For the last year and a half, West Virginia has been trying to replace the trio of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
The task has been easier said than done, as many predicted it would be. After years of being an offensive juggernaut with that trio leading the way, West Virginia has struggled to keep up at times in the Big 12.
While the last two seasons have been an adventure for head coach Dana Holgorsen and the West Virginia offense, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Holgorsen and the rest of his coaching staff have put together consecutive impressive recruiting classes, while compiling some talent from transfers. They have set the West Virginia offense up for an explosion in the near future.
Freshman quarterback William Crest highlights the most recent class of recruits. With plenty of hype surrounding him before he has even seen any game action, Crest could contribute to West Virginia’s offense right away.
Although there is no question this is still Clint Trickett’s team, Crest brings next-level athleticism to the table and could be a major headache for Big 12 defenses, even before he has a deep understanding of West Virginia’s offense.
As Holgorsen has said, Crest’s head must be spinning at the moment. It will take time for him to become as well-versed on WVU’s playbook as veterans Trickett and Paul Millard, but once he puts in the time, the results could be eye-popping.
Quarterback isn’t the only position where the Mountaineers appear to be set up for the future. The Mountaineers have a quartet of freshman receivers in Shelton Gibson, Ricky Rogers, Lamar Parker and Jacky Marcellus, who will be able to sit back and learn from veterans like Kevin White and Mario Alford, early in their careers.
Marcellus will miss his freshman season due to a knee injury that requires surgery, but the other three freshman receivers will be able to gain Big 12 experience and set themselves up to be major contributors in the near future.
The Mountaineers’ young receivers need to look no further than sophomore Daikiel Shorts for an example of what in-game experience can do for a player.
Shorts grabbed opportunity by the horns in 2013, hauling in 45 receptions for 495 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman.
Despite working with three different quarterbacks throughout the year, Shorts established himself as a reliable target and was a constant threat in the quick passing game.
A similar role could await for one - if not all - of West Virginia’s freshman receivers during the 2014 season.
While veterans occupy the top of West Virginia’s running back depth chart, freshman Dontae Thomas-Williams is waiting in the wings.
WVU’s coaching staff may even decide to redshirt Thomas-Williams this season, but more time in the team’s weight and film rooms are going to do nothing but help the four-star recruit from Durham, NC.
Listed at 6-foot, 211 pounds, Thomas-Williams is a sight to behold as a true freshman. Just for context, Dreamius Smith - who has a reputation for lowering his shoulder and thumping opposing defenses – checks in at 215 pounds.
Give Thomas-Williams a full year to learn West Virginia’s offense and beef up even more under the guidance of strength and conditioning coach Mike Joseph and he could be a major threat in upcoming years.