Top-10 player spring update: West Virginia


Last week we began evaluating the 10 best players currently on every Big 12 roster. Remember, these lists won't include junior college or freshman signees who have yet to arrive on campus. We're only looking at players currently with their teams this spring.

These rankings are sure to change, but here's our best assessment for the moment. We continue the series with the West Virginia Mountaineers:

1. S Karl Joseph: There might not be a better headhunter in the Big 12 than Joseph, who has started all 38 games of his career at WVU and logged a career-high 92 tackles to earn All-Big 12 honors last season. He offers special versatility in a hybrid safety/corner role who can play deep or rush, and the guy sure knows how to hit.

2. RB Rushel Shell: After sitting out 2013, the former Pitt transfer played up to all the hype with 928 total yards and seven TDs in his debut season as a Mountaineer. He’s a power back who loves contact, and if he starts finding better ways to make guys miss (just three rushes of 20-plus yards in 2014), look out.

3. CB Daryl Worley: He’s been held out from spring ball while recovering from shoulder surgery, but there’s a lot to like about Worley’s game. He started 11 games last year (missing two due to a suspension), snagged three interceptions and should be one of the conference’s better cover corners as a junior.

4. LB Nick Kwiatkoski: He’s sliding over to outside linebacker this spring after leading WVU in tackles and tackles for loss last fall. The senior with 25 career starts is a reliable playmaker and valuable leader on this D.

5. RB Wendell Smallwood: A do-it-all threat who can take handoffs or make plays at inside receiver, Smallwood earned a Charles Sims comp from Dana Holgorsen this spring after accounting for 1,048 total yards of offense in 2014. He should be an ideal complement for Shell.

6. S K.J. Dillon: You need a few good hybrids to make a 3-3-5 defense great, and Dillon is asked to do plenty as the “Spur” linebacker/safety. He raised his game in 2014 with 62 stops (7.5 for loss), three picks and seven pass breakups.

7. QB Skyler Howard: Holgorsen hasn’t named Howard the starter, but he’s having a nice spring and brings more experience to the table than all other WVU quarterbacks combined. He showed flashes in his two starts to end the season and should show improved accuracy after completing just 50.9 percent of his passes last fall.

8. S Dravon Henry: As a true freshman, he took over as a starter from Day 1 at the free safety spot and made a nice first impression with 45 tackles and two INTs, including a pick-six at Oklahoma State.

9. C Tyler Orlosky: Another trusted starter who’s earning consistent praise this spring, Orlosky brings impressive size (6-foot-4, 297 pounds) and technique as well as 16 career starts. He’ll help lead the way up front after West Virginia graduated its two best offensive guards.

10. WR Jordan Thompson: How do the Mountaineers replace Kevin White and Mario Alford? It's impossible, of course, but WVU does have some faith in its veteran inside receivers. Thompson could be a go-to target after catching 49 balls for nearly 600 yards and two scores as a junior.