By: George O’Bryan
When college football analysts look at WVU’s 2014 football team are they really seeing this year’s team or are they still looking at the results of last season? And what about all the issues that caused the 2013 football season to be one of the worst in the school’s history?
When I look back at WVU’s 2013 Season, I see a fairly talented team that was riddled with injuries, and a team that lacked the depth to overcome the injuries. Two of the starting QBs (Ford Childress and Clint Trickett) played hurt. Trickett only played 2-quarters without injury. Defensively, coaches were struggling to find 11 players to put on the field. Players were moved around from position to position, in an effort to find a place to fit less skilled and experienced players.
This resulted in more than a few close losses. WVU repeatedly saw 4th quarter leads dwindle away to losses or overtime. The Mountaineers simply did not have the depth to compete in overtime. Before the summer workouts were over, Holgorsen announced Clint Trickett as the Starting QB.
Some fans were hoping for Skyler Howard, who was red-shirted after spring training. Others were hoping for the true freshman – William Crest – to get the starting position, most likely he too will be red-shirted for the year it will take him to learn Holgorsen’s offense. Geno Smith struggled with the offense the first year, and Clint Trickett not arriving until Aug 2013, also had a tough time grasping the offense last season. With Skyler Howard being red-shirted, and most likely the same will happen to William Crest, I look for Logan Moore to be Trickett’s back-up, since he is more mobile and accurate than Paul Millard.
WVU’s struggles last season did allow players to get playing time, thus adding to WVU’s depth on defense this season. It also gave new receivers a chance to see what they had gotten themselves into by playing in the Big 12. With Trickett now getting most of the reps as the starting QB, the offense should improve in all areas.
The offensive line will learn how Trickett moves and Trickett will learn what to expect from the OL. The same goes for the receivers. They will become accustomed to catching Trickett’s passes and see what he sees from the defense. This will improve route running and help the receivers get open for Trickett’s passes. The tight-ends should do a better job of blocking and finding the open areas for a Trickett pass.
Defensively, WVU is much more sound, and last years’ experience provide much needed depth going into this season. The one benefit of last year’s injuries, that no one has written about, is all of the defensive players that were knocked out of games by their team mate – #8 Karl Joseph. Joseph has been ranked the top hitter in college football.
Going into the 2014 season, WVU has more than one heavy hitter. WVU has a long list of players on defense that can and will lower the hammer on opponents: Karl Joseph, K.J. Dillion, Kyle Rose, Darrien Howard, Jared Barber, Dontrill Hyman, Isaiah Bruce, Jewone Snow, Jarrod Harper, Christian Brown, Terrell Chestnut, Brandon Golson, Shaq Petteway, just to name a few. Daryl Worley is considered to be one of the best Corner Backs in the nation. This defense is talented and I hope every team WVU plays listens to the media on how bad they are.
Alabama is considered to have one of the best groups of running back in the nation. WVU’s group of running backs are no slouch, and may be as good as Alabama’s. While Dreamius Smith is the workhorse and a big power back, WVU has Wendell Smallwood that is not only an excellent running back, but is an excellent route runner and receiver.
Add in Rushel Shell, Andrew Buie, and Dustin Garrison, as well as the biggest of the running backs and true freshman Dontae Thomas-Williams, and opponents will have their hands full. And let us not forget the tight-end/full-backs: Cody Clay and Elijah Wellman; they can block, run, and catch.
Make no mistake, this backfield is loaded. And we haven’t even talked about the receivers: Mario Alford, Kevin White, Daikiel Shorts, and Shelton Gibson. Alford and Gibson are among the fastest of the group. As last season progressed we saw improvement in Mario Alford, Kevin White and Daikiel Shorts.
Lastly there are the Special Teams, and WVU has one of the best punters in the game with Nick O’Toole. When I look back at WVU’s 2013 season, I see a team that was devastated by injury and a resulting lack of depth. What they were able to gain from all of this going into the 2014 seasons was a lot of experience at nearly every position.
Being embarrassed last season, this group has something to prove, and they are hungry. Beating WVU will not be easy this season. My advice to those teams that believe the sports analysts position that WVU can’t play Big 12 football and can’t compete; keep believing that and while you are at it convince the coaches of the opponents that WVU is nothing more than a leisurely walk in the park.