Last year’s Spring Game was built on the hype supplied by the debut of Will Grier. Naturally, he was as good as advertised, completing 12 of his 18 pass attempts for 202 yards. His favorite target in 2017, David Sills, finished with 8 receptions for 98 yards.
And now that this season’s Spring Game is just around the corner (April 7), it’s time to get ourselves ready for another season of West Virginia football by first taking a look into what to watch for in the 2018 Spring Game.
Will Grier’s hand…well, finger.
Once again, Grier will be the main attraction, but for a completely different reason than last year. Last year, we had no idea what we were getting in the Florida transfer. We knew he’d be good, but not as good as he’s proven to be. This year, all eyes will be on his hand. More specifically, his throwing hand. After breaking his middle finger in the loss to Texas, the Mountaineers were forced to rely on backup Chris Chugunov in its final three contests. Chugunov is no Will Grier. If West Virginia intends to break from the chains of mediocrity in 2018, Grier will need to remain healthy. More so, the senior signal caller needs to come out and show that his surgically-repaired finger will not hinder his ability to sling the football.
The Spring Game typically provides little value in the eyes of some college coaches, but for players fighting for future playing time, it serves as an additional opportunity to plead their case to the coaching staff, especially freshman. My attention will be glued to Dante Stills and Kwantel Raines. Stills and Raines are expected to provide immediate depth for Tony Gibson’s defense. Raines was recruited and committed to West Virginia to fill the SPUR position left by Kyzir White and Stills has all the tools to be a day-one starter on the defensive line. It would be nice to see them have good showings the first time they put on a West Virginia uniform.
Defense, defense, and more defense
Apart from Grier’s return from injury, we’ve got a pretty good idea what the Mountaineers will have on offense. Defensively, Gibson is tasked with replacing Kyzir White and developing viable depth on the defensive line. Obviously, the previous paragraph provides some explanation, but how will it all gel together? Will Dravon Askew-Henry return to form? Will Lamont McDougle continue his success from his freshman campaign? What about the cornerbacks? Per usual, there are a lot of questions on defense but not like there have been in recent years. The Mountaineers need to find out who needs to be on the field when the games start to count and that trial by fire will start during the Spring Game.
The running back position is not necessarily concerning but anytime you have to replace your leading rusher from a year ago, it needs to be addressed. Justin Crawford is gone and with him his 1,061 yards and 7 touchdowns. Luckily, we’ve already gotten a glimpse of life after Crawford when he decided to forgo the bowl game and prepare for his NFL future. Against Utah in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, West Virginia turned to Kennedy McKoy. Mckoy has proven he can take a full load of carriers, but it’s more likely the Mountaineers use a running back by committee in the run game. This includes Martell Petteway and incoming freshman Leddie Brown. Petteway is your typical power back while Brown and McKoy can excel as runners and pass catchers. Look for offensive coordinator Jake Spavital to split the carries between McKoy and Petteway but also finding a way to get Brown on the field during the Spring Game.