With spring practice now officially underway in Morgantown, the 2015 WVU football team will be facing a lot of adversity during preparation for this season. The Mountaineers will be forced to replace All American wide receivers Kevin White and Mario Alford along with two starting offensive linemen, Mark Glowinski and Quinton Spain.
The defense will remain intact with the exception of departing seniors Wes Tonkery and Shaq Reddick. There are plenty of question marks as to who will replace all the exiting talent on the both sides of the ball, but here are 5 BOLD predictions to watch for this spring.
1 – Do not expect the replacement of the production loss of White and Alford to come from just two receiver this season. Look for the coaching staff to utilize each of the options they have and use a platoon system this upcoming season. Daikiel Shorts, Jordan Thompson, and Shelton Gibson will be the main contributors in the passing game, but there are plenty of other options. Lamar Parker, Gary Jennings, Devonte Mathis, Jovon Durante, Jacky Marcellus, Ricky Rogers, and KJ Myers could all be in line for playing time this season.
2 – I expect a freshman quarterback to pull away from the competition and become the starter for the Mountaineers. The 2015 recruiting class saw WVU sign two freshman quarterbacks and either or both could compete for the starting job this season. With the loss of last season’s starter Clint Trickett and the inconsistency of Skyler Howard late in the year, 2015 will see a new man under center. William Crest, coming off a medical redshirt season, will likely be the name to watch in this competition.
There are a few new names that could emerge in this battle, including freshman quarterbacks David Sills and Chris Chugunov. Sills is arguably the most ready to take the starting job as far as talent, but Chugunov is the one that caught the eye of the coaching staff during summer camp. The biggest question is whether Dana Holgorsen will risk this season, and possibly his future as WVU’s head coach, to go with a freshman quarterback?
3 – The Air Raid offense will be replaced this season with a run first approach. The offense is built more for the running game with the offensive line becoming a strength and now the read-option is a possibility with a mobile quarterback. WVU returns both running backs, Shell and Smallwood, and figures to utilize the legs of their new quarterback. 2014 saw the Mountaineers try to adapt to a run first offense, but Trickett wasn’t mobile enough for the read option. With the departures that face the Mountaineers, will this be the season that the air raid attack ends in Morgantown?
4 – With all the Mountaineers returning on defense, 2015 may be the best defensive unit WVU has ever had. There have been many great defenses in the history of WVU, but this season could be the most special. The talent is definitely there, and the Mountaineers have added depth to that talent. The losses that face defensive coordinator Tony Gibson will be easily replaced with new incoming talent. Look for returning linebacker Jared Barber to step up and replace Tonkery and the defensive line will become a rotation that will see many new players with a chance to step in and produce. The defensive backfield will return all starters from last season and along with two additional talents. It may be one the best in the country.
5 – The special teams flaws that have plagued the Mountaineers the past few years will be long forgotten this season. There are many new players that could step into the punt return role and make an instant impact. Freshman Jovon Durante and Gary Jennings were returners in high school and are considered explosive returners. Replacing Mario Alford on kick returns could be a very challenging task, but Lamar Parker offers the speed and elusiveness to be a star. Josh Lambert will return to his role and try to build off last season and become the nation’s best kicker.