Over the past two weeks, we’ve been analyzing the projected depth charts for Big 12 teams as they exit spring practice.
The series concludes with West Virginia, which released a depth chart before spring practice. Here’s how we expect it to look when preseason camp begins, based on developments in March and April.
OFFENSE (projected starters in bold)
Grier answered all the necessary questions this spring, starring in the final scrimmage to cap a month of practice in which he secured the job as Skyler Howard’s successor. There was never much doubt, actually, after the nationally third-rated dual-threat QB in the Class of 2014 transferred from Florida. Look for Grier to thrive as the trigger man in the system orchestrated by new coordinator Jake Spavital.
This is quite the triple threat. Crawford led the Big 12 and ranked sixth nationally with a 7.3-yard average in his first season out of junior college. McKoy and Pettaway both shined in limited opportunities as true freshmen, giving the Mountaineers four backs who topped 100 yards in a game last season. Add to the mix Tevin Bush, an early-enrolling freshman who impressed in the spring and hides from the defense at 5-foot-5.
Considering that WVU lost Daikiel Shorts and early NFL departure Shelton Gibson, who combined for 106 catches and 1,845 yards last season, it’s not doing too bad at receiver. Sills, the former quarterback in his second tour at West Virginia, enjoyed a huge spring and forged an immediate connection with Grier. With White set to return from a leg injury, that’s a strong duo. And Jennings averaged nearly 17 yards per catch as Gibson’s backup last year. The tight ends appear set to get more involved, too, in Spavital’s offense. Speedy Jovon Durante is also back.
Plenty of shifting last season and this spring leaves the Mountaineers with a solid top group, bolstered by the return of Cajuste from a knee injury. Bosch has moved from right to left guard to replace Adam Pankey, leaving the biggest hole at center after the graduation of Tyler Orlosky. WVU absorbed the loss, too, of Marcell Lazard, a 12-game starter at tackle over the past two years who left the team in March. McKivitz earned valuable snaps last year as a freshman because of Cajuste’s injury -- time that now figures to pay dividends.
DEFENSE (projected starters in bold)
The Mountaineers’ trio on the D-line powered the Big 12’s second-ranked defense in 2016. Ends Noble Nwachukwu and Christian Brown and tackle Darrien Howard -- all of them workhorses -- are gone. WVU appears set to play as many as eight guys at the three spots, including juco transfers Rose and Harvey. Pegues and Fields are back from injury. Shuler and Donahue developed nicely as freshman backups a year ago.
Benton trailed only the departed Justin Arndt, who started at SAM, in tackles last year among all WVU defenders. Long broke into the lineup as a freshman. Preston played a limited role behind Arndt. Beyond the two-deep, West Virginia may benefit from the return to health of Brendan Ferns, a top-150 signee nationally in 2016 who redshirted after suffering a knee injury.
Here’s another defensive position group at which West Virginia loses a lot -- All-America corner Rasul Douglas and safety duo Jarrod Harper and Jeremy Tyler -- but will benefit from the return to health of a key piece in Askew-Henry. White is an elite talent. Battle replaces Douglas but must fend off the challenge of Winfield, a graduate transfer from Syracuse. Competitions remain intense at the other corner position between Daniels and Bailey, who had a strong spring, and at the Bandit spot, as the true freshman Pitts emerges.