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6 Storylines to Follow as West Virginia Football Spring Ball Gets Underway



Spring may not be fully in the air just yet, but spring practices are now here for West Virginia football. And the start of spring ball means the true journey towards the next college football season.

The pressure on the Mountaineers to turn the program around after a disappointing 2022 season is immense and known far and wide. That makes this year’s spring practices leading up to the annual Gold-Blue Game extremely important for head coach Neal Brown and his team.

Here are some of the storylines to keep an eye on as spring practice kicks off.

The QB Battle

For the first time in his tenure at WVU, Brown will enter a season with a homegrown recruit as his starting quarterback. Brown made it known that he would not be dipping back into the transfer portal to find a new quarterback soon after the 2022 season came to an end. Instead of looking for an established experienced starter like last year when the program brought in JT Daniels, it will be either Garrett Greene or Nicco Marchiol at State College in Week 1.

There are a couple of reasons why Brown likely came to this decision. First off, adding Daniels didn’t work out, and that’s putting it mildly. When he was at his best early in the season, the team was at its worst. Once the defense began to hit their stride, Daniels fell off a cliff and eventually lost his starting spot to Greene, someone who had been on the roster waiting for over a year at that point. Another reason for Brown to turn to Greene or Marchiol is they showed him enough good things when given the ball in the final weeks of last season.

Greene had his coming out party against Oklahoma, leading the Mountaineers to the program’s first win over the Sooners since joining the Big 12. This excited fans and even notable alums. Marchiol then played well to close the season with a win against Oklahoma State. While they both were far from perfect, it will be interesting to see how they do with first team reps and a full offseason of preparing as if they are the stater.

WVU Football Legends Pat White, Rasheed Marshall Offer Thoughts on Garrett Greene

I imagine Greene has the edge based on experience and the fact that if he loses out to a younger player in Marchiol, there’s almost no point of having him on the team anymore. It’s worth noting Chad Scott taking over as offensive coordinator for the departing Graham Harrell will undoubtedly cause the offense to be even more ground focused, which likely creates another advantage for Greene to lead the way as a more explosive dual threat option.

Another Year of CJ Donaldson

CJ Donaldson, someone who had never played running back before, burst on the scene with a big game in the Backyard Brawl and then kept on putting up yards after that. Donaldson even led the team in rushing over Tony Mathis after the first few games of the season. Donaldson was a bright spot for Mountaineer fans to be entertained by win or lose. That was until that night in Austin. Donaldson suffered a concussion in the middle of the game and was never the same phenom again.

Many speculated that Donaldson would transfer, but he decided to stick it out with the coaching staff that saw something in him when others did not. How will he respond in his sophomore season? Will he be able to stay health throughout an entire season, especially since Brown did mention that he never received an increased work load because he wasn’t in the kind of shape to garner more carriers? Will opposing defenses be able to find anything from the 2022 film, since unlike last year, they will now have a frame of reference they did not have a year ago?

Neal Brown, WVU Staff Knew They Had to Figure Out a Way to Utilize CJ Donaldson

A Completely New WR Room

There’s no segment of the WVU team that will look more different in 2023 than the wide receiver room. Bryce Ford-Wheaton declared for the NFL Draft. Kaden Prather transferred. Reese Smith transferred. Even tight end Mike O’Laughlin is gone, deciding to transfer after initially hinting he was going to retire.

In an effort to replace the lost production, West Virginia spent most of the offseason sending offers to wide receiver transfer players. Ja’Shaun Poke is now a Mountaineer. And so is former North Carolina State star Devin Carter, who should move into the WR1 role.

Did Bryce Ford-Wheaton Help Convince Devin Carter to Join Mountaineers?

Of course, the Mountaineers recruited several quality receivers as part of their 2023 recruiting class, highlighted by four-star Rodney Gallagher.

First Look at Rodney Gallagher

Keeping Brown meant keeping the commitment of Rodney Gallagher. Say what you want about Brown, and he’s under tons of pressure, and deservingly so, but securing Gallagher was a big deal. Gallagher could have flipped to Penn State, or really any other school, but stayed loyal to WVU after all. He’s a super athlete who can be a dynamic force for any offense. But how much can truly be expected from him in his true freshman season? Will his game translate from high school to major college football? These are the questions no one can answer until we actually get to see him out on the field.

Who Will Lead Defense?

With Dante Stills impressing NFL scouts and Charles Woods at SMU after a bizarre exit of the West Virginia program, who can Brown and defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley rely on as the new leader of the defense? Or can they even rely on anyone to fill that role? While the defense didn’t lose any other big time starters to the portal besides Woods, they did lose a lot of depth, most notably on the defensive line.

New Kicker Alert

West Virginia has a new kicker. Casey Legg’s decision to forgo his remaining season of eligibility and hang up his kicking foot all together left a void at a position the Mountaineers expected to not have to worry about for another year. Enter a transfer addition. WVU will now turn to Georgia State kicker Michael Hayes, a kicker with a strong leg who also has experience punting.

These are just some of the storylines that surround the West Virginia Mountaineers at the start of spring ball. It will be interesting to see how these play out and which other ones pop up as plot twists in the trek towards a new season.

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