OVAC camp opens at Bethany

BETHANY – Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Charity Football Classic week is officially underway.

All 66 players – divided evenly between Ohio and West Virginia – checked into their homes for the next week at Bethany College Sunday and were on the practice field in the evening, starting the process of preparing for the game, which occurs on July 27 at Wheeling Island Stadium.

After some last-minute roster jockeying, both Ohio head coach Jose Davis and West Virginia head coach B.J. Depew breathed a sigh of relief when all of their players made it to camp. Game rules do not allow the teams to fill spots once camp opens.

“The rosters are set and we’ll take the 33 guys we have and roll with them,” Davis said.

Depew wasn’t spared in the roster make-over process. He received word Friday that Morgantown’s Chazzy Thomas – the Kennady Award winner – was going to bypass the game. Fellow Mohigan Will Rockis was added to the team to fill Thomas’ roster spot.

“We’re excited to have the 33 kids we have,” Depew said. “The one thing that sticks out to me is how incredibly helpful all of the West Virginia coaches have been. They’ve gone above and beyond to do all they can to help me find guys. The pool of talent in West Virginia was very, very good and we’re satisfied with the guys we’ve got here, and we’re ready to go.”

Once the players got their room assignments and unpacked, they had an orientation meeting and then underwent physcials.

Davis, who led Ohio to victory in the 1996 game, was chomping at the bit to get onto the practice field.

“This is exciting because football is back and we’re ready to get after it,” Davis said. “To have a chance to coach in this game is an honor, and that’s how I am approaching it.”

While Davis considers it an honor, he also fully realizes how meaningful the game is in the Ohio Valley with the border-state rivalry. Thus, he will not lose sight of the ultimate goal, which is to win a game next Sunday night.

“As an athlete, competitor or coach, you’re here to win a game,” Davis said. “That’s the bottom line. It can be as much fun as you want it to be, but, at the end of the day, everyone’s here because the way they were taught to compete and perform on the field.”

The Buckeye State hit the ground running and wanted to begin immediately with preparation, knowing that the days are limited especially once all of the events that surround the game get going later in the week.

“We’re going to see what the kids are capable of, get things started and go from there,” Davis said. “I’ve been racking my own brain at how we’re going to install what we want to do in a matter of seven nights. We have to make sure we split up all three (phases), too. We’ve got a plan, but we’ll see what works, what the kids can retain.”

West Virginia was on the field and spent much of the evening in a “get-to-know” session both in terms of each other, the coaches and the system.

“We’ll try to do some basic teaching, evaluate kids and see who fits where,” Depew said. “We don’t have a pre-conceived notion exactly who will start, but that will definitely play itself out in the first few days.”

Depew’s goal is to have the depth chart basically finalized by the middle portion of the week.

“If we don’t put the kids in places the first few days, we’re not going to have a chance to get decent at what we’re trying to do,” Depew said. “We’ve talked to coaches and feel like we know what their abilities are, but now we have to find the best way to piece them together.”

The majority of the players appeared to check into camp in fairly decent playing shape, which is important. However, the preparation for one game is different than a season, according to Depew.

“We have to get their legs back in shape for one game, but it’s not the same as conditioning them for the long haul,” Depew said. “It’s more about getting the team coordinated and priming them to be at their best on Sunday.”

Both teams are scheduled for a Monday morning practice as well and will then take part in media day festivies at Bethany, starting at noon.

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com