The WVU Mountaineers football team took the nation by surprise early in the 2014 season, when they hung around with Alabama, took down Maryland, and beat Baylor. Most of that was done with an electric offense led by Quarterback Clint Trickett, wide receivers Kevin White and Mario Alford and the stable of running backs including Rushel Shell, and Wendell Smallwood.
This season, the offense is going to take a step back. Losing potential Top-10 NFL Draft pick Kevin White is going to be a huge loss, but also losing Clint Trickett, Mario Alford, Dreamius Smith, Andrew Buie, Dustin Garrison, and a few players along the offensive line is means to take a step back offensively.
WVU headed into the spring with a wide open quarterback battle between Skylar Howard, David Sills, and William Crest. None have been able to make themselves the clear favorite, although Howard and Crest have moved themselves slightly ahead of David Sills.
I believe William Crest should be the starter next season, and beyond. He was a 4-star recruit from the 2014 class and was expected to be the primary backup last season before getting hurt. Crest brings a different dimension than Howard, and Sills. Crest is better suited to make this offense move, with his legs, along with his arm.
Last season, in what we saw from Skylar Howard, he was relatively ineffective. His accuracy lacked, and it was obvious he had a weak arm. So, putting him as the starter playing in an offense that thrives on taking shots downfield isn’t going to work.
Sills needs to redshirt. He just isn’t ready to play big time college football yet, and would benefit greatly from having a year away from live action. Being able to focus on getting his head in the playbook, and getting stronger can make him a huge hit at WVU when he gets his chance to play.
WVU is going to have to depend on their running game early in the season. Luckily, the two backs who will be getting the bulk of the carries will be Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood, the two who had the most carries last season.
A player I believe will steal some carries is going to be redshirt freshman Donte Thomas-Williams. He was another 4-star recruit from the 2014 class that redshirted his freshman year. I expect him by the end of the year to steal some carries from these older guys come later in the year.
Wide Receiver Daikiel Shorts has rising expectations, and huge shoes to fill as he moves to the outside receiver in the offense. Replacing a player who burst on the scene and turned himself into a potential top-10 NFL draft pick is never going to be easy.
It’s going to be a different game for Shorts this season moving from primarily playing the inside slot receiver to playing outside where he’ll be going up against the top corner on the other team week in and week out.
In his first practice after moving outside, Shorts had three touchdown catches. So he seems to have made the right move.
But with all that said, it’s time for Shelton Gibson to step up. He was expected to be the next big thing when he stepped on campus, but has been a disappointment to this point. This has to be his year. He’s arguably the most talented receiver WVU has, and now it’s time to step it up. He needs to become the big play receiver that WVU desperately needs. With Daikiel Shorts moving outside for the first time there will be a learning curve for him.
WVU will also be losing two interior offensive lineman in guards Quinton Spain and Mark Glowinski. It’s always hard to replace offensive lineman because that is a unit that has to work as a one, instead of five individual players. Both players are thought of to be late draft picks, and will leave huge shoes to fill.
All in all, there will be a lot of freshmen and sophomores on offense this year, and it’ll be some time before they click.
With all the pieces that need to be filled including the most important in all of football, quarterback, it’s going to be a year of rebuilding for the offense in 2015. I hate to admit it, but we will likely have to wait until 2016 for the West Virginia Mountaineers to make their next run at a Big 12 Title.
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