This week, we continue breaking down the 10 best players at the moment on every team in the Big 12.
These lists won’t include junior college or freshman signees who haven’t arrived on campus yet. Rather, they will include only the players currently on their teams this spring. Some of these rankings might look different after the spring, but this is how we see them now.
Next up, the West Virginia Mountaineers:
1. OG Quinton Spain: A fifth-year player with 26 career starts, Spain tops this list because he’s capable of starting practically anywhere on the West Virginia offensive line, with experience at both guard and tackle. The 6-foot-5, 342-pound mauler was honorable mention All-Big 12 a season ago and should only improve.
2. LB Nick Kwiatkoski: He has a chance to be one of the Big 12’s best linebackers this fall, and you’ve probably never heard of him. The junior’s stat line last season was impressive -- 86 tackles (54 solo), two sacks, 6.5 TFLs, three interceptions, two forced fumbles -- and he’ll anchor the defense that new coordinator Tony Gibson constructs.
3. RB Dreamius Smith: The junior college transfer rushed for 494 yards and five touchdowns last season as Charles Sims’ backup. He’ll have competition from Wendell Smallwood, Andrew Buie and Rushel Shell, but 2014 is Smith’s big opportunity to break out.
4. CB Daryl Worley: Why’s he so high on this list? Because Worley wowed his Mountaineers coaches as a freshman in 2013, starting five games and racking up 45 tackles, five pass breakups and an interception. He took on a lot of responsibility for a rookie and should show some serious growth in his second season.
5. S Karl Joseph: A starter from Day 1 at WVU, Joseph is moving from free safety to bandit safety this spring and could develop into a playmaker this fall. He brings as much experience as any junior on this defense with 68 tackles last season and 25 career starts.
6. WR Daikiel Shorts: Another talented freshman from last season. Shorts enrolled early last year and proved he belonged, starting nine games and tying for the team lead in receptions (45) for 495 yards and two scores. No matter who’s playing QB, Shorts can be a go-to guy.
7. OG Mark Glowinski: The tackles are a question mark for WVU, but coach Dana Holgorsen believes he has a pretty impressive guard combo. Glowinski, a former juco transfer, made a good impression in his first season as a starter after moving over from tackle to guard, and he played more snaps than any Mountaineers lineman in 2013.
8. WR Kevin White: Here’s the guy most likely to move up this list in the fall. The big, 6-3 target hauled in 35 passes for 507 yards and five touchdowns in his first season in Morgantown. It was hard to live up to the hype with how much WVU spread the ball around, but White had a couple big games and is definitely one to watch in 2014.
9. WR Mario Alford: Holgorsen has to love the competition he’ll have at receiver this offseason. It’s easy to forget all three of these top guys were newcomers a year ago and needed seasoning. Alford showed flashes, including a huge, 215-yard game vs. Iowa State, and finished with 552 receiving yards on 27 receptions last season.
10. CB Ishmael Banks: Lots of guys could have taken this last spot, including quarterback Clint Trickett, linebacker Brandon Golson and punter Nick O’Toole, but we’re going with the DB who goes by “Icky.” Banks brings three years of experience to the table and is having a solid spring.