Depth Decisions

West Virginia head football coach Rich Rodriguez still has yet to run down a full two-deep depth chart for his 2006 team, but this time it's not due to his desire to keep a close rein on information.

Several items are keeping Rodriguez and his staff from identifying a traditional two-deep list. Injuries and positions battles still have some of the positions in flux. Players missing considerable amounts of practice time have made WVU's lineup change almost daily. And finally, the staff's penchant for moving players to different positions results in an ebb and flow from one spot to the next, making it difficult to pigeonhole many players in one position.

That last factor has had me considering some different methods for presenting the depth chart -- which for now remains in its current, traditional format. In this article, however, I'll take my best shot at listing the players who I think will see appreciable playing time this fall.

Quarterback

Patrick White has a stranglehold on the number one job. I believe Jarrett Brown might have a bit of an edge on Nate Sowers, but this is a battle that will continue all fall, and be rejoined next spring. One of the misconceptions of many is that once a number one or number two guy is named, that's it for the season. Far from it, especially in a competition as close as this one.


Superback

Again, a clear-cut number one in Steve Slaton, followed by a cast of competitors. Owen Schmitt will get carries in the two-back set (which is so memorably termed the "fully loaded shotgun" by MSN's Tony Caridi). Jason Colson and Ed Collington will battle for the remaining carries, with Colson holding the edge going into the season. Jetavious Best is likely still a year away from serious competition for playing time, but an injury could change that.


Fullback

Schmitt holds the keys here, but surprising true freshman walk-on Max Anderson looks to have nabbed the first back-up role, as I can't image burning a redshirt for third team duty. Sammy Morrone may also get some reps, as there is more time available than might be imagined at this spot, especially if Schmitt plays more at superback.


Offensive Line

The first of several positions where the traditional depth chart flies out the window. However, the rules are simple here. Learn more than one position, and your chances for playing time increase. Be prepared to play more than one spot, and don't get complacent.

Dan Mozes begins at center, but could obviously play guard if need be. Ryan Stanchek, who can play both guard and tackle, will begin the season on the outside. That's due to the improvement of Greg Isdaner, who simply couldn't be kept on the bench, and John Bradshaw, who is shaking off some of the inconsistency that plagued him during the spring. With Jeremy Sheffey holding down the other starting guard spot, and Mike Dent adding some reps at guard in addition to backup duties at center (along with walk-on Tim Reed) WVU looks to be in good shape on the interior offensive line.

Joining Stanchek at tackle is Jake Figner, who has flown under the radar a bit while the move of Stanchek to the outside drew attention. Damien Crissey continues to battle Stanchek for the tackle spot, but it looks as if the latter will get the starting nod. Just remember that an injury, or a drop in performance, at one position will likely cause a ripple effect at multiple positions.


Tight End

With tackle a bit thin, look for WVU to run more two tight end sets. With Mike Villagrana, Brad Palmer, Adam Serena, Selvish Capers and Brandon Tate all available, West Virginia looks to be well equipped to do just that. The blocking of WVU's tight ends is sometimes overlooked in the running game, but is critical to its overall success. Villagrana heads the pack.


Wide Receiver

If trying to get a handle on the offensive linemen is difficult, then wide receiver is almost indecipherable. Injuries and up-and-down performances have made the depth chart change more quickly than a politician's mind after receiving a donation.

Brandon Myles is a fixture at one wideout spot, with Rayshawn Bolden seeming to hold the lead at the other. Dorrell Jalloh's foot injury has caused him to miss valuable practice time, but he should be in the mix once he returns, and Dwayne Thompson, whose block in the Sugar Bowl may have finally turned the lights on for him, might be a surprise. Tito Gonzales has earned the "most improved" tag among the group, but whether it's enough to earn him playing time remains to be seen.

On the inside, Darius Reynaud and Jeremy Bruce look to have the edge at the moment, but health issues have also cost the pair part of the fall. Jason Colson will see a few snaps at the position, but it remains to be seen if he can provide more than blocking support. Carmen Connolly, moved over from defense, has shown some of the solid play that made him a standout passcatcher in high school, and could also make some noise as the season progresses.


Kicker

The pressure is on Pat McAfee this year, with no serious threat behind him. Walk-on David Brewer is an emergency replacement, and Scott Kozlowski could also fill in in a pinch, but the job is McAfee's to run with. Much was made of his strained quadriceps muscle, but leg woes are common for kickers in fall camp, when they boot the ball more than at any other time of the year.


Holder

An underrated position on the team, and one that only gets noticed when something goes wrong. Wide receiver Travis McClintic takes over for the ever-popular George Shehl in this spot, hoping to duplicate Shehl's perfect record. Receiver Carmen Connolly and quarterback Markell Harrison will be the backups.

Up next, we conclude our two-part series with a look at the defense.


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