Top Heavy Or No Depth?

In a month or two, West Virginia will likely be a preseason top-15 team according to just about every magazine out there.

After talking to a few editors from these magazines, they confidently confirmed that. But, one had an interesting question to pose to me … one that made me think a bit and chance my perception of this year's football team.

It's one that you should really think about, too.

Who are WVU's top 10 players?

Sure, in the bigger scheme of things, this really doesn't matter. What truly is the difference between a quarterback who's No. 1 on the list and a cornerback who's at No. 8 or 9?

But a top 10 list shows star power, depth and experience in just one miniscule question. And, heck, it's the middle of spring ... we all need something to talk about.

After looking at the WVU roster, I realized that despite the likely top 15 preseason ranking, the Mountaineers don't have a definitive top 10 players.

There's two ways of thinking regarding the top 10 players. Taking a positive spin on this: West Virginia's top five or six players are just stronger than they have been in the past few years – one that I could buy into. The negative side is, however, that WVU has little depth.

For the first time since I can remember, WVU doesn't have a handful of defenders that could be considered for the top 10 list. Outside of safeties Darwin Cook and Terence Garvin, there really isn't a player that sticks out. Perhaps that's just because we don't really know how this defense is going to take shape, though.

Even a year ago after all those talented defenders left for the NFL, WVU still had players like Najee Goode, Bruce Irvin, Julian Miller and Keith Tandy as anchors.

That experience is lacking in 2012.

However, WVU has way more offensive playmakers – especially at the top of the list. Does that mean the two cancel each other out?

When I was tasked with naming my top 10 players, it went as such: 1) Geno Smith, 2) Tavon Austin, 3) Stedman Bailey, 4) Terence Garvin, 5) Joe Madsen, 6) Darwin Cook, 7) ???, 8) ???, 9) ???, 10) ???.

You can debate all you want at those last four spots; the truth is that those spots are wide open at this point – and that's not necessarily a good thing.

When I was pressured, the end of my rankings looked like this: 7) Shawne Alston, 8) Will Clarke, 9) Brodrick Jenkins, 10) Josh Jenkins. Am I satisfied with those choices? No, not even close. Dustin Garrison, Ivan McCartney, Pat Miller, Jewone Snow and Jorge Wright might've made that list … I'd even say Josh Francis might be deserving of a spot based on some of the spring hype. There are probably players I missed, but it's safe to say those last four spots are contested.

Last year, there wasn't a star – even the spring football prospectus had a nameless and numberless player on the cover. But, that top 10 list was a big easier to produce. Any combination of Tavon Austin, Don Barclay, Terence Garin, Najee Goode, Josh Jenkins, Bruce Irvin, Julian Miller, Geno Smith, Keith Tandy and your choice of Shawne Alston or Ryan Clarke would've been fairly easy to produce.

I know there are more pressing issues than a top-10 player list a handful of months before the season opener. But, when projecting this team toward the future, there is a true lack of experience and leadership that must chance this spring and over the summer.

Now … who's on your top 10 list?


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