By Dave Ackermann (The Orchestrator)
(Feature Photo by Kelsie LeRose of BGS)
WVU released the Spring Media Guide and included in the information was a complete Spring Depth Chart. Let’s take a look at the starting depth at various positions for the 2017 Mountaineer Football Team.
Most writers might start with the QB position and that’s fine, but from my perspective, and much more important, will be the Offensive Line that supports the quarterbacks.
At Center, graduated AP All-American and Remington finalist Tyler Orlosky is now vying for an slot in the NFL. Leading the replacement charge is Hubbard, Ohio’s redshirt sophomore Matt Jones, 6’3 and 319 pounds. Jones saw some action at Center last season but will be pushed by Kelby Wickline , 6’4 and 281 pounds; a Juco transfer and son of the OLC Joe Wickline. Also making snaps this spring will be redshirt junior and Tennessee transfer Ray Raulerson, 6’4 and 295 pounds who sat out last year to fulfill NCAA transfer rules.
Ohio recruits are playing a large role in the re-making of the O-Line for 2017 as Right Guard finds redshirt senior Grant Lingafelter, 6’6 and 306 pounds (Chagrin Falls, OH) leading the charge this Spring. With 23 games under his belt, Grant will move into a leadership role this coming season. the other Ohio recruit forming a tandem on the right side this spring is Right Tackle and redshirt sophomore Colton McKivits, 6’7 and 307 pounds (Jacobsburg, OH) with 13 games under his belt. Lingafelter will be pushed by a couple of redshirt freshmen in Chase Behrndt, 6’3 and 307 pounds and Jacob Buccigrossi, 6’3 and 293 pounds out of Pittsburgh, PA. McKivits will get pressure from redshirt freshmen Josh Sills, 6’6 and 307 pounds (Byesville, OH) and redshirt sophomore Rob Dowdy, 6’4 and 299 pounds (Westerville, OH).
On the left side, we find even more maturity and experience in Left Guard and redshirt senior Kyle Bosch 6’5 and 310 pounds who has 26 starts and games played as well as redshirt junior Yodny Cajuste, 6’5 and 306 pounds at Left Tackle with 8 games played and 7 starts before being injured last season. Cajuste has great push from redshirt senior Marcel Lazard, 6’6 and 311 pounds with 26 games played and 12 starts to his experienced credit. Redshirt sophomore Ja’HShaun Seider, 6’2 and 308 pounds (son of former RBC Ja’Juan Seider now at Florida) will also push for time at left tackle. Backing up Bosch at left guard entering the spring are redshirt sophomore Alec Shriner, 6’4 and 306 pounds with 6 games played and redshirt freshman Zach Davis, 6’2 and 300 pounds out of St. Mary;s, WV.
So the least experienced area seems to be at Center, but overall it is a talented if not experienced group in the trenches this coming season. Spring always brings some surprises and changes so Mountaineer fans should be prepared.
Next we will visit the Tight End position as they play with the O-Line in many instances and sets. It is a position that could get more and more usage in a Jake Spavital Offense. The leader in the clubhouse this Spring is redshirt junior and Martinsburg, WV native Trevon Wesco, at 6’3 and 263 pounds (1 reception for 6 yards and 1 TD) with 10 games played under his belt. He is very athletic and strong and could add heavy weaponry to the Mountaineer Offense as he hones his skills this spring. Wesco gets competition from a couple of redshirt freshmen in Matt Bezjak, 6’4 and 234 pounds (Loveland, OH) along with Nate Green, 6’4 and 260 who hails from Wellsburg, WV.
Graduated RB Rushel Shell III (Photo courtesy Kelsie LeRose of BGS)
The next perspective area of strength to visit is the Running Backs. Yes Rushel Shell (113 carries, 514 yards and 5 TD’s) is now competing in combines as he tries to make it in the NFL draft, but the cupboard is far from bare as Shell was not even the leading rusher in 2016. That leading rusher was none other than returning senior Justin Crawford, 6’0 and 202 pounds who rushed 163 times for 1,184 yards and scored 4 TD;s. Justin averaged 7.3 yards per carry and 91.9 yards per game in 13 games played last season.
Backing up Crawford on the Spring Depth Chart are two proven performers from the 2016 season in sophomore Kennedy McCoy, 6’0, 201 pounds who rushed 73 times for 472 yards and 4 TD’s last season as a true freshman appearing in 13 games. McCoy averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Sophomore Martell Petteway, 5’9 and 208 pounds saw his redshirt burned late last season (due to injuries). Appearing in only 3 games last season the true freshman rushed 49 times for 260 yards for 1 TD. He averaged 86.7 yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry. New recruit Tevin Bush, 5’5 and 168 pounds comes in as a highly touted recruit and fits in nicely in the 4th position on the depth chart. It will remain to be seen if he remains a running back or shifts to a slot receiver. As a Tavon Austin type, he could do both, of course.
