Depth Decisions

One of head coach Dana Holgorsen's first moves as new head coach at West Virginia was the release of a summer depth chart -- one that took into account performance reviews of his players' spring performances.

While most coaches are quick to say they don't place a lot of importance on the depth chart, Holgorsen appears to be using it as a motivational factor for his team. Following spring practice, there was definitely some shuffling among positions and standings on the list, a fact that he hopes will spur greater competition among his charges. There's also some optimistic thinking in evidence -- and we'll examine that as we take a tour of the current list.

  • Quarterbacks

    No surprise here -- Geno Smith, Paul Millard and Brian Athey, in that order, are in the slots they occupied all spring

  • Running Backs

    Vernard Roberts' spot at the top of the backfield list reflects his spring performance, and solidifies Holgorsen's claim that he was starting from scratch in evaluating the players at each position. It will be a battle for him to hold off Daquan Hargrett and Trey Johnson.

    In the bigger back category, WVU has more talent than it has had since the 1980 big backfield of Walter Easley, Dane Conwell and Eldridge Dixon lined up in the T-formation at times. Rowdy Matt Lindamood heads a cast of four players that can all do damage. Ryan Clarke and Shawne Alston, who battled injury and fumbling issues during the spring, could clearly work themselves back into the mix with solid fall camps.

  • Slot Receivers

    WVU has two proven spring performers in Tavon Austin and Tyler Urban. It needs at least one other player to step in to help with depth. WVU won't be running four wide receivers on every down, so it could live with just the two starters, but Willie Milhouse, who had a good spring, and transfer Devon Brown could vie for the backup role. Brown's chances will likely depend on his ability to learn the offense.

  • Outside Receivers

    Stedman Bailey and Ryan Nehlen give WVU dependable hands, but not as much explosiveness as desired. Injured Brad Starks, whose return by the start of practice is questionable, and Ivan McCartney could add that ingredient, but neither was consistent during the spring. J.D. Woods is another receiver in the Nehlen mold, and could help opposite the grandson of WVU Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen.

  • Offensive Line

    If this were a shuffleboard game, the trench troops would have it covered. Jeff Braun, after missing the spring, moves down to a more natural guard position, replacing Josh Jenkins, whose hoped for return this fall is still questionable. Quinton Spain flips over to right tackle from the left side, where he played in the spring in the place of Don Barclay, who returns from injury. Tyler Rader, who passed Cole Bowers at the right guard spot during the last week of the spring, holds on to that position.

    In addition to the questions surrounding all those changes, there's also the academic eligibility issues of Joe Madsen, who missed last year's Champs Sports Bowl due to academic ineligibility. If Madsen can't regain his good standing, West Virginia's offensive line would face even more adjustments. Braun and Chad Snodgrass have both worked at the center spot, and backup John Bassler would also get a look.

  • Defensive Line

    Stout on the outside, light in the middle. With Bruce Irvin , Will Clarke and Julian Miller, the Mountaineers hope to put pressure on opposing lines from the end and tackle spots. J.B. Lageman is also making progress behind Miller, and could give WVU a four-man rotation.

    At the nose, questions abound. Undersized Josh Taylor is a battler, but probably isn't suited for 60 snaps per game. Suspended Jorge Wright must earn his way back into good graces to provide depth, while Trevor Demko is probably still a year away. All eyes are turning to juco Shaw Rowell, whose arrival has been anticipated since the first of June. If he enrolls, earns a passing nod from the NCAA Clearinghouse and can contribute, WVU will be very good up front.

  • Linebacker

    Versatile senior Najee Goode has landed at the middle spot as the starter, but could fill in on either side if circumstances dictate. Branko Busick needs to continue to improve to mount a charge at the mike, and transfer Steve Paskorz and Jewone Snow have some catching up to do at the mike. Juco transfer Josh Francis can be a terror at the will, but must show the ability to play within the confines of the defense and not get out of position. Casey Vance showed reliability and good tackling during the spring, and should be ready if Francis struggles. Doug Rigg, who was limited at times during spring due to an unspecified leg injury and Tyler Anderson are battling with donovan Miles in a close contest at the strong side spot.

  • Cornerbacks

    Keith Tandy and Pat Miler hold leads at the most visible defensive positions, but Brantwon Bowser and Brodrick Jenkins are good enough to play as well. That quartet is pretty well separated from the group behind them at both spots.

  • Safeties

    Eain Smith (free), Terence Garvin (spur) and Darwin Cook (bandit) all likely hold commanding edges at their positions. Wes Tonkery and Mike Dorsey showed big hitting ability and solid backup potential during the spring, while junior college transfer Matt Moro will get a look behind Smith.

  • Specialists

    There weren't any listed changes among any of the listed players from the pre-spring chart, although Tavon Austin and Keith Tandy were added as punt return candidates. That move would put Austin on both kick return squads.

    Tyler Bitancurt held off Corey Smith's challenge at placekicker, while Smith has a grip on the punting and kickoff duties.

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