BGS writers Shanna M. Rose, Matt Welch, and Isaac Ferebee answer staff and reader questions with training camp looming.
-Potential freshman standouts?
For a program that utilizes the JUCO system and developing young players. Redshirt freshman Dylan Tonkery has caught my eye. With hybrid size and athleticism at 6-0ft 214 lbs the linebacker will have to step up for David Long in his absence.—Isaac Ferebee
In a defense that lost a lot of starters, Derrek Pitts and Brendan Ferns are two freshmen that could make an immediate impact. Ferns was an U.S. Army All-American in high school and was expected to be a contributor last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury. With David Long sidelined, Ferns could easily slide into a starting linebacker position. Pitts is a highly touted true freshman from West Virginia that could see significant action. He can backup Toyous Avery at bandit. He could also see some action on special teams.- Shanna Rose
This is likely a long shot, but that seems to work for WVU… right? Reggie Roberson is a kid with great size that really seems to have a ton of upside. If Gary Jennings develops into the slot guy the coaches think he can, Roberson can get some shots down field. Ka’Raun White might be eased into things coming off that leg injury, so why not throw Roberson into the fire? We know Will Grier loves deep shots.- Matt Welch
-Is the WVU backfield better using running back by committee or Justin Crawford as a feature back?
For the last three years Dana Holgorsen has seen his running back by committee system work well for him. Initially Wendell Smallwood and Rushel Shell. Now Justin Crawford and Kennedy McKoy can compliment each other in the same manner.—Isaac Ferebee
The Mountaineers have had success using a running back by committee in the past so why change what works? Justin Crawford and Kennedy McKoy both had tremendous success last season and offer a dynamic one-two punch. WVU also has Martell Pettaway and Tevin Bush that could earn regular snaps.-Shanna Rose
You don’t keep two horses stabled just for the sake of letting one guy go for some pretty outstanding numbers. I like Justin Crawford and Kennedy McKoy as a one-two punch. It worked last year, and now the two have an offseason under their belt. This could be a deadly tandem. Don’t waste it.– Matt Welch
-Is 10 wins the ceiling for this team?
Ten wins is the ceiling for this team. Improved and matured in some areas, but with a tough stretch to end the season against Kansas State, Texas, and Oklahoma, the Mountaineers will have to catch fire quickly.—Isaac Ferebee
Getting ten wins shouldn’t be difficult but topping that might be for WVU. In years past, beating the big dawgs like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State didn’t happen. But with a potentially dangerous offense this could be the year that changes. Despite the tough finish, I think the Mountaineers get 11 wins.- Shanna Rose
I don’t see a proven team in the Big 12. WVU could win it all, in my opinion. This has the feel of that Geno-Tavon-Stedman offense, but the defense presents many unknowns. I was a big proponent last year about how these guys sat behind NFL-talent players and learned, so they would be alright. And they were. Tony Gibson knows what he’s doing. Let it fly. Big 12 title or bust. – Matt Welch
-Can Jake Spavital keep a balanced run-pass attack, given his history of passing the ball?
After calling plays at the University of California last year, Spavital had Quarterback Davis Webb throw the ball 620 times. That is 214 more passes than Skyler Howard threw last season. If that is any indication. No.–-Isaac Ferebee
No-Spavital is known for running offenses that love to throw the ball. Last season Davis Webb threw the ball 60 percent of the time. Geno Smith, Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel were all quarterbacks that Spavital had a hand in grooming that loved to go down field.- Shanna Rose
Has Spavital ever had a running back? Seriously. Asking for a friend. Any offensive coordinator knows that running the ball opens up the passing game. Simple as that. Jake’s smart.– Matt Welch
– Is Grier the best QB Spavital/Holgorsen have coached and is he worth the hype?
Holgorsen had a chance to coach Geno Smith, and you don’t have to think back too long to remember those days. Spavital has coached Kenny Hill as well as some other highly respected college QBs like Davis Webb from the university of California. Worth the hype? Certainly, a Pro-style quarterback to run a spread offense, that’s cause for a little excitement.—Isaac Ferebee
Both Spavital and Holgorsen have coached some impressive quarterbacks- Geno Smith, Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden, among others they have individually coached so it’s hard to instantly declare Will Grier the best. As a freshman with Florida Grier, completed 106-of-161 passes for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns in just six games. Those numbers were with an SEC team so one would have to believe Grier is the real deal. If he does live up to expectations, he could be right up there with some of the better quarterbacks the two have coached.– Shanna Rose
Let’s let the kid throw an official pass in the Gold and Blue first.-Matt Welch
-Where do the Mountaineers need to improve the most from last season?
Plain and simple, third down offense. The Mountaineers only converted 42 percent of third down attempts on offense, that was 6th in the conference last season.-Isaac Ferebee
Red-zone offense. Come on! The Mountaineers were horrible in red-zone completions, scoring 33 touchdowns in 57 opportunities. And the year before the numbers were eerily similar. Grier is a better quarterback than Skyler Howard. He can make tight passes. Plus he has some bigger targets like David Sills and Reggie Roberson. If WVU wants to contend in the Big 12, they need to improve here and they likely will.-Shanna Rose
Overcoming turnovers. In losses to OU and OK State, turnovers were the difference. You can’t win if you can’t take care of the ball. Easy as that.-Matt Welch
Weakest position group for WVU?
Right now the weakest group is the Wide receiver corp. A lot of talent, some experience, but replacing Shelton Gibson and Dakiel Shorts is going to be difficult. Especially as down field threats and guys that stretch the field.- Isaac Ferebee
I think the quarterback position is a weak one. Not because of Will Grier but because of who is behind him? What happens if Grier gets injured? Chris Chugunov hasn’t proven himself as a reliable backup yet. With Cody Saunders retiring, that leaves David Isreal next in line..- Shanna Rose
Special teams, minus punting. Field goal kicking has to be better. Return game has to be better. Coverage unit has to be better. Has to be.-Matt Welch
Will the WVU D-Line be as effective as in past years?
After losing all three starters on the defensive line, it is hard to say the impact they will make due to the lack of experience, but there is a lot of potential, especially redshirt sophomore DL Adam Shuler.-Isaac Ferebee
WVU’s defensive line took a big hit in the loss department. Noble Nwachukwu, Christian Brown and Darrien Howard are three players that will be hard to replace. However, the Mountaineers have a lot of players that could make an impact. Sophomore Reese Donahue saw action in all but one game last season and is a name that has been buzzing all summer. Adam Shuler and Xavier Pegues are both talented. Jon Lewis, Jaleel Fields and Ezekiel Rose are solid linemen. And let’s have some faith in defensive coordinator Tony Gibson; he seems to turn question marks into exclamation points year after year.- Shanna Rose
Let em eat, man. It’s a deep group and they’ve got playmakers – or play stoppers – behind them. Some studs on this D-line unit.-Matt Welch