Big 12 Sports Articles

Skyler Howard holds key to 2016 WVU Mountaineers’ success

For West Virginia football fans, Skyler Howard is as polarizing a player as they come. One week you love him, and the next you don’t understand why Dana Holgorsen hasn’t benched him yet.

Well, during the Cactus Bowl, Howard reminded all fans why there are reasons to love him. Howard showed star potential during his performance throwing for 532 yards and five touchdowns, both season highs, in a WVU 43-42 win over Arizona State.

Going into next season, Howard needs to use this performance as a springboard going into spring practice and eventually next season. He will be asked to lead an offense that is expected to be extremely high powered.

With players like Wendell Smallwood, Rushel Shell, Jovon Durante, Shelton Gibson, and Ka’raun White all back in the mix, there will be no shortage of playmakers on the offense. The only question is: ‘Can Skyler Howard do enough to not ruin the offense?’

Howard needs to take that a step further, and answer the question: what can Howard do to make the offense more potent?

One of the things Howard needs to work on is his accuracy. He completed a dismal 54% of his passes on the year, that’s bad by any standards. In an offense predicated on getting the ball out quickly with the occasional shot taken down field, completing just 54% can really hinder the offense, and bogs down the explosiveness of the playmakers.

When you compare that to Clint Trickett, who in his final year at WVU completed his passes at a 67% clip and Geno Smith who completed his passes at over 65% and then 70% his final two seasons in Morgantown, Howard’s numbers look even worse.

An element Howard adds to the game, unlike his predecessors, is the ability to run, and run effectively. He needs to become a more effective runner. Howard had a few highlight runs this season, but other than that he was an extremely limited runner, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry.

Howard needs to be closer to his 2014 form as a runner where he averaged 6.2 ypc. He had a lot less carries in 2014 but the effectiveness is what needs to be taken in order for his game to get to the next level.

The Cactus Bowl against Arizona State gave a preview of what the offense can do going into next season. It can be explosive, very explosive. In a league that has some of the most dynamic offenses in the country, WVU has the chance to be up there with the best of them next year.

The offense will need to carry the team next season because there will be quite a few losses coming on the defense including Karl Joseph, Nick Kwiatkowski, Jared Barber, and KJ Dillon.

So with a defense that is expected to be rebuilding, the offense will need to lead the way, and will need the trigger man to make the necessary improvements to his game in order for the offense to take WVU from middle of the pack to Big 12 contender.

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