By George O’Bryan
For the first time in at least 4 years, WVU will be starting only two true freshmen and will be redshirting the rest.
This is the first time Head Coach Dana Holgorsen has had the luxury of doing this. The only two freshmen he is not planning to redshirt immediately are safety Dravon Henry and quarterback William Crest.
Holgorsen came to WVU to run his version of the spread offense. The problem was recruiting had been down, and under Rich Rodriguez WVU had been a running team, and had been using the spread offense to run.
Most of these running backs were fast. Beginning in Rich Rods last season recruiting started to deteriorate. It didn’t get any better under Coach Bill Stewart.
In his first 2 seasons at WVU, Holgorsen’s ‘Air Raid’ offense took off but the running game suffered. The talent and depth at running back just wasn’t there.
This year, WVU’s running backs can also be used as receivers. Thus, no matter what type of offense WVU is running, whether it be the spread, the pro, the power, etc., Holgorsen can do so without changing players.
Using tight ends is something else Holgorsen had not done until Cody Clay came on board. Last season Clay was seldom used as a receiver at tight end.
This year Holgorsen has two TE/FBs that he can throw to: Cody Clay and Garrett Hope, and one TE/FB who can run the ball in Elijah Wellman. These TE/FBs will be used more this year in the running and passing game.
Last season injuries decimated the QB position and the defense. QBs Ford Childress and Clint Trickett both went down with injury, but Trickett tried to play through his.
The defense suffered so many injuries that redshirts were burned and some defensive players ended up playing 3 or 4 positions. The coaches were simply trying to get 11 guys on the field to play defense.
What a difference a season makes. This year WVU has a plethora of linebackers and running backs, and are 2 and 3 deep at nearly every position.
Last year 12 true freshmen saw the field. This year this will likely be reduced to two. With 55 players having Big 12 experience, this team is ready to go, and they want redemption. WVU led in the 4th quarter in 4 games last season that they went on to lose.
It now appears that Elijah Wellman (who Holgorsen says runs like WVU Legend Owen Schmitt) will have a chance to showcase his running skills.
Freshman QB William Crest volunteered to be a returner on the kick-off team, and will likely get an opportunity to do so. Then there is QB/WR Logan Moore who practices at both positions.
Holgorsen has stated that Moore adds depth to the inside receiving group, and will be used as an emergency QB.
This type of player adds many options and makes the WVU offense very versatile. Perhaps the most versatile player on offense is RB Wendell Smallwood who can play both RB and WR.
The key to this year’s team is its depth. According to the coaches, very little separates the 1s and 2s and in some cases the 3s and 4s. This season WVU is balanced, extremely versatile and very fast.
This may be the most talented group that WVU has had in years and will even be better next year.
It has taken Holgorsen 4 seasons of recruiting to bring in the talent needed for the spread offense, for the 3-3-5 defense, and to develop a team that can compete in the Big 12.
While injuries hurt WVU last season, it allowed WVU to work with the players and gave them an opportunity to get a feel of the speed of the Big 12 as well as the fast tempo offenses.
Even while losing, WVU was able to create depth at nearly every position. With experience, players are more ready to listen to the coaches and improve their skills and craft.
Look for WVU to shock sports analysts and sports writers this season. If I were a betting man, I’d take WVU and the 27 points against Alabama. The score should be much closer.
As far as Holgorsen’s job goes, it is secure. WVU AD Oliver Luck has already stated this, and the fans want Holgorsen to stay on for at least another season due to his successful recruiting along with his staff.
Personally, I look for WVU to begin the season 5 -0, and yes, folks, that means I truly believe they will beat both Alabama and Oklahoma.
Photo credit: WVUSports.com