Consider the challenge that awaits first-year position coach Blue Adams. Adams worked with just six position players during the spring - none with very solid game experience following the departures of Terrell Chestnut and Daryl Worley, among others.
Now, WVU is stocked with 10 possibilities, ranging from sixth-year seniors in Nana Kyeremeh (an old grad with a WVU degree) Rasul Douglas (graduate of Nassau Community College) and Iowa degree holder Maurice Fleming - who utilized the NCAA's graduate transfer rule to become immediately eligible - to young players like Jacquez and Jordan Adams and junior college newcomers Elijah Battle and Mike Daniels.
There's also a somewhat proven commodity in Miami transfer Antonio Crawford, now in his second season in the Mountaineer program. Crawford could be the reliable choice, having played in 38 career games against high level competition. The Tampa native was the Scout.com 89th ranked corner coming out of H.B. Plant High, and had a solid, but not spectacular, career as a Hurricane with 51 tackles, eight pass break-ups and an interception over his final two seasons.
The possibilities are intriguing and promising at best, and yet unproven to the degree that it unnerves even the most savvy assistants.
The positives are that the unit has the physical attributes to compete at a high level. Douglas' 6-2 size, Crawford's quickness and Kyeremeh's physicality mix into a nice blend of attributes for a unit that must be entirely rebuilt. But the fact that Kyeremeh couldn't begin to secure a starting job, that Douglas will still mix it up with junior college players without his year of experience in the program, would indicate that West Virginia faces the age old positional problem, i.e. if you have several, there's a good chance you have none.
"We feel good," said Douglas, who played in 11 games last year, including a season-high 60 snaps against Baylor. "We know what we have: Seven to eight corners that can play. We are all competitive. The intensity is so high. Everyone makes plays. It's hard to just say any two are going to start this season. Even if you're a one, a two or a three, a scout team player. Everybody plays and mixes it up."
If one were to hedge bets, the best might be on an experienced Kyeremeh to challenge early against Douglas, Crawford and Fleming before players like Battle and Daniels have a chance to adjust to the speed of the major conference game. Kyeremeh is soft-spoken, but has shown stretches of very good play. But he has also been beaten over the top by West Virginia's receiving corps, including during the Gold-Blue spring game. His every-down dependability remains in question, though in fairness that's true across the board.
Even Fleming, who played in 14 games for the Hawkeyes last season - including a start against Nebraska and snaps versus Stanford in the Rose Bowl - was vastly unchallenged compared to what he will face against Big 12 offenses this season. Douglas noted that Fleming said he wanted to be tested more than seven to eight plays a game, and that's what he will get with offenses throwing the ball 30-plus times a game. How does a player accustomed to the Big Ten, even one far more wide open than in past years, adjust to that every down trial, series in and series out? Win four out of five individual match-ups against Wisconsin and you've likely played nearly a complete game. Win four of five against TCU, and you've been beaten twice - potentially for long gains - by the third series.
"Whoever wants those spots will go get them," Kyeremeh said. "It's harder because we haven't been together. It's repetitions and playing together. Being in the Big 12 now for four years, I know what to expect. But it's nice having new guys out there to see what they can do. It's exciting. We have pretty good receivers so that helps every day. We have to take advantage of all our reps. It's a lot more competitive with two open spots."
Even if coordinator Tony Gibson has an inkling of who is going to start, he hasn't given any indication - and don't expect any this early. "I don't know if he knows in his head, (but) he gives everybody a fair chance and keeps it competitive," Douglas said. "Everyone has a fair chance."