Big 12: Marquis Lucas

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring. West Virginia released its depth chart after the spring but not every question was answered during the 15 practices as the Mountaineers have several position battles, including quarterback, that will last into August.

OFFENSE (starters in bold)

QB: Clint Trickett (Sr.), Logan Moore (Sr.) or Paul Millard (Sr.) or Skyler Howard (Jr.)

Trickett missed the spring with an injury yet emerged atop the depth chart. It’s fair to say the Mountaineers still have issues at quarterback. Coach Dana Holgorsen is confident his team will see someone step up. Regardless, the competition should last into August and incoming freshman William Crest will enter the mix this summer.

[+] EnlargeDreamius Smith
Dan Friend/USA TODAY SportsDreamius Smith leads a deep group of running backs.
RB: Dreamius Smith (Sr.), Wendell Smallwood (So.), Rushel Shell (So.), Dustin Garrison (Jr.), Andrew Buie (Jr.)
FB/TE: Cody Clay (Jr.), Elijah Wellman (RFr.)

Arguably the deepest position group in the entire Big 12. The Mountaineers go five deep with running backs who could be featured backs on several teams in the league and they will add four-star signee Donte Thomas-Williams into the competition this summer. Expect WVU to use its running backs together at times this fall. At fullback, Clay is underrated and could be a valuable weapon.

WR (X): Mario Alford (Sr.), Devonte Mathis (So.), Shelton Gibson (RFr.)
IR (H): Daikiel Shorts (So.), Jacky Marcellus (RFr.)
R (Y): Jordan Thompson (Jr.), Vernon Davis (So.)
WR (Z): Kevin White (Sr.), Kj Myers (Jr.), Ricky Rogers (Fr.)

WVU has athletes and playmakers at receiver, they just need a consistent quarterback to get those guys involved. There’s no Tavon Austin or Stedman Bailey -- proven all-conference performers -- but Shorts has terrific upside and Alford came on at the end of the 2013 campaign. This is a solid group that will make plays if the quarterback situation sorts itself out.

LT: Adam Pankey (So.), Sylvester Townes (Jr.)
LG: Quinton Spain (Sr.), Russell Haughton-James (Jr.)
C: Tyler Orlosky (So.), Tony Matteo (So.)
RG: Mark Glowinski (Sr.), Stone Underwood (Jr.)
RT: Marquis Lucas (Jr.), Michael Calicchio (Sr.)

Spain is a great place to start at guard but the Mountaineers need this unit to improve if they hope to return to a bowl game this fall. Inexperience is a major concern with Pankey, Lucas and Orlosky moving into the starting lineup with seven combined career starts.

DEFENSE

DE: Dontrill Hyman (Sr.), Noble Nwachukwu (So.)
NT: Kyle Rose (Jr.), Darrien Howard (So.)
DE: Christian Brown (So.), Eric Kinsey (Jr.)

Will Clarke and Shaq Rowell are going to be extremely tough to replace. Rose moves inside to fill the void left by Rowell and should be solid in the middle but the new starters alongside him will have play well if the Mountaineers hope to improve on their 33.3 points allowed and 455 yards allowed per game in 2013. Brown returns from a foot injury a year ago and has the potential to be a force as early as this season. This unit has a ways to go if it hopes to find a place among the Big 12’s top defensive line units.

SAM: Isaiah Bruce (Jr.), Edward Muldrow (Jr.)
MIKE: Nick Kwiatkoski (Jr.), Al-Rasheed Benton (RFr.)
WILL: Brandon Golson (Sr.), Sean Walters (So.)

Bruce has made the move from the SPUR position to the SAM linebacker spot but should continue to be a key playmaker in WVU’s defense. Add Kwiakoski and Golson and the Mountaineers have one of the better linebacker groups in the Big 12.

RCB: Daryl Worley (So.), Keishawn Richardson (Jr.), Nana Kyeremeh (So.)
LCB: Ishmael Banks (Sr.), Terrell Chestnut (Jr.), Brandon Napoleon (So.)
FS: Jeremy Tyler (So.), Ricky Rumph (Jr.)
BS: Karl Joseph (Jr.), Jarrod Harper (So.)
SPUR: K.J. Dillon (Jr.), Malik Greaves (RFr.)

Don’t be surprised if Worley inserts his name among the Big 12’s top cornerbacks this fall, he’s that good. Tyler slides into the spot vacated by Darwin Cook and looks like a future playmaker in the secondary while Joseph and Banks have combined to start 39 games during their careers. It’s a good combination of youth and experience. WVU doesn’t have one of the Big 12’s top secondary units but it has the talent to rise to that level in 2014.

Spring game preview: West Virginia

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
3:00
PM ET
West Virginia finishes its spring practice schedule with the annual Gold-Blue spring football game this weekend. Here's what you need to know:

When: 1 p.m. ET Saturday

Where: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.Va.

What to watch for:
  • The quarterback battle: This is Paul Millard's chance to make his case for why he should be West Virginia's starting quarterback. The senior appeared in seven games last season and has earned good reviews so far in spring ball with Clint Trickett sidelined. The challenger here is Skyler Howard, an undersized (6-foot, 200 pounds) passer who showed off a big arm and scrambling ability at the junior college level but had some ups and downs this spring. He's still learning the offense and needs to show progress.
  • New-look defense? When Tony Gibson took over as defensive coordinator this offseason, he vowed he wouldn't make too many changes because his players needed continuity. He is, after all, their fourth defensive coordinator in four years. But how does the promoted safeties coach plan to upgrade a WVU defense that ranked 99th in FBS in scoring defense and 101st in total defense last year? Expect to see some 3-3-5 and 3-4 fronts on Saturday and a major emphasis on getting defenders in the backfield. Gibson and Dana Holgorsen want a simplified scheme that lets their defenders play fast, and that concept will be put to the test.
  • Meet the rushers: The battle to replace Charles Sims won't be won by just one person; that much seems certain. West Virginia has a stable of running backs who bring intriguing possibilities for this offense, and the Gold-Blue Game should offer a sample of what's to come. Dreamius Smith proved plenty in his debut season last season, but technically he's not even the most experienced back. That would be junior Andrew Buie, an 850-yard rusher in 2012 who took off the fall semester and redshirted last season. Wendell Smallwood and Dustin Garrison can be difference-makers, and Pitt transfer Rushel Shell could be the most talented member of the bunch. Let's see which ones make a statement on Saturday.
  • Worley on the rise: One of the best defensive backs whom nobody is talking about in the Big 12 has to be Daryl Worley, who survived playing on an island last season as a freshman. In this league, if you can keep up with these offenses in your rookie season, you've got a bright future. West Virginia coaches have praised Worley as easily one of their best defenders, even as he's been on campus for less than a year, and much will be expected of him in 2014. On a defense that will have to get takeaways to stay competitive, Worley will be a weapon.
  • O-line depth: WVU is pretty set at offensive guard, but the tackles are a bit of a question mark. Marquis Lucas and Adam Pankey are the favorites to land those jobs at the moment, and there are several options behind them, but the depth is an issue that will be tested Saturday. All any coach wants from a spring game is zero injuries, and any hits to this offensive line would cause some real problems and more shifting around.

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