By Cam Huffman
West Virginia University finally released a spring football depth chart Thursday night, revealing the news every Mountaineer fan has been waiting to receive.
Listed at the much-analyzed quarterback position — the man who will replace WVU’s all-time leading passer, Geno Smith — was junior Paul Millard. Or redshirt freshman Ford Childress. Or freshman Chavas Rawlins.
Basically, the new depth chart revealed exactly what head coach Dana Holgorsen had stated when the spring began. The Mountaineer staff has no plans of naming a starting quarterback this spring.
“We will mix them,” said Holgorsen, explaining how the rotation will work for the rest of the spring and for the annual Gold-Blue Game that will conclude spring drills on April 20. “What we have been doing in the previous 11 practices is Paul (Millard) will go with the first team then (Ford Childress) will go with the first team. Not only do they switch, but the receivers rotate. The linemen will also go back and forth.
“We keep the quarterback with a specific center, and that changes every other practice. We will keep doing the same thing during camp. There will be a lot of moving parts during the spring game, and I hope we win. Spring games are tough. You want it to look good for the fans that come. It is going to be a festive day, and we want it to resemble football.”
Quarterback, Holgorsen explained, isn’t the only spot where things could change. In fact, he said, nothing on the most recent depth chart is set in stone.
“The depth chart could change on a day-to-day basis,” said Holgorsen. “Whoever we line up as first-team offense and first-team defense is what you will see on the sheet. It could change on Saturday morning, on Tuesday or for the spring game.
“If nothing else, you can see who is playing what position. In the fall, we will add another 20 guys that we expect to come in and compete for playing time. It is going to change in August or September. Guys are going to get bigger. If you take a guy like Sean Walters, who came here as a safety, he was playing outside backer and he is now playing inside backer. Guys get bigger and mature. Who knows what their ceiling is once they get older?”
The list that’s out now has K.J. Myers, Kevin White and Connor Arilia listed as the top three receivers, along with Daikiel Shorts, Devonte Mathis and Jordan Thompson backing up at those three positions. All should see significant playing time. Andrew Buie is listed as the first-team running back, followed by Dustin Garrison and junior college transfer Dreamius Smith. Cody Clay is the starting A-back, the fullback-type position, backed up by Will Johnson.
The starting line, from left to right, is Quinton Spain, Marquis Lucas, Pat Eger, Mark Glowinski and Curtis Feight. Nick Kindler, Tony Matteo, Tyler Orlosky and Russell Haugton-James are the top backups.
One new addition to the offense is Vernon Davis, who has moved from defensive back to wide receiver.
“We were watching him catch punts,” said Holgorsen. “I was watching Vernon catch and run, and he was running forward at faster rate than he was running backwards. He was sticking his toe in the ground, and he was fluid. We do this periodically. It looked good enough to us on Tuesday that we kept him on offense. We will keep evaluating whether that is a full-time position move. He did look better moving forward than backwards.”
The one major concern in such a move is taking away depth from an already thin group of corners.
“We need guys at corner to step up and be players,” said Holgorsen. “We can’t get rid of the people we had and bring in six new players. This isn’t the NFL. We played young corners that are going to get better — that we expect to get better.
“Vernon was somewhere around third- or fourth-team corner at the time, so we decided to try him at receiver to see if he could crack the two-deep depth chart or be a starter. It is probably in the best interest of our football team to have a first-team receiver than a third- or fourth-team cornerback.”
On defense, the newly released depth chart has Will Clarke at defensive tackle, backed up by Eric Kinsey, Shaq Rowell at nose tackle, backed up by Christian Brown, and Kyle Rose at defensive end, with Noble Nwachukwu as his backup.
The linebacking corps consists of Wes Tonkery at the SPUR position and Dozie Ezemma at the BUCK spot. Nick Kwiatkoski will be the WILL linebacker, and Isaiah Bruce is back at the SAM after a strong freshman season.
“He is not close to his ceiling,” said Holgorsen of Bruce. “We don’t know what the ceiling is yet, but he will reach it at some point in career. This is one of the reasons we were subpar on defense last year. When you play so many young kids, you ought to get better. Every young kid that played on defense last year ought to be better this year, or they are not doing something right.
“He is not having his best spring right now. He is clearly a starter, but Doug Rigg is pushing him pretty hot and heavy right now. Guys need to come in here and not be comfortable about having a starting spot. If you do that, you are going to be beat out by somebody. I am not saying Isaiah is doing that. He is a very determined kid, but he needs to keep progressing.”
Karl Joseph and Darwin Cook make up a strong pair of safeties, while Brodrick Jenkins and Nana Kyeremeh are listed as the starting corners, backed up by Rick Rumph and Brandon Napolean.
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