Others on the depth chart include redshirt sophomore Brady Watson, 5’6 and 210 pounds (Ridgeley, WV), redshirt freshman Jashawn Banks, 5’10 and 212 pounds and Sophomore Lorenzo Dorr, 5’8 and 196 pounds. None of the latter four, of course, have appeared in a game for the Mountaineers to date.
At Fullback redshirt senior and Huntington, WV native Elijah Wellman, 6’1 and 241 pounds returns to lead the spring depth chart after 9 starts and 38 games played as one of the most experienced players on the roster. Of course, WVU recently lost Michael Ferns, the Michigan transfer (and brother of linebacker Brandon Ferns) to increased study time and concentration needed in his Engineering major. That will create some depth problems as the other depth chart members have little experience with zero games played among them. This is however, a position that is filled by all homegrown WV players this season.
Redshirt freshman Elijah Drummond, 5’11 and 223 pounds (Bridgeport, WV), true freshman Maverick Wolfley, 6’3 245 pounds (Morgantown, WV) and redshirt sophomore Matt Vucelik, 5’11 and 232 pounds (McMechen, WV) wil all vie for time behind Wellman.
Shelton Gibson is off to the NFL (Photo Kelsie LeRose of BGS)
At Wide Receiver, the losses were serious in that leading receiver Dakiel Shorts (63 receptions for 894 yards and 5 TD’s) and speedy wide-out Shelton Gibson (43 receptions for 951 yards and 8 TD’s) have graduated to opportunities in the NFL. Gibson averaged 22.1 yards per catch and nobody on the roster is even close to that with more than 10 catches. Shorts had the most reliable hands on the team as the possession receiver and many of his receptions were for first downs on third or 4th down.
But all is not lost as Wide Receivers redshirt senior Ka’Raun White, 6’1, 197 pounds (48 receptions for 583 yards and 5 TD’s) and junior Javon Durante, 5’11 and 164 pounds (35 receptions for 331 yards and 2 TD’s) return as the two next productive receivers, In Fact, White was ranked second with 48 receptions and Durante 4th with his 35 receptions, but both of these receivers are listed at “Z”position. redshirt junior Ricky Rogers, 6’1, 204 pounds is also listed as a “Z” and has played in 4 games, but has no real stats from last season for receiving. Redshirt senior Alex Marenco, 5’9 and 180 pounds along with redshirt freshman Seth Aungst, 6’1 and 208 pounds round out the “Z”WR position depth chart.
More good news exists in he “Y, HB” WR position in that junior Gary Jennings, 6’1 and 204 pounds (10 receptions for 165 yards and 2 TD’s) leads the pack in Spring and junior David Sills, 6’3 and 201 pounds returns from Juco to line up once again as a WVU wide receiver with experience in the WVU offensive system and adding very valuable depth. Others vying for time at the “Y, HB” position include redshirt freshman Druw Bowen, 6’2 and 215 pounds and Jamicah Hopkins, 6’2 and 205 pounds and a true freshman. Neither of the latter have any game experience as a Mountaineer.
Finally, at the “X” wide receiver position sophomore Marcus Sims, 6’0 and 178 pounds (6 receptions for 95 yards and 1 TD) and 10 games played under his belt leads the pack for Spring. Junior Juco transfer Dominic Maiden, 6’5 and 203 pounds should get some real opportunities this spring. Others vying for time are redshirt freshmen Conner Watts, 5’10 202 pounds (Hurricane, WV) and Mitch Chugunov, 6’0 168 pounds (brother of QB Chris Chugunov).
So the Wide Receiver positions have reasonable experience returning, but in some cases not much experienced depth. Spring will go a long way in determining how positions ultimately shake out.
Skyler Howard has graduated and left his mark on the Mountaineer program. Just last season he was responsible for 3,791 yards and 36 TD’s, 10 of them rushing. He had an efficiency rating of 146.62 in 2016. Nobody in WVU QB history had more passion and desire to win than this gun-slinging competitor.
Enter redshirt junior and Florida transfer QB Will Grier, 6’2 and 204 pounds with two years of eligibility remaining after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules.It will be about a full season and one-half since Grier lined up to run an offense on game day. He won his first 6 games as either starter or co-starter accumulating 1.038 yards passing on 105 completions in 160 attempts for 10 TD’s. Grier threw three interceptions but also rushed for two TD’s in those games before being suspended for one year due to testing positive for a banned substance by the NCAA.
