While the quarterback battle has garnered much of the attention since the start of spring practice, that might not wind up being the story of the battle for positioning on the 2013 Mountaineer football team. Instead, it's "passes for position", where younger players have either beaten out or mounted serious challenges for playing time with veterans on the squad who have more game experience.
The trends began early in fall camp, where redshirt freshman center Tyler Orlosky moved into the starting center position and never let go. Fellow classmate Tony Matteo made much the same moved, impressing at both center and guard. As a result, Pat Eger, who held the spot down on the "chart" issued by Dana Holgrsen during the spring, ended up moving back to guard, where he's still engaged in a battle with Marquis Lucas at guard (however, signs indicate that Lucas will get the nod in the first game).
Another big move was apparently made by true freshman Marcell Lazard, who earned mention as the backup at right tackle behind Curtis Feigt. Add in juco Mark Glowinski, who parlayed his one redshirt season at WVU into an apparent starting nod at right tackle, and its easy to see a pattern emerging that highlights newcomers and youngsters earning their shot at the spotlight.
Before we continue with more evidence, several things should be noted. First, as head coach Dana Holgorsen often notes, the depth chart,/A> isn't a firm list of who is going to play, and shouldn't be treated as gospel. For example, if a guard or center was unavailable for duty in the first game, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Eger play at any of those spots. The same would be true at either tackle in the case of Nick Kindler. There's also not much doubt that the chart will be a work in progress, especially as players and their performances are graded early in the season. With the number of moves that were made throughout the spring and fall, it's almost expected that those will be under close scrutiny and evaluated further during the season's early games.
Still, the changes in position battles have spread across the roster. Freshman wide receiver Daikiel Shorts is the #1 inside receiver, while a pair of first-year jucos, Ronald Carswell and Kevin White, are listed as backups at the two outside spots. And, of course, there's also transfer Clint Trickett, who is listed as the co-number one at QB with Paul Millard. Add in freshman running back Wendell Smallwood, juco Dreamius Smith and transfer Charles Sims at running back, and there are no fewer than nine newcomers, youngsters or players at new positions that have made significant depth chart impact this fall. That's nearly one-third of the 25 players listed on the offensive side of the ball.
The story isn't quite as pronounced on defense and special teams, but there are still examples dotting the list. Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Noble Nwachukwu has a chance for playing time on the defensive line, as does juco Dontrill Hyman. Freshman linebacker Marvin Gross and juco Brandon Golson will both play, with the latter winning the buck job outright. Add in freshman Darryl Worley (cornerback) and sophomore punter Nick O'Toole, though, and the pattern does continue.
The import of these moves brings up another question -- one that won't be answered, at least in part, until about 3:30 p.m. this Saturday. How will all of these players perform when it's for real? As defensive line coach Erik Slaughter noted while discussing his rotation, he believes players such as Nwachukwu, Christian Brown and Eric Kinsey are ready for extensive contributing roles, but in order to know that, he'll have to put them on the field and turn them loose. While those questions might not be quite so pressing as it relates to jucos or some of the transfers, no one really knows how they will do at this level until they face a live opponent. Only then will West Virginia fans know whether these players, who have clearly performed well during fall camp, will etch their names permanently in the rotation.