West Virginia released a post-camp/preseason Two Deep depth chart on Tuesday, and with changes at Wide Receiver, a new name at Right Guard, and the ascension of a new star in the secondary, there is plenty to talk about. September is approaching, and with it the clarity that comes from actually playing games. For now, however, we have questions, projections, omissions and assertions:
• Skyler Howard is currently listed as the starter at Quarterback, ahead of a highly touted redshirt freshman, who by all accounts, is coming in his own as a signal caller. His hold on the job does not feel as strong as it did when…
• …William Crest was catching screen passes. Now that that experiment has ended, Crest appears poised to present a serious challenge for playing time at the Quarterback position. It is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Dunbar High School product is the starter for the Mountaineers, as his physical attributes seem to mirror, and expand on, what Howard already provides the WVU offense. Does Crest know the playbook? Is he a leader? How are his decisions? These questions will be answered sooner than later.
• No matter who is taking the snaps, they’ve got to be kept upright. That job falls on an offensive line that after a summer of position changes and transfer clearances, seems to be rounding into shape. Yodny Cajuste may be the next offensive star in Morgantown, even if he can’t match the 40 time of those that came before. At 6-5 293, he doesn’t need to. The redshirt freshman has been the first team left tackle since spring, and is a product of the Miramar High School recruiting pipeline. What once an exciting quirk to summer depth charts now appears to be a reality. Cajuste is the new Mountaineer starting Left Tackle.
• Kyle Bosch has been a welcomed addition to the unit, and has the pedigree and experience to be given every opportunity to play. With Adam Pankey entrenched at Left Guard, Bosch is being given that chance at Right Guard. The spot currently held by Tony Matteo is not necessarily up for grabs, but the switch definitely feels like a Phase-1 step.
• Donte Thomas-Williams came to West Virginia as part of the same class that brought Quarterback William Crest, and with equal fanfare. His redshirt year was expected, and there was little reason to doubt his progression, until yesterday. Mentions and anecdotes of inconsistency and lack of focus, seem now to have been the bark before the bite, as the big back is now listed 3rd on the depth chart behind Elijah Wellman. Perhaps it’s a motivational ploy, perhaps Wellman deserves it. Perhaps both are true. The fact remains, that DTW has work to do.
• How long before Jovon Durante, Gary Jennings, and Ka’Raun White have a shared nickname? All three newcomers occupy starter (or co-starter) positions, and will likely be linked for the rest of their careers in Morgantown. Representing an influx of high level talent in a single unit the likes of which has never been seen before at WVU, the 2015 Wide Receiver recruiting class may go down in history as one of the programs greatest coups. With offers from Notre Dame, Alabama, USC, LSU (the list goes on…), the young stars could have easily ended up elsewhere. West Virginia, though, truly is the new Wide Receiver U.
• Larry Jefferson is another newcomer, and his skill set was as welcome in Morgantown as that of any pass catcher. That is, of course, pass rushing. At 6-5 225, Jefferson evokes memories of Shaq Riddick, and is being counted on to make a similar impact. Even Riddick, however, a drafted NFL player, took some time to acclimate, and Jefferson appears to be having similar struggles. Listed 3rd at Defensive End behind the unheralded Jon Lewis, the JUCO transfer may be farther from the field than previously thought. The Mountaineers need a pass rusher, and they likely do not care who it is, but the job of 3rd down specialist that once seemed set aside for Jefferson appears now to be an open competition.
• Senior, Senior, Senior. That is the WVU starting linebacker corp. Shaq Petteway, Jared Barber, and Nick Kwiatkoski, are as deserving a nickname as any unproven group of freshmen and transfers. Big game experience, system expertise, and muscle. This group has it all and if the secondary is the defense’s fire, the backers are the heart. It is hard to name a leader of this group, and the three seem to like that just fine. It is probably best that they are seniors anyway, as I doubt anyone will be able to keep Xavier Preston on the sideline much longer. A rising star on the unit, Preston will play, and, at times, will look like the best of the bunch.
• Tyrek Cole and Rasul Douglas do not appear on the depth chart, though the former appears headed towards a redshirt. Douglas, on the other hand will add depth to the Cornerback position that seems to have enough players… but just barely. Injuries are a concern everywhere, but is 5 enough corners to get through a Big XII season? Is 6? WVU will find out. The top end talent is there, though, and once Butler cracks the lineup, you could see a secondary of 5 future pros.
• This is the best WVU roster in years. Over-achievers are wonderful, and are part of the Mountaineer identity, but this team is not just a bunch of try-hards. There is true high level talent all over the field, and in the case of Jeremy Tyler, on the bench too. Listed as the back-up at Spur, and the unwritten choice for next man up at Free Safety, Tyler has made himself indispensable to the defensive coaching staff, who swear there is no drop off with Tyler on the field. Considering who would have to leave the field for the Junior to get a snap, that is quite a compliment.
At least one more depth chart will be released before the team kicks off September 5th, at home, against Georgia Southern, and we have not seen the last of the changes. But fear not, football is close.