Spring football opened today at West Virginia, and the Mountaineers have a lot of work to do.
The spring season will be spread over six weeks, culminating with the:
- Blue-Gold spring game: April 20 at 2 p.m.
1. Replacing star power, and rebuilding the offense
Gone is Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey – the team’s most prolific quarterback in history and a pair of all-American level receivers.
Finding Smith’s replacement takes the lead as the most compelling storyline of the spring. Will it be backup Paul Millard, the only candidate with live game experience? Or will Ford Childress, the redshirt freshman once considered a pretty hot prospect take the lead by the end of spring ball? Throw in true freshman Chavas Rawlins who is considered a dual threat QB and things get interesting. Transfer Logan Moore adds some depth to help the competition.
At WR it's wide open. The team’s most productive returning receiver is actually a running back (Andrew Buie) so look for lots of new names and faces to be mentioned this spring.
And it all starts up front where the interior portion of the offensive line will need to be replaced. Pat Eger is expected to convert to center but won’t be at full go through spring after ankle surgery in the offseason.
2. A new staff coming together
It’s been played down in Morgantown, but Dana Holgorsen has one assistant left from his first season here, and that’s offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. He’s had to replace an outgoing quarterbacks coach, offensive line coach and running backs coach fairly late in the offseason after he let two coaches go.
The hires he brought in seem to be strong replacements on paper, but of course only time will tell how this group gets together.
3. Defensive growth
Keith Patterson talked a lot this week about building a new culture on the team, and his first spring as defensive coordinator will be an important time for this group.
He returns most of the defensive line and some young breakout talent last year in LB Isaiah Bruce and S Karl Joseph. But this group had problems everywhere in the 2012 season, and Patterson has his work cut out for him.
The good news
1. The running game shouldn’t miss too much of a beat this year, so that will give the offense some added ways to move the ball with the return of RBs Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison.
Junior college transfer Dreamius Smith will debut with the team this spring and he has some size that Buie and Garrison don’t at 215 pounds.
2. Holgorsen has proven ability at building an offense even in seasons when there was no clear-cut quarterback to start spring. Consider 2008 at Houston, when Case Keenum eventually emerged.