By Jay Fisher
Dana Holgorsen came to WVU with a reputation as an offensive guru. For the most part, his offenses have delivered. This year brings a change as Jake Spavital returns to the coaching staff as offensive coordinator. He will also be calling the plays, which is the first time Holgorsen will not be doing that.
There is a great deal of optimism this year for the WVU offense. And that starts with the quarterback, Will Grier. He played a half season as a true freshman at Florida, before transferring to WVU. As a Gator, the Florida offense was much more effective with Grier than without him. As a Mountaineer he earned raves from the team and coaches working with the scout team. The glimpses fans have seen in practices have done nothing to dampen enthusiasm. Grier is also the preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, so the expectations are high.
He should have a pretty good offensive line in front of him. WVU returns several players with starting experience. The key newcomer is Matt Jones, who takes over at center. There is appears to be some good young depth as well.
Holgorsen has emphasized the running game in recent years as he has evolved as a coach. This season, the running game should be a strength. Justin Crawford is an All-Conference candidate. Kennedy McCoy and Martell Pettaway both had 100+ yard games last year, giving WVU great depth at running back. Throw in Elijah Wellman as a stud fullback who can line up in a variety of places, block well, and even carry the ball, the running back position is the most accomplished offensive group on the team.
In the passing game, there is a great deal of potential, but much of it is unrealized to date. Shelton Gibson (most yards) and Daikiel Shorts (most catches) are both gone. Jovon Durante is dealing with personal issues and his return is questionable. That means Ka’Raun White might be the only returning wide receiver with more than 10 catches last year.
[private] There is plenty of apparent talent. Gary Jennings and Marcus Simms have both shown flashes of being able to contribute. And there are plenty of newcomers who can make an impact. One of them isn’t really a newcomer – David Sills transferred away for a year to try his hand at quarterback, but returned to the Mountaineers, and has the talent to be WVU’s top threat this year. Reggie Roberson is a true freshman with great speed; Dominique Maiden is a tall, rangy target who could be tough to defend; Nate German is an intriguing grad transfer from Rice who has impressed already.
At tight end, WVU has gained several verbal commitments, which may be a sign that Spavital wants to utilize that position more often. Trevon Wesco therefore might see more catches this year.
The thing on the receiving corps that is the question mark is that outside of White, no one has really shown they can be effective week in, week out. They need to develop consistency, but having Grier throwing to them should help.
Notes: The women’s soccer team will open the season as the #1 team in the nation. The runners-up last year gained their first ever top preseason ranking in the Soccer Coaches poll…The football team will start the season #20 in the Coaches Poll, which was the fourth best among Big 12 teams.