Slotting Them In - Offense

We now know the majority of WVU's recruiting class for the 2002 season. How do they fit in with WVU's returning roster? Which ones might have a chance to play early? We'll try to break it down here.

Today, we'll look at the offensive side of the ball and how the newcomers might fit into the mix for the 2002 season and beyond. Tomorrow, we'll look at the defense.

A couple rules before we start. First, we might move some players around from the positions they were recruited for - hey, it's our site! But we won't do that blindly - we'll have reasons for it.

Second, we'll try to note where academics may come into play, but remember that's a fluid situation that seems to change almost daily. We won't know who will be on the field until about halfway through fall camp, and it's not even spring yet!

QUARTERBACKS

This one's pretty easy. Juco Charles Hales has three years to play three, so he won't be redshirted. He will get the chance to compete from the start, but will have a big battle to catch either Rasheed Marshall or Danny Embick.

Charles Thompson, unless a disaster strikes, will likely be redshirted. He has a strong arm and is close in style to Rasheed, but he's probably not ready yet to compete.

RUNNING BACKS

Once again, the deepest position on the team. With a quartet of quality guys returning in Avon Cobourne, Quincy Wilson, Hikee Johnson and Cassell Smith, it will be tough for any of the newcomers to see much time in 2002.

Of the three, John Scott might be the most suited for a move elsewhere. However, Erick Phillips' all around ability and Jason Colson's blazing speed are also enticing skills that could be used elsewhere.

Those moves won't be immediate, however. Look for all three of them to get work at running back in practices before any decisions are made.

If we were in charge, we'd look at a move of Cassell Smith to defense as well, as the coaching staff has noted that the defense is short more players than the offense is, but that's another story.

TIGHT END

Juco Jason Hardee, who enrolled in January, will have a leg up on providing immediate help at the tight end/HBack position, since he will have the advantage of going through spring practice.

Adam Serena will begin at the TE/HB spot, but where he ends up will depend on genetics and his weight room habits. The coaching staff is very impressed with Serena's aggressive blocking style, so if here were to put on 50 pounds he could end up on the offensive line.

With only Ryan Thomas and Josh Bailey returning at this position, we expect both Hardee and Serena will get every opportunity to crack the depth chart.

WIDE RECEIVER

Ah, the intrigue of new talent. Four signees all have the ability to play immediately, but three of the four still have eligibility hurdles to clear.

At the top of the list, Broderic Jones is not only a great talent, but he also looks good on the qualifying front. Expect Jones to make an immediate impact in the receiver corps.

J.T Perry, Rayshawn Bolden and Chris Henry are varying distances from qualifying. Perry is reportedly close, and should all go as expected he will also have a great chance to contribute early.

Bolden and Henry have a bit further to go, but their great height and leaping ability make them intriguing dark horses in the receiver chase.

On the returning receiver front, WVU has proven commodities in A. J. Nastasi and Mike Page, who won't give up their positions easily. Phil Braxton has to recover from his season-ending injury of a year ago and be more consistent, while Miquelle Henderson and Dee Alston will have to improve in order to fend off challenges from the incoming class.

Unless all the wideouts qualify, WVU will likely have to again battle some depth issues at the receiver spot. There's no doubt that the overall talent level will be improved, but that will have to translate to on-field performance.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Other than quarterback, it's long been our contention that offensive line is the most difficult spot in which to make the jump from high school to college. The techniques, assignments and size and strength of opponents all factor into making a very tough transition.

West Virginia got three very good prospects in Jeremy Hines, Dan Mozes and Andrae Wright in this year's class, and all eyes will be on them early to see if they can help with the depth on the 2002 edition of offensive line. In addition, December enrollee Jeremy Sheffey could get a look on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball.

Hines is an excellent center who already has experience with shotgun snaps, while Mozes is something of a hidden gem and could be the sleeper of the offensive class. He's a punishing drive blocker, and along with Hines could possibly avoid a redshirt. Wright, who has not qualified as of yet, might be a step or two behind them in development. Sheffey is very quick and has excellent feet, but might need a year in the weight program before he is able to develop a serious push for playing time.

These three will push to find some time behind a returning group that includes Lance Nimmo, Jeff Berk, Geoff Lewis, Zack Dillow, Justin Williams and Tim Brown. Josh Stewart, a redshirt of a year ago, will also provide competition. Rod Olds, who came in as offensive linemen, may get a look on the defensive side of the line during the spring.


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