West Virginia has their hands full ahead of their Oklahoma State clash as they prepare for a few different scenarios in the aftermath of quarterback Spencer Sanders’s first quarter departure due to an ankle injury.
Just days out from kickoff, Cowboy head coach Mike Gundy is still yet to name a starting signal caller for their second game, leaving the Mountaineer defense with some important questions.
“My belief and my assumption is that we’re going to see an entirely different [offensive] unit,” said WVU coach Neal Brown, citing a lot of movement across the Oklahoma State offense in their season opener.
Sanders, a sophomore, was replaced by redshirt junior Ethan Bullock, who was in turn replaced by freshman Shane Illingworth — all three of whom bring a different dynamic to the table. Sanders plays a more dual-threat style, while Illingworth — the likely number two in case the starter is unavailable — is a more composed pocket passer.
The Mountaineers’ main focus is on Sanders, however — a player they have not yet faced since he joined Oklahoma State.
“You have to try to prepare for all three,” said Jordan Lesley, WVU’s co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. “You have to prepare for the run-pass first because that’s the hardest, so that’s probably where you’ve gotta spend the most energy — but yeah, we’ll prepare…for all three guys that they have.”
Sanders was put in a boot until Tuesday, when Gundy said he would go back on the practice field to test his ankle out. The coach also confirmed on Monday that his injury was not major, but has not given any updates since.
Getting ready for Illingworth is a challenge of its own for West Virginia. A true freshman, he has thrown just five passes in college football and completed four of them. He impressed his coach in his debut against Tulsa, who complimented his composure and execution.
Still, those five passes are far from enough to understand the type of quarterback Illingworth truly is, so Brown and his staff have had to do some digging into his high school film to figure him out. The small sample size did, however, let Brown know that the freshman is up for the challenge.
“If he does play against us, I don’t think the moment will be too big for him,” he said. “They had success with their backup quarterback last year against us, so I think their team will have some confidence going into the game because of that.”