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Eagles Counting on WVU Players to Contribute in 2017

Philadelphia Eagles v Cincinnati Bengals
Coach Doug Pederson said Wendell Smallwood is “in the mix” at running back.
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The pipeline from Morgantown to Philadelphia has become plentiful.

The Eagles added two more players from the Big 12 school in the draft, and signed another after the draft after adding running back Wendell Smallwood in the 2016 draft.

As the Eagles get ready for rookie camp at the NovaCare Center, I got the chance to talk to West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen about the Mountaineers who are now Eagles, about how their games might translate at the NFL level.

First, the Eagles added WVU cornerback Rasul Douglas in the third round, which was No. 99 overall. The JUCO transfer who played two seasons in Morgantown, had a breakout senior year, leading the nation in interceptions (8)  to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors.

“He’s so long, he’s got adequate speed, he’s not going to be a 4.25 guy but he’s got adequate speed,” West Virginia head football coach Dana Holgorsen said on the Sports Bash.

Youngstown State v West Virginia
Eagles selected West Virginia CB Rasul Douglas with the No. 99 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

“He does a great job on the line of scrimmage getting his hands on people. He’s got better closing speed, when that ball is in the air he’s got a really good ability of being able to make you some ground and get his hands on that ball, or pick it off and get it on the ground.”

Douglas should have a tremendous opportunity to get on the field right away, the Eagles are thin at the cornerback position. With their second round pick, Sidney Jones potentially missing the entire season, Douglas could have a clear path the playing time.

As for Shelton Gibson, he played wide receiver but also spent time as a kick returner. Holgorsen talked about the difference in Gibson, a fifth round pick, and former WVU star Tavon Austin, who was a first round pick of the Rams.

“Tavon was the more all purpose guy, he was better in the return guy because he can do punts and kicks. Shelton was a really good return kick returner I think he’s going to have an opportunity to compete for that there,” Holgorsen said.

Russell Athletic Bowl - Miami v West Virginia
Shelton Gibson is a pure vertical threat, something the Eagles lacked in 2016. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

“Shelton’s a little bit more of line up outside and just run by you. He was the best deep threat in college football. He is still developing as a receiver as an underneath guy, as a curl rout guy. He’s going to continue to get better and better, his best ball is still ahead of him.”

There is a good chance that Gibson makes more of an impact this season in the return game then as a receiver, but Holgorsen also nothed that Gibson tracked the deep ball better than any other wide receiver he has coached.

When discussing undrafted rookie free agent Tyler Orlosky, who started for three seasons and a half seasons, Holgorsen talked about his smarts, and sounded like he thought Orlosky could step in and play right away and play if needed.

“Yea he’s a smart kid, it won’t take him long to pick things up,” Holgorsen explained. “He could have been a high draft pick.”

Kansas State v West Virginia
WVU center Tyler Orlosky was voted first-team all-conference as a senior.

“He’s played a lot of football, he’s never been injured, he tends to stay healthy. He’s extremely smart guy, just ask them he will tell you he’s the smartest guy in the room. He’s played a lot of football and he understands the game. He’s consistent and reliable, if you have a center that’s consistent, reliable, strong, and smart, you’re going to have a chance to play for a long time and I think that’s exactly what he’s going to do.”

The Eagles also have to figure out what they are going to do with Smallwood.  The second-year back rushed 77 times for 312 yards and one touchdown, adding six catches for 55 scoreless yards.

“He’s a great player,” Holgorsen said about the former fifth-round pick.

“Early in his career he focused a lot on doing a lot of dual threat stuff, he’d be out there running receiver, really working on his receiving skills. Once Terrell Simms went to the NFL, Smallwood took over for him, and went in there and established himself as the main back, a guy that we wanted to hand the ball to about 25 times. I think his role is whatever they want it to be, I think he’s versatile and could do a lot of different things.”

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