One of the most satisfying things of any football season is to witness the leap in performance players make from their previous year, and to see what, if any, freshman and JUCO players can show up and prove their worth in year one. The Mountaineers lost key performers across the board on offense, and so plenty of players will have their opportunity to shine. While the defense returns most of its starters there are still several candidates to make the "jump". Only time will tell if anyone shows the explosive improvement the likes of Kevin White, or comes from nowhere to be a star a la Steve Slaton in his freshman year, but below are some players to keep an eye on.
1. William Crest - Skyler Howard finished last year as the starter, and has carried that momentum into Spring practice, but Crest is the guy to keep an eye on. With Howard's emergence and talented freshman Chris Chugnov and David Sills coming in it's do or die time for Crest to live up to the hype surrounding him the beginning of last year. Howard should have the natural advantage given his experience from last year, but if Crest takes over the starting job it will speak volumes about his ability. Let's hope he can live up to the accolades tossed his way by Rushel Shell and others.
2. Dontae Thomas-Williams - WVU lost Dustin Garrison, Andrew Buie, and Dreamius Smith all of whom played critical roles in various games last year and before. Thomas-Williams has a chance to make a splash despite the presence of Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood sitting atop the depth chart. While Shell and Smallwood will get the most touches there should still be plenty of carries for Thomas-Williams to make a splash. Should Thomas-Williams replace Smith's carries, and have similar production, it would be an impressive freshman season considering the depth in front of him.
3. Dravon Henry - Henry was solid if not spectacular last year, and finished the year with an 8 solo tackle performance against Texas A&M. Dravon managed to start all 13 games last year as a true freshman, but with a year under his belt he should be primed for the type of jump befitting of a guy who was heavily recruited out of high school. Hopefully his 2 interception 1 touchdown performance against Oklahoma State becomes the norm in 2015.
4. Lamar Parker - Parker spurned his home state Florida State Seminoles to attend WVU, and while he is small in stature he earned rave reviews from his teammates last fall (hat tip to Mike Casazza). Parker wouldn't be the first undersized player to make a splash in Morgantown, and with the wide receiving race wide open the opportunity will be his to seize.
5. Rasul Douglas - Douglas is the opposite of Parker when it comes to size. At 6'3 and 200lbs Douglas is big for a defensive back. Douglas, coming from the JUCO ranks, picked the Mountaineers over offers Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Tennessee, and Louisville. The Mountaineers secondary is stacked and if Douglas is good enough to contribute this season, and all indications are he is, then WVU could have a special defense.
Who do you think will break out in 2015?