Following last season’s noticeable regression on offense, fans of West Virginia football can get their first look at some of the new personnel and ongoing position battles on the offensive side of the ball Saturday at the annual Gold-Blue Spring Game at Milan Puskar Stadium.
The Mountaineers’ have new players at wide receiver, running back and quarterback, and all could factor into the team’s depth chart by the time it’s officially announced this fall.
“We still have a long way to go,” said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. “I am impressed with the guys’ energy. They have been excited about practicing and it seems like they are having a good time and trying to push their teammates to get better.”
At quarterback, it’s currently a fairly open four-horse race, with injured incumbent starter Clint Trickett trying to hold off fellow seniors Paul Millard, Logan Moore and JUCO transfer Skyler Howard.
Trickett won’t play this weekend since he’s still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, and he probably won’t be able to take any snaps until WVU’s fall camp convenes in August, so fans can expect to get a heavy dose of Howard and Millard, with Moore and redshirt freshman Gregory McPherson possibly getting some work as well in the meantime.
“With experience I think we are ready,” said WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “There is one key factor – the quarterback has to perform well. We’re going to put someone in there (who) can do it. I’m not saying anything positive or negative about any of those guys. That’s just the fact of the matter.”
West Virginia’s backfield is also fairly steeped in competition as the Mountaineers head into this weekend’s Spring game.
The most talked about addition may be Pitt transfer and redshirt sophomore Rushel Shell, a former five-star recruit who rushed for 641 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman backup to Ray Graham.
But the return of WVU’s Andrew Buie also carries some hype with it. Buie led all West Virginia rushers with 179 carries, 851 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012, before leaving school and the team for nearly a year.
Mountaineer fans will get a chance to see Buie and Shell, along with senior Dreamius Smith, redshirt junior Dustin Garrison and true sophomore Wendell Smallwood (who some of WVU’s coaches have hinted may be the most versatile back of the bunch) all take snaps in West Virginia’s backfield Saturday.
As far as receivers go, there’s a little more certainty that returning seniors Kevin White and Mario Alford along with sophomore Daikiel Shorts will likely remain close to the top of the depth chart – but with the highly-touted arrivals of Jacky Marcellus, Devonte Mathis and the return of Shelton Gibson from injury, there’s still a ways to go before anything is completely set in stone.
Basically, Saturday’s Gold-Blue game will be much more than just an intra-squad scrimmage between the West Virginia offense and defense.
It will be the best chance yet for Mountaineer fans to get a good look at the potential offensive personnel for the 2014 season.