Big 12: Logan Moore

West Virginia capped its spring drills with the Gold-Blue game on Saturday. Here’s a recap of what happened:

Best offensive performance: The other quarterbacks had their moments, but veteran Paul Millard was the steadiest, completing 14 of 19 passes for 129 yards with no turnovers. Millard also threw a pair of 6-yard touchdown passes, the first to Kevin White, the second to Daikiel Shorts. The West Virginia quarterback derby is far from over. Junior-college transfer Skyler Howard is still grasping the offense and will only get more comfortable. Clint Trickett, the favorite to win the job, will be back shortly after undergoing offseason surgery. Hotshot freshman William Crest will also be joining the team in the summer. But after a shaky 2013 campaign, Millard has plenty to build off from his spring game performance.

Best defensive performance: By all accounts, cornerback Daryl Worley has been tremendous all spring, and Saturday was no different. As he has been in practice, Worley shut down wideout Mario Alford in the spring game, holding him to just two catches for 12 yards. “Daryl Worley has had a phenomenal spring,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Mario’s confidence is a little down right now because he has had to go against him so much.” With Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett and Aaron Colvin all gone, Worley could be a contender to earn All-Big 12 honors in his sophomore season.

Best debut: Last year, Logan Moore toiled as a reserve walk-on wide receiver after transferring in from Fairmont State in 2012. But this spring, Moore was moved back to quarterback, the position he played at Fairmont, and in the spring game, he generated some buzz with his athleticism. Moore completed 10 of 21 attempts for 109 yards, and rushed the ball three times for 38 yards with all the quarterbacks stripped of their no-contact jerseys. Moore still remains a long shot to gain playing time in the fall. But he also turned some heads Saturday.

Notable play: Alford took the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown with a couple of gorgeous cutbacks. "I just saw an opening and took it," Alford said. "We have been working real hard this spring on hitting the gaps.” Alford’s return was a promising sign for the Mountaineers, who ranked last in the Big 12 last year in both kickoff and punt returns.

Developing storyline: West Virginia has long been known as a high-scoring program. But the Mountaineers have rapidly progressed defensively this spring under new coordinator Tony Gibson and first-year assistant Tom Bradley. The defense forced the offense to punt on the first four possessions and was assignment sound throughout the scrimmage. The linebacking corps is deep and experienced, Worley is turning into a star, and safeties K.J. Dillon and Karl Joseph are coming into their own. If the defensive line holds up, which remains the biggest question, the Mountaineers could field their best defense in years.

Biggest question answered: Who knows at this point how exactly carries will be divided among West Virginia’s running backs? But this has become clear -- the Mountaineers figure to feature the deepest stable of running backs in the Big 12. Finally healthy again, Dustin Garrison, West Virginia’s leading rusher all the way back in 2011, has enjoyed a renaissance this offseason and rushed for 47 yards in the spring game. Wendell Smallwood, who had 45 yards Saturday, gives the backfield a heavy dose of versatility. Rushel Shell ran for 37 yards in the spring game and has one of the highest ceilings of any back in the league. And none of the above includes Dreamius Smith, who sat out the spring game, but is the front-runner to start. The Mountaineers also welcomed back 2012 leading rusher Andrew Buie during the winter and will welcome in four-star freshman Donte Thomas-Williams in the summer. Don’t forget about Cody Clay, who is one of the best run-blocking fullbacks in the league. West Virginia still has several questions coming out of the spring. Running back depth is not one of them.

Quotable: “The first-team defense played excellent. Once we started taking those guys out, that’s when we started moving the ball a little bit. As a head coach, that’s what you want to see.” -- Holgorsen

Spring preview capsules: Big 12

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
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Spring football is rapidly approaching.

Here's a team-by-team look at what to watch in the Big 12 this spring:

Baylor

Spring start: Feb. 28

Spring game: April 5

What to watch: Who will replace Lache Seastrunk? The Bears' running back was the engine that helped keep the Baylor offense balanced and defenses honest. Shock Linwood will step in, but is he ready to handle the burden of keeping the offense balanced? . . . Baylor, the 2013 regular-season champion, has to find key replacements on a defense that is losing half of its starters. But several second-teamers -- including Jamal Palmer, Shawn Oakman, Andrew Billings and Orion Stewart -- are poised to fill the void . . . The Bears need to replace guard Cyril Richardson along the offensive line. Several candidates, including junior college transfer Jarell Broxton, will battle for the job. Baylor has arguably the league's best group of skill position players, but that will mean nothing if its offensive line takes a step backward.

