WVU Closer to Finding Its Depth After Spring

There was one thing that Dana Holgorsen would constantly preach as his team struggled to a 4-8 finish a year ago.

The Mountaineers struggled to have the depth they needed in order to consistently compete against some of the best teams in the Big 12 Conference.

As West Virginia entered spring practice this season, that was one of the main goals. Even if they couldn't figure out who would be starting at each position, they wanted to make sure they were closer to at least starting to feel comfortable with the number of players they can use at each spot.

Following Saturday's Gold-Blue Spring Game, the fourth-year head coach feels WVU definitely made strides toward that goal.

"It's been productive this spring because we have a lot of numbers. We've been able to develop depth," Holgorsen said. "Hopefully next year, when guys go down – which is going to happen, that's just part of it – the second-team guys who will be going in won't be true freshmen, which happened a lot last year.

"We've got a lot more guys, a lot more depth. Last spring, when things ended up we were only dealing with about 50 percent of our roster. So now you've got about 75-80 percent of our roster, it's been developing depth better."

While it's hard to really take anything from the spring game when the Mountaineers aren't truly the team they will become in a few months once everyone is on campus, there were plenty of positives to see from the amount of players who saw action in front of the estimated crowd of 10,000 at Milan Puskar Stadium.

Five running backs saw carries, with senior Dreamius Smith sidelined for the game, as WVU carried the ball 42 times for 200 yards.

That rushing attack, paired with the 53 attempts through the air from Paul Millard, Skyler Howard and Logan Moore, gave WVU a balanced offensive game plan to close out the spring. Four receivers caught four passes while 13 players caught at least a pass.

On defense, a total of 31 players made the postgame stat sheet for making some kind of impact during their time on the field.

Like I said, none of this is really out of the ordinary considering that's usually the purpose of a spring game. You want to get a lot of players out on the field and let them show what they can do. But the good thing about what West Virginia has been able to do over the course of its 15 practices this spring has been the fact that the Mountaineers are starting to find more players who could grow into contributors.

Walk-ons like Justin Arndt and Dayron Wilson capped an impressive spring with good showings Saturday afternoon and look like they might be able to use these practices to catapult themselves into an opportunity to show what they can do in the rotation. The same can be said of players like Wendell Smallwood, who needed to find some way to make themselves stand out and earn that playing time by proving to the coaching staff that, in order for WVU to succeed, they need to be on the field in some way.

Smallwood showed he could potentially be West Virginia's best inside receiver, and will see more time there. Cody Clay and Elijah Wellman made huge strides in showing, again, that they deserve to be involved in a bigger way in West Virginia's offense.

These are the things the coaching staff wanted to see out of this spring. They didn't quite find a solid 11 to start on each side of the field, but they're seeing potential – and while that was a phrase thrown around quite a bit a year ago, it gives the Mountaineers plenty they can build off of heading into camp.

That makes this spring a success, but now they have to show they can continue to build. As we've seen time after time, players who have great springs can disappear when it matters most in the fall.

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