He was able to practice with the team during his season sitting out the transfer and should have a very good understanding of Holgorsen’s spread offense coming into this Spring. It will still be unclear whether Grier will have to sit out any games to start the 2017 season, but it seems to be unexpected since he sat out the whole year last season on top of the 6 games and bowl game he sat out for Florida that season.
As noted above, Grier will take the field with a relatively solid offensive line, a good stable of running backs and a hoard of big receivers as the majority are all over 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. If he can adequately be protected he could be in for a great year.
Competing with Grier will be redshirt sophomore Chris Chugunov, 6’1, 203 pounds who has appeared in 3 games and was 2-5 for 15 yards, zero TD’s and 1 interception. Redshirt freshman Cody Saunders, 6’2 and 209 pounds is the third QB on the spring depth chart and hails from Panama City, FL.
With the exception of Josh Lambert, who left the team after being suspended last season, Special Teams returns in tact with only a couple of exceptions: Shelton Gibson won’t be the kickoff return specialist (in a Mountaineer uniform anyway) in 2017 and we will have a new Kick-off Specialist kicking off if Spring depth charts hold into the fall.
Redshirt Senior Mike Molina, 5’7 and 179 pounds returns to handle the place kicking duties after connecting on 15-22 field goals in 2016 with a long of 50 yards. He also was a perfect 51-51 on extra points and was the leading scorer with 96 points scored. While Molina also handled kick-off duties last season, he is listed as #2 entering Spring behind redshirt Freshman John Young, 6’0 and 200 pounds. Young also is listed as the #2 place kicker while redshirt freshman Evan Staley, 6’1 and 184 pounds starts Spring as the #3 place kicking and kick-off specialist.
Redshirt Junior Billy Kinney, 6’4 and 218 pounds returns as the #1 punter this Spring after averaging 41.7 yards on 59 punts last season with a long of 63 yards and 17 punts inside the opponents 20 yard line. Young will serve as the back-up punter this spring. Kinney is the #1 Holder for placekicking, again backed-up by Young.
Redshirt Senior Nick Meadows, 5’11 and 228 pounds returns as the #1 long-snapper this spring with redshirt freshman Kyle Poland, 6’1 and 222 pounds at #2 and redshirt sophomore Rex Sanahara, 6’6 and 224 pounds at #3.
2016 NT Darrien Howard (Photo Credit BGS)
The entire defensive line is gone including NT Darrien Howard, and DE’s Noble Nwachukwu and Christian Brown, lost to graduation along with several other starters at key positions.
Lets start with the defensive line where only one player with starts is returning in redshirt sophomore Adam Shuler, 6’4 and 275 pounds who appeared in 13 games but only had one start. Redshirt Senior Jon Lewis, 6’3 and 275 pounds and his 27 games played with no starts also returns and is listed #2 behind Shuler at one DE position. Junior Ezekiel Rose, 6’2 and 266 pounds comes in at #3 while redshirt freshman Jonathan Szymczek, 6’1 and 248 pounds is listed at #4 on that side in the Spring.
Looking at the other side DE position, Sophomore Reese Donahue, 6’4 and 254 is listed as #1 in Spring, probably due to his 12 games played but without a start. Redshirt senior Xavier Pegues, 6’2 and 289 pounds is listed at #2, while redshirt sophomore Stone Wolfley, 6’4 and 248 is listed third and does have a game played under his belt.
At Nose Tackle redshirt junior Jaleel Fields, 6’1 and 304 pounds holds down #1 in the Spring after playing in 4 games with no starts. Junior Jalen Harvey, 6’2 and 340 pounds comes in at #2 while redshirt senior D. J. Carozza 5’10 and 304 pound sets up as #3 on the spring depth chart and neither of the latter 2 have any games played.
While there are some players with many games plated at Defensive End, this might be the youngest starting Defensive Line in some time if the spring depth chart holds and could be the weakest area of the returning defense.
Leading 2016 Tackler Justin Arndt (Photo credit WVUSports.com)
At Linebacker, only Justin Arndt and Sean Walters were lost to graduation with starters redshirt senior Al-Rasheed Benton, 6’0 and 237 pounds returning at MIKE LB and redshirt sophomore David Long, 5’11 and 228 pounds returning at WILL LB. Benton has 39 games played and 14 starts while Long has 13 games played and 10 starts. The #2 MIKE LB for Spring is redshirt senior Hodari Christian, 6’0 and 225 pounds. Christian has appeared in no less than 18 games in his career. Redshirt freshmen Brandon Ferns, 6’2 and 236 pounds coming off a season ending injury returns as #3 at MIKE LB in the spring while redshirt freshmen Logan Timmons, 6’0 and 228 pounds and Luke Williams, 6’0 and 218 pounds come in at #4 and #5 respectively. At WILL LB redshirt freshman Dylan Tonkery, 6’0 and 214 pounds is listed as #2 for spring while Juco recruit Quandarius Quails, 6’0 and 218 pound junior is listed at #3. redshirt sophomore Max Chefren, 6’0 and 215 pounds and redshirt freshman Jonah Campbell, 6’0 and 241 pounds come in at #4 and #5 respectively.