Iowa State

Spring start: March 10

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino arrives in Ames to bring more points and creativity to the Cyclones’ offense. The spring is the first opportunity for Mangino to get a feel for the playmakers and the players to get a feel for Mangino’s expectations . . . The quarterback competition is another thing to keep an eye on. Grant Rohach ended the season as the starter, but Sam B. Richardson could take his job back with a strong spring. And there are other young quarterbacks on campus who could insert themselves into the mix . . . Defensively, the Cyclones need to replace linebacker Jeremiah George and safety Jacques Washington, who finished 1-2 in tackles in the Big 12 in 2013 and finished their careers with 59 career starts combined. Iowa State seems to always have quality linebackers, so finding a replacement for Washington could be the defense’s top priority in the spring.

Kansas

Spring start: March 4

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Shuffling the offensive coaching staff has been the theme of the offseason. New offensive coordinator John Reagan, who was a KU assistant from 2005 to 2009, returns to the Jayhawks after running Rice’s offense last season. The spring is Reagan’s first chance to identify the playmakers who will be the foundation of his offense this fall. Expect wide-open competition across the board after KU finished 115th in the FBS in points scored ... The quarterback position will grab the headlines, with T.J. Millweard joining the competition with Jake Heaps and Montell Cozart, who each started games in 2013. Millweard transferred to KU from UCLA before the 2013 season.

Kansas State

Spring start: April 2

Spring game: April 26

What to watch: Finding John Hubert’s replacement sits high on the Wildcats’ priority list. The former running back carried the ground attack for the past three seasons, and there’s no clear favorite to step into his shoes. Will someone step up during spring football? . . . What will happen with quarterback Daniel Sams? The Wildcats have a proven Big 12 playmaker in Sams, a junior, and another proven quarterback in Jake Waters. Sams is an exceptional open-field runner who started two games in 2013, but look for Kansas State to start exploring ways to have both on the field together this spring . . . Replacing Ty Zimmerman’s playmaking and leadership on defense is another key this spring. The defense has to replace several starters in the secondary and at linebacker. Keep an eye on junior college defensive back Danzel McDaniel, who has the versatility to step in at several different spots.

Oklahoma

Spring start: March 8

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: With Trevor Knight poised to start at quarterback in 2014, Blake Bell moves to tight end after starting eight games under center in 2013. Bell’s transition to tight end will be the talk of the spring, with the senior’s commitment to the program and OU's need for help at the position . . . The battle to be the starting running back is another storyline, with sophomores Keith Ford and Alex Ross hoping to make a statement this spring before ESPN 300 running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine arrive in the summer. Ford forced his way into the lineup as a freshman before an injury slowed him . . . The Sooners will be looking to shore up the secondary after the departure of All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin and starting safety Gabe Lynn. Sophomore Stanvon Taylor could be set to replace Colvin, while sophomores Hatari Byrd and Ahmad Thomas will battle to replace Lynn.

Oklahoma State

Spring start: March 10

Final spring practice: April 5

What to watch: Incoming freshman Mason Rudolph enrolled early to participate in spring football with the hope of replacing quarterback Clint Chelf. J.W. Walsh has won a lot of games in a Cowboys uniform, but will have to hold off stern competition to earn the starting spot as a junior . . . The Cowboys lose seven seniors off one of their best defenses in recent memory. The overall quality might be upgraded, but spring football will be the first chance to see if those talented yet inexperienced defenders are ready to step into the fire. Defensive end Jimmy Bean, linebacker Ryan Simmons and cornerback Kevin Peterson could emerge as the foundation of the defense . . . Who will step up at receiver? The Cowboys lose three of their top four receivers, with Jhajuan Seales as the lone returnee. But several youngsters appear poised to step in, including sophomore Marcell Ateman and redshirt freshman Ra'Shaad Samples.

TCU

Spring start: March 1

Final spring practice: April 5

What to watch: Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie have arrived to take over as co-offensive coordinators at TCU. The Horned Frogs need a jump start and could get it from the “Air Raid”-style offense the duo will bring to the table. This spring will be an important first step in improving the offense . . . Who will be the quarterback? Trevone Boykin started several games in 2013 but might actually be TCU’s top receiver. Tyler Matthews, a redshirt freshman, also saw time under center, but he faces stiff competition. Don’t expect the battle to end until fall camp . . . TCU needs someone to step up in the secondary, with Jason Verrett NFL-bound after spending the past two seasons as one of the Big 12’s top coverage cornerbacks. Ranthony Texada and Travoskey Garrett are among several young defensive backs who could try to fill the void.

