Wide receiver is clearly an area of massive need, with no proven performers returning at the position. That leaves room for players like Ronald Carswell, who signed with Alabama out of high school but was suspended for much of one year with the Tide, reportedly for academic issues. He resurrected his career at Itawamba Community College, and now has the chance to make an impact at West Virginia.
Carswell isn't big, but he has the build and ability to play the outside wide receiver spot. He also has the speed to play the slot, and could use that as an advantage against slower defenders that might be forced to cover him on short routes underneath and across the face of the coverage. However, that same speed would allow him to get behind corners and deep safeties – an ability that most recent wideouts at West Virginia haven't possessed.
At this point, Carswell could play either wide receiver position. WVU will pick one for him and let him try to make his initial mark there, because neither head coach Dana Holgorsen nor receivers coach Shannon Dawson like to have players learn more than one position initially. Later on, of course, there's time to learn the routes from both the slot and outside positions, but players in their first years are usually limited to one.
West Virginia desperately needs productivity from its outside receivers next year, so the thinking is that Carswell will get his first chance at either X or Z position in the spring. In high school, he was excellent with the ball after the catch, so he'd also be a target for wide receiver screens that work back toward the quarterback and cut underneath offensive linemen blocking downfield. Any sort of route which helps him get a free release off the line of scrimmage suits his skill set.
Fellow early enrollee Kevin White, who grew to nearly six feet, four inches at Lackawanna College, will also be an outside guy in his first Division I spring. White, who is still something of an unknown quantity, has the height to win jump balls and one-on-one battles with corners. He exhibited good hands and catches the ball away from his body, and he'll definitely get the chance to show he can do that at WVU. His skills are complementary to those of Carswell, and the duo could be very effective as an outside receiving pair. Each can play to his strengths, and then throw defenders a change of pace by breaking pattern and running different routes.
Running back hasn't been pinpointed as a trouble spot for next season, but question marks still abound. Dana Holgrsen repeatedly said that Andrew Buie can't take the pounding of 20-plus carries per game, and there's not much doubt that Dustin Garrison didn't fully recover from his offseason knee surgery. He could be back to 100% this coming season, but he's smallish too, so there's still room for a guy that can dish and some punishment when he runs. That's in no way meant to demean Buie or Garrison, who both run with abandon and without regard to personal health, but one look at WVU's offensive productivity with Shawne Alston, as opposed to without, makes it clear that there's a room for another ball carrier in the backfield.
West Virginia hopes to plug that hole with Dreamius Smith, who combines power and speed in a similar, though not identical, manner than Alston. Smith has better speed that the departing senior, but perhaps not quite as much power. Still, his combination of skills makes him an ideal back in Holgorsen's system, and he'll get the head start vital to learning the offense in the spring. WVU will have to have at least one newcomer take snaps at running back this fall, and Smith will get the chance to make a first impression quickly. Smith will also have to show that he's recovered from a broken collarbone suffered late in his season at Butler County Community College, but he said recently that he will be ready for spring practice.
West Virginia's final mid-year signee, Terrell Pinson, has matured and gown into a 200-plus pound defensive back, but his lack of experience in the secondary will have to be overcome if he's to have an impact in 2013. He was a wide receiver in high school, and just switched to safety at Itawamba for his second season of play (he was injured for much of his first year). How well can Pinson pick up the more technical, and more complicated, calls and techniques required in Division I? Can he overcome that lack of experience? Those questions will tell his tale this coming year.
Pinson does have a redshirt season to take if necessary, so although WVU would love to have him play immediately, the prospect of sitting out a year is in play if he's not ready for all of the rigors of play in the Big 12. Those challenges, especially facing pass-happy offenses, are as much mental as physical, so his ability to put a bad play behind him and make a good one the next time out will also be tested.
All of this analysis, of course, is just prelude to the big questions. Which of these players will contribute, or perhaps even become starters and standouts, in 2013? Those questions are fraught with variables, because they depend on so many different factors. Health, academics, attitude -- all come into play just as much as talent and skill. So too does eligibility remaining - a player with a redshirt year still available always has the option of sitting out without penalty. With that in mind, here's a best guess at each player's chance, expressed as a percentage, of hitting the field as a viable contributor next fall.
|Ronald Carswell||Three to play three||90%|
|Kevin White||Three to play two or three*||70%|
|Dreamius Smith||Three to play two||95%|
|Terrell Pinson||Three to play two||70%|
* Pending results of appeal