As fall camp is officially underway, we will take a look at some of the players who aren’t being talked about right now, but could burst onto the scene in 2018. Who will be this years David Sills or Kenny Robinson? Let’s get to it!
8. Safety JoVanni Stewart (Jr.)
Heading into his third year in the program, Stewart hopes to be more than just a body that adds depth to the secondary. He is listed as the backup bandit safety to Toyous Avery heading into camp. Stewart was mainly used on special teams during his freshman season, and started gaining time on defense last season. Look for Stewart to make some leaps in year three on campus.
7. Tight End Trevon Wesco (r-Sr.)
There is a tight end on the list as a potential breakout player? Well, yes. If you have been following closely this offseason I am sure you have heard about the offense utilizing the tight end more often in the passing game. He is only registered two catches for seven yards and a touchdown in his two seasons for West Virginia, but that could very well double in week one vs Tennessee. Wesco is a terrific blocker that has really good hands most have yet to see. David Sills will still be the primary red zone target, but Wesco may become the 2nd option at some point during the season.
6. Running back Alec Sinkfield (r-Fr.)
A lot of attention has been turned to young running back Alec Sinkfield rightfully so. He has the home run threat ability that the Mountaineers severely lacked for a couple seasons now. He certainly won’t be the premier back as he will be splitting duties with Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway, but watch out for him to make his name known and cement his place in the backfield.
5. Linebacker Dylan Tonkery (r-So.)
After an up and down 2017 season, Tonkery will be moving to the MIKE linebacker spot (inside). He is undersized for the position, but it may be a good fit for him. Tony Gibson knows his guys best and he is not concerned with moving Tonkery inside, “I just think he’s a big, physical, strong kid that understands the defense now.” Tonkery should make strides this season once he gets comfortable with his new role.
4. Safety Toyous Avery (r-Sr.)
Avery is entering his third and final season at West Virginia and this is a guy I’ve been waiting for to breakout. He has shown flashes at times, but the last two years he shadowed starter Kyzir White. Now, the torch is being passed on to him. Not sure if he will have star potential such as Kyzir did, but the drop off should not be that noticeable. Typically guys who have been hanging in the balance for a couple years and finally get their chance do well. Just think of former corner Terrell Chestnut for example.
3. Cornerback Derrek Pitts Jr. (So.)
Another Mountaineer defender who will be switching positions in 2018 is Derrek Pitts. Pitts will move from safety to corner in what should be a rather smooth transition. “It’s been hard for him to put weight on. He’s 185 lbs, runs well, give him a shot and see what happens in fall camp, but I really like the way he’s progressing,” states defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. Pitts has all the makings of a lock down corner and the potential to become a ball hawk by the time his days are finished at West Virginia.
2. Center Jacob Buccigrossi (r-So.)
Following back to back seasons in which he was injured; Buccigrossi looks forward to 2018 in hopes of this being his breakthrough. Junior Matt Jones started at center a year ago, but it seems as if the healthy Buccigrossi has surpassed him as he is currently listed as the starter heading into camp. That can all change between now and kickoff vs Tennessee, but Buccigrossi could be the best interior lineman the Mountaineers have in their arsenal.
1. Wide Receiver Marcus Simms (r-Jr.)
Simms is potentially the most electrifying player the Mountaineers have this year. He is the hidden gem that the rest of the Big 12 Conference is not all that familiar with…yet. Two of the top three wide receivers last year, Gary Jennings and Ka’Raun White, for West Virginia had over 1,000 receiving yards. Simms will slide into White’s spot as the 3rd best receiver (in terms of returning numbers), so this could mean that Simms could match what White did a year ago. He is by far the fastest weapon quarterback Will Grier has and could develop very similar to Shelton Gibson. He is a great deep ball threat who can work magic in space. Simms will be a headache for Big 12 defenses to defend.