impressed before missing time after a death in his family. The consensus first-team all-Maryland pick caught 43 passes for 1,020 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015. …

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