Forecasting WVU: Where the Mountaineers stand after spring practices
A position-by-position breakdown of how the West Virginia football team looks after spring practices:
Junior Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress each took 50 percent of the reps in the spring; however, neither player emerged as the starter. Millard's advantage over Childress is experience – he appeared in 11 games over two seasons. Otherwise, the two quarterbacks appear to be even. In the case of a tie between a junior and redshirt freshman, coach Dana Holgorsen may be inclined to lean toward Millard.
Until proven otherwise, junior Andrew Buie, who led the team in rushing last season, is the No. 1 running back. He didn't play in the Gold-Blue game, permitting the coaching staff to get a good look at junior Dustin Garrison and newcomers Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood. Garrison, who recorded a 200-yard rushing game as a freshman, is regaining the burst he lost following knee surgery a year ago. Smith, a junior college transfer, has good size to go along with sprinter's speed. Smallwood shows potential but is learning the college game. Redshirt sophomore Cody Clay plays the role of blocking back.
What was a team strength has become a work in progress, with several new players stepping into key roles. Starters include redshirt junior Quinton Spain and redshirt senior Curtis Feight at tackle, and redshirt senior Pat Eger of Thomas Jefferson at center. All three played last season, with Eger moving over from tackle. The starting guards are both new – redshirt sophomore Marquis Lucas and redshirt junior Mark Glowinski. Junior college center Stone Undrewood arrives this summer.
Attempting to replace the two most prolific receivers in school history will be an arduous task. Sophomore Jordan Thompson is the only known quantity, but he was a disappointment in 2012. Thompson scored three touchdowns in the spring game. Junior college transfer Kevin White has exciting potential but is still learning the offense. Junior Connor Arlia, redshirt sophomore K.J. Myers, redshirt freshman Devonte Mathis will be given every opportunity to carve out playing time, along with newcomers Shelton Gibson and Ronald Carswell.
A year ago, defensive line was a weak spot. Now it's considered a team strength. Redshirt senior defensive end Will Clarke (Allderdice) and redshirt senior nose tackle Shaq Rowell weren't to blame for the defense's struggles last season. Developing depth on the defensive line is important against Big 12 offenses, so look for the emergence of sophomore Eric Kinsey, redshirt sophomore Kyle Rose, sophomore Christian Brown and redshirt freshman Noble Nwachoku. Prize junior college recruit Dontrill Hyman could make an immediate impact.
Sophomore Isaiah Bruce amassed 95 tackles (6.5 tackles for losses) and two interceptions as a first-year starter. He's backed up by senior Doug Rigg, who also played well last season. Redshirt sophomore Nick Kwiatkoski (Bethel Park), redshirt senior Dozie Ezemma and redshirt junior West Tonkery are listed as the other starters. Junior college standout D'vante Henry, recruited for his ability to pressure the quarterback, is one to watch.
Cornerbacks Brodrick Jenkins (redshirt senior) and Nana Kyeremeh (sophomore) have a better understanding of the defense, which ranked among the worst in college football against the pass. Sophomore safety Karl Joseph , who led the team in tackles, was outstanding against the pass and run. Redshirt senior Darwin cook provides more stability on the back line of the defense.
Redshirt freshman Josh Lambert kicked in the Gold-Blue game, making field goals of 39 and 47 yards while missing attempts of 41 and 48 yards. Lambert made all three extra points. When junior college standout Nick O'Toole arrives, he is expected to handle the punting duties, although redshirt junior Michael Molinari also has game experience.