Texas

Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 19

What to watch: David Ash's health will be one of the main storylines of Texas’ first spring under coach Charlie Strong. Ash has the talent to be a key piece of the puzzle, but head injuries are always tough to overcome. If Ash is 100 percent healthy, the Longhorns will feel better about the overall status at quarterback . . . Strong has talked of instilling a tough mindset in Austin since he arrived in January, and spring football will be the first real taste of what the Longhorns’ new coach is trying to bring to the program . . . Where are the playmakers? Texas has a talent-laden roster, but didn’t have the exceptional talent who could consistently change games. This spring gives several returning skill players, including receiver Jaxon Shipley and all-purpose standout Daje Johnson, the chance to become the foundation of the offense in 2014.

Texas Tech

Spring start: March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Davis Webb's health is the No. 1 priority for the Red Raiders, who have seen three quarterbacks leave the program since the beginning of the 2013 season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury could have the toughest job of the spring as he tries to manage the lack of quarterbacks with the desire to have a productive spring for the roster as a whole . . . The Red Raiders have some consistency among the defensive coaching staff, meaning they could improve in 2014 despite losing multiple starters, including defensive tackle Kerry Hyder, linebacker Will Smith and safety Tre' Porter. Tech could start seeing dividends of that continuity . . . The Red Raiders have to replace Jace Amaro and Eric Ward, who combined to catch 189 passes for 2,299 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez made a bunch of plays in 2013 and Devin Lauderdale, a junior college transfer and early enrollee, will get the chance to show why he had Texas Tech fans buzzing when he initially signed in February 2013.

West Virginia

Spring start: March 2

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Finding a quarterback is critical for the Mountaineers, who have talent at the skill positions but won’t transform into an explosive offense without efficient quarterback play. Clint Trickett is recovering from shoulder surgery, meaning Paul Millard, junior college transfer Skyler Howard and former receiver Logan Moore will run the offense this spring . . . Tony Gibson takes over as WVU’s defensive coordinator after coaching the safeties in 2013. His promotion allows some continuity on the defense after former DC Keith Patterson left for Arizona State after the season . . . Replacing defensive tackle Shaq Rowell and defensive end Will Clarke, who started 56 combined career games for WVU, won’t be easy. The Mountaineers will lean heavily on veteran juniors Isaiah Bruce and Karl Joseph, who have started since their freshman seasons.

QB race, defense shaping up at WVU

March, 20, 2013
3/20/13
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West Virginia is only a handful of practices into its spring workouts, and thus far, there hasn't been much separation between quarterbacks Ford Childress and Paul Millard, who are competing to replace Geno Smith. It doesn't sound like incoming talents Logan Moore and Chavas Rawlins have found their way into the competition, either.

"They are letting Ford and I go at it right now," Millard told reporters after Tuesday's practice. We are taking half and half with the reps, so it is all 50/50 right now, and we are just going out and trying to get better each and every day."

The race certainly felt like a 50/50 shot heading into practice, so it's good to see the reps are being split accordingly. It's a little early to expect much separation, but that will come with scrimmages throughout spring.

Ultimately, West Virginia's offense will be fine. The focus this spring has been on a defense playing under new leadership in Keith Patterson, who took over play-calling duties from Joe DeForest after the Mountaineers finished last in the Big 12 in scoring defense.

"With coach Patterson, we got to touch on it during the bowl game. He gave us an insight of what it is going to be and what we have to look forward to. Now that we have seen it, he is just an old-fashioned coach that wants you to run to the ball and give effort and everything else will take care of itself," cornerback Brodrick Jenkins said.

Plenty has been written and said about West Virginia's struggling defense, which gave up more than 43 points a game in conference play and surrendered 78 plays longer than 20 yards in 2012, both worst in the league. The Mountaineers need help to see major improvement from those numbers, but they're apparently using some of that criticism as fuel.

"Last summer before camp, (defensive line) coach (Erik) Slaughter was telling us how the media was saying that the D-line was going to be the worst and it is going to be our fault that we lose every game. We took it personally, to be honest. Coach Slaughter said it to us every day -- 'you guys are the worst and you want to be first.' That is what they are preaching now," defensive lineman Shaq Rowell said. "Our defense as a total was eighth in the Big 12. I thought we were 10th with the way we played. It was discouraging to see how we played last year. This year we are just working hard and training hard for spring ball, and we are just looking forward to better things this year."

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