Saturday, October 22, 2016

Has The Rebuild Period Ended At WVU?

Larry jefferson spring gameWhen Dana Holgorsen took over the WVU football program ahead of the 2011 season, the expectations were very high for the program. He wouldn’t disappoint Mountaineer Nation during that season that concluded with a huge blowout win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl. The expectations would follow Holgorsen into his 2nd season but the results weren’t as many had hoped finishing 7-5 in the Mountaineers first season in the Big 12. The following season WVU was faced with the loss of it’s superstar players (Smith, Austin, and Bailey) forcing the Mountaineers into a rebuilding phase that would last longer than Mountaineer Nation had anticipated.

Entering the 2015 season the WVU program is faced with the same expectations that Holgorsen had during his first two seasons at WVU. The Mountaineers are considered serious contenders in the Big 12 conference, and if they can survive a brutal October, contenders in the national landscape but there is a different feel with fall camp now complete.

WVU released it’s post camp depth chart on Tuesday and there are definitely a few surprises. Many fans were concerned how WVU would replace the departing Kevin White and Mario Alford but it appears that a few newcomers are prepared to help. Jovan Durante, Gary Jennings, and Ka’Raun White all appear on the depth chart and are expected to be contributors this season after impressing the coaching staff in camp. Redshirt freshman running back Donte Thomas Williams is expected to receive some carries and redshirt freshman Yodny Cajuste will anchor the left tackle position on the Mountaineer offensive line. Michigan transfer Kyle Bosch is in the running to be the WVU starting right guard but will see playing time even if he doesn’t start. We also can’t forget that redshirt freshman William Crest is waiting in the wings to take over the reigns of quarterback after Skyler Howard departs WVU.

The area of the team that concerns no one at the moment is the WVU defense which will see a few new faces contribute. Defensive end Larry Jefferson is expected to be a contributor after impressing Tony Gibson with his consistent quarterback pressure this offseason. Linebacker David Long has also caught the eye of the staff but with  depth at that position might not make a big impact until next season. The secondary is where the incoming freshman have shined with Tyrek Cole, Jordan Adams, and Kevin Williams all performing very well this off season. While all have performed well this summer, they might not see much playing time this season with all the talent that WVU will have entering the season.  It does make you ask yourself, has WVU finally passed the rebuild period into the refining stage?

WVU hasn’t been the consistent force that many Big 12 followers were hoping for when the Mountaineers joined but this season could change that outlook. Holgorsen will enter this season with a defense that is built to compete with the nation’s best and an offense that is building more momentum with each practice. More importantly though, he now his the depth to replace departing players next seaso and is building a 2016 class that will retool the Mountaineers for many seasons to come.

Top JUCO cornerback Rasul Douglas was cleared last week to join the Mountaineers which gives defensive cordinator Tony Gibson another weapon in a loaded defensive backfield. While it remains to be seen how much time Douglas will need to get caught up, he is a key piece of the Mountaineers future defense.

Coach Holgorsen and his staff may take a lot of grief for the Mountaineers performance up to this point in his tenure but it appears that he hasn’t let that chatter impact his plan. Instead he has built a team that is prepared to compete not only this season but for many to come by bringing players into program that are ready to make an impact now rather than later. It’s safe to say that Coach Holgorsen and his staff are refining WVU football, instead of rebuilding it like past seasons.

Photo credit USA Today Sports



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