At SAM LB senior Xavier Preston, 6’2 and 238 pounds, comes back with 32 games played but no starts as the #1 SAM for Spring. Sophomore Adam Hensley, 6’2 and 229 comes in at #2 with 6 games played and no starts. redshirt freshmen Zach Sandwisch, 6’2 and 221 pounds and redshirt sophomore Shea Campbell, 5’11 and 231 pounds figure at #3 and #4.
If your counting, that’s 14 Linebackers positioned for Spring with only one new JUCO recruit in the mix.
2016 CB Rasul Douglas (photo credit BGS)
The Corner-backs positions have had the most loss in that Rasul Douglas, Antonio Crawford, Mo Fleming and Nana Kyeremeh are gone and the only Letterman with any starts returning is Senior Elijah Battle, 5’11 and 189 pounds at RCB. Battle has played in 11 games and has 3 starts to his credit. Senior Mike Daniels, 5’11 and 204 pounds, appeared in six games and is listed as #1 LCB entering Spring drills.
The recruiting staff went to the JUCO bank to bolster the corner-backs position and picked up junior Hakeem Bailey, 6.0 and 198 pounds out of Iowa Western CC and he is already listed as #2 LCB followed by two redshirt freshmen in Jake Long, 5’11 and 185 pounds and Jacquez Adams, 5’11 and 164 pounds. Neither of the latter have any game experience. At RCB, redshirt sophomore Jordan Adams, 5’11 and 173 pounds, stacks up at #2 entering spring and has played in 4 games, Redshirt sophomore Sean Mahone, 5;11 and 197 pounds is #3 while redshirt sophomore Kevin Williams, also 5’11 and 197 pounds and with 4 game appearances comes in at #4.
The Safety positions (free safety and bandit) lost Jarod Harper, Jeremy Tyler and Khairi Sharif to graduation but has some real experience (seven Letterman) coming back lead by Free safety, redshirt junior Dravon Askhew-Henry, 6’0 and 195 pounds. Henry has 26 games played and 27 starts. Redshirt senior Shane Commodore is listed as #2 Free Safety and has 18 games played with no starts. Redshirt freshman Osman Kamara, 5’10 and 188 pounds and redshirt sophomore Deamonte Lindsay, 6’1 and 198 pounds and 7 game appearances round out the spring depth chart.
The Bandit position has redshirt junior Toyous Avery, 5’11 and 202 pounds is listed #1 i Spring after playing i 11 games and starting one. Interesting enough though, is that a new recruit, true freshman Derrek Pitts, 6’0 and 173 pounds out of Dunbar, WV finds himself listed at #2 on the spring depth chart. Redshirt freshman Dante Bonamico, 5’8 and 178 pounds and redshirt junior Brandon Rivers, 6’0 and 182 pounds round out the bandits for Spring.
It becomes very obvious that the defense took the biggest hit in lost Letterman, but that the cupboard is nicely lined with some very experienced players. It s also obvious that Gibson used recruiting to bolster some areas with JUCO maturity. Spring will go a long way in determining if the defense is still on course to win championships.
Looking at new recruits and JUCO transfers and who stands out with some opportunities entering Spring, the list includes some very talented players:
- JUCO WR Dominique Maiden, 6’5 and 203 pound JR listed as #2 at X WR
- True Freshman Maverick Wolfley, 6’1 and 252 pounds listed as #3 FB
- True Freshman Tevin Bush, 5’5 and 168 pounds listed as #4 RB
- JUCO DE Ezekiel Rose,6’2 and 266 pound JR listed as #3 L DE
- JUCO LB Quondarius Qualls, 6’0 and 216 pound JR listed as #3 WILL LB
- JUCO CB Hakeem Bailey, 60 and 186’pound JR listed as #2 LCB
- True Freshman Derrek Pitts, 6’0 and 173 pounds listed as #2 Bandit Safety
All of these recruits will obviously have an opportunity to see the field next season, and there are probably more that will enter for Fall with that chance. But the basis for this 2017 season transition is experience and knowledge in the program. The word “REDSHIRT” listed before your class should indicate a healthy recruiting process has occurred and that players have been given solid opportunities to grow. This depth chart for Spring is littered with the word “redshirt” and that is definitely a very good sign of things to come
Watch this space…….