West Virginia spring game: What we learned

West Virginia held its spring game over the weekend, with the Gold team (offense) using a late touchdown pass from David Sills to Ricky Rogers to earn the 49-46 win over the Blue team (defense) on Saturday.

Here is what we learned during West Virginia’s spring game.

1. Skyler Howard is building upon his strong bowl game. The Mountaineers' senior quarterback had a terrific spring finale, going 18-of-26 for 270 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. On the heels of a Motel 6 Cactus Bowl MVP performance to end his junior season, Howard looked like a veteran playmaker in the final spring game of his career.

"We have to be balanced," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We have to show that we can hand it off and run with the best of them, but we need to be able to throw the ball more. We are gaining on that, but we still have a long way to go."

2. Backup quarterback remains a battle. Behind Howard, West Virginia has some interesting options who continue to battle for the No. 2 spot. A shoulder injury kept Chris Chugunov out of the game and William Crest Jr. had an up-and-down showing with a team-high 89 rushing yards but two interceptions. True freshman Cody Saunders was a bright spot, going 6-of-7 for 92 yards and two touchdowns.

“I think Skyler has solidified himself as a confident senior quarterback that runs the offense very well,” Holgorsen said, while noting he doesn’t know who the backup will be yet. ”You have to get No. 2 and No. 3 ready. We will continue to rep them.”

3. The defense should continue to be opportunistic. After leading the Big 12 with 31 takeaways in 2015, the Mountaineers' defense looks like it will continue to be an opportunistic unit despite losing several starters off last year’s squad. The defense recorded four interceptions while amassing 46 points in the spring game point system, which rewarded touchdowns, three-and-outs, defensive stops and interceptions.

“We will probably be just as good as last year’s team,” said safety Jeremy Tyler, who will be one of the defenders the Mountaineers will be counting on to excel in a bigger role. “We keep working. Every day is a work day. The sky is the limit with this team.”

4. The Mountaineers have some intriguing young talent on offense. A pair of early enrollee freshmen has made the decision to leave high school early pay off. Running back Kennedy McKoy and receiver Marcus Simms appear to have played their way out of a redshirt season, with the Mountaineers coaching staff already saying they expect both to be contributors in 2016. McKoy had eight carries for 57 yards, including a 30-yard gallop, and two receptions for 11 yards.

“Being here for five years, not many times do you have a freshman come in here and pick up the offense,” senior center Tyler Orlosky said. “Our offense is very simple, but you don’t pick it up that fast, especially a running back. He was able to do that, and Wendell [Smallwood] was able to do that as well. Wendell played as a true freshman, and he has the same type of attitude. He comes in and works hard every day. That’s all you can ask for from a young kid.”

Simms displayed big-play ability with a game-high five receptions for 52 yards and two touchdowns.

“He has no clue what he is doing,” Holgorsen said. “It is actually fun to watch. He does everything wrong, and all he does is score touchdowns. He is going to be a contributor for us next year.”

5. David Sills and William Crest Jr. could be X factors in their dual roles. Sills, a sophomore quarterback, had a touchdown reception, a touchdown pass and 28 rushing yards as he continued to show he's one of the conference's most versatile players. He finished 4-of-8 for 44 passing yards and one score, added three receptions for 50 yards and another touchdown while rushing five times for 28 yards. Crest was explosive in his dual role with 12 carries for a game-high 89 yards, including a 28-yard run. He was 2-of-5 for 17 passing yards with one touchdown and two interceptions at quarterback. Both players have flashed playmaking ability, so it wouldn't be a shock to see Holgorsen come up with some creative ways to use their talents with Howard seemingly entrenched at quarterback.