5 Takeaways: WVU’s Gold-Blue Game Showed Progress, But Questions Remain
Some may view a college football spring game as just a glorified scrimmage while others see it as a glimpse of how the team has progressed. So now that WVU’s Gold-Blue Game is behind West Virginia, what did it show about the Mountaineers?
Count WVU head coach Neal Brown among those who will look at what happened on the field at Milan Puskar Stadium on Saturday as part of his evaluation of his team and its players. Brown said as much during his postgame press conference.
With all of that said, it’s also important to not overreact to an exhibition that saw fans get involved and score points for both teams.
WVU’s Offense May Have Potential Through Air
It’s incredibly obvious the West Virginia offense is going to rely on the ground game for success. The Mountaineers have all but 13 yards rushing returning from last season, a stacked running back group and guaranteed mobility from a dual-threat quarterback. However, there’s going to be a ceiling on any one-dimensional offense.
While the running game is the aspect of the team few are concerned about, the passing game is another story. With Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Sam James, Kaden Prather and Reese Smith all either pursuing the NFL or having transferred to another program, the receiver production will come from new faces.
Devin Carter, brought in with the expectation that he would be the number one, Cortez Braham, tight end Kole Taylor and even the running backs themselves have all showed signs of being able to keep the defense honest and allow WVU to move the ball through the air as well. This was all evident in the Gold-Blue Game, especially with Taylor, who made a highlight reel quality catch, using just one hand and getting himself over the defender with his size and length. Carter simply continued showing why he’s the top receding threat on the team and Braham even demonstrated why he can step up with more opportunities.
Asti: Devin Carter is Proving to be Invaluable to WVU Before He Even Plays a Game
Both Garrett Greene and Nicco Marchiol got the ball down the field with passes enough, which is always nice to see from quarterbacks who are more known for using their legs. Not that it should be expected to happen too much, or again, but Greene caught a 40-yard touchdown off a reverse trick play. Will that be a sign of more aggressive play calling to come?
Kole Taylor is Most Dynamic Tight End WVU Has Had in a Long Time
West Virginia does not usually incorporate using the tight end position as that much of a receiving option, but Taylor is undoubtedly going to force the issue. He even explained how Brown had to sell him on using the tight end more in the passing game before he agreed to transfer from LSU.
Factor in the praise that Brown and other coaches have been showering Taylor with throughout the Spring practice period and then how he was used in the game itself, there’s good reason why he believes in the promise made to him about getting him the ball. I mean, he is said “open by birth,” right?
CJ Donaldson Loos Healthy and Better Than Ever
The Spring opened with Brown saying CJ Donaldson would be limited as he recovers from his freshman season ending early with injuries. But it ended with Donaldson having went through every practice as a full participant and looking just as good, if not better, than when West Virginia fans last saw him on the field in a game.
Asti: CJ Donaldson Taking a Jump is Key for West Virginia’s Offense in 2023
He ran for 36 yards on eight carries and scored a touchdown in the Gold-Blue Game, but more important than his statistics – he appeared to have every bit of the freakish athleticism that led to instant Steve Slaton comparisons. Donaldson, who was already tough to bring down and tackle due to his size, appears to be even stronger.
Freshman Jahiem White is the Real Deal
Rodney Gallagher is the face of WVU’s 2023 recruiting class, and for good reason based on his four-star high school career. But Jahiem White could be a star in the making in his own right.
White led every player in rushing yards by a mile, totaling 91 on seven touches. His biggest run of the day came in a 53-yard touchdown. It’s tough to read too much into a player’s numbers during an event mostly about the fans, but it was the first time White was in any type of college game action.
He’s on the smaller side and may need to bulk up to handle a bigger role as the years go by, granted his speed and ability to make tacklers miss could result in making the most of whatever hand he is dealt.
No Major Defensive Issues Were Present
It’s often easier to visually see how well the offense is doing, but the 2023 season will likely come down to how the defense performs. The coaching staff has been making it clear the inconsistency from 2022 won’t be tolerated and injuries won’t be an excuse. This was supported by taking the defense back to the basics and making fundamental the focus leading up to the Gold-Blue Game.
WVU DC Jordan Lesley Feels Defense Needs to Perfect Fundamentals
To this end, no news is good news. There wasn’t a bad moment or big missed tackle to harp on. Taylor’s one-handed catch was more about a great play than anything the defender did wrong. A significant amount of the Blue’s team points were thanks to winning practice battles or from defensive stops, most notably forcing three and outs. The 2023 defense is younger and less experienced overall, although it might be a more naturally gifted group.
Be careful reading too much into a glorified scrimmage. And there are still many unanswered questions looming over the team, but WVU did accomplish improving about as much as possible with still several months before the new season kicks off.