Thanks in part to the timing of the Gold-Blue game and the NFL Draft, which saw 5 WVU players in the first five rounds, I never got the chance to review the questions we were looking for at the spring game. With a lull in the schedule until fall practice starts, now is a great time to do some review.
WVU Spring Football Previews
2016 Offense Preview
What all can we expect from the 2016 version of the Mountaineers on offense? Will Howard be better than his 2015 self? What about the wide receivers?
WVU Spring Football Previews
Has Skyler Howard Improved?
In 2015, with Howard entering his first full season as a starter, Howard completed an awful 9-22 for 121 yards. That type of repeat performance was not going to sit well with neither Head Coach Dana Holgorsen nor the WVU fans. Howard, however, took the bull by the horns, so to speak, and delivered a much more palatable performance with 18 completions in 26 attempts (69%) with three touchdowns and one interception. Geno Smith and Clint Trickett were above 65 percent completions in their years under Dana. Skyler met that mark in the Spring Game.
Can the receivers catch the ball?
Last year, drops by the young receivers were a critical problem for the offense. Catches that could have resulted in points or extended drives were dropped. That is to be expected by young men playing college ball for the first time in their lives. The spring game showed a different tune. Shelton Gibson made a great over the shoulder catch very similar to one he made against Arizona State in the Cactus Bowl. Shelton was forced out at the two but showed concentration and field awareness to catch the ball and get a foot down in bounds.
Gary Jennings caught a quick slant and raced to the end zone. Freshman Marcus Simms caught 5 passes. It was only one game but the receivers showed better hands than they did during the 2015 season.
Who replaces Wendell Smallwood and what does the offense look like?
Rushel Shell had a nice run in the highlight package and Kennedy McCoy had a few nice bursts but overall no one appeared to entrench themselves as the number go-to guy. Shell looks to be the bellcow for the offense but he is still more of a plodding runner who doesn't offer much explosiveness.
The offense was very balanced during the Gold-Blue game. The quarterbacks combined to throw 49 attempts while the team attempted 50 rushes. That type of balance wasn't seen in the first couple of years in the Air Raid but Dana has proven to be more willing to run the ball than other Hal Mumme inspired coaches.
The defense gave up 49 points despite leading at one point 40-21. The secondary picked off four passes, returning at least two for touchdowns. The increase in interception yardage has been a critical point for Tony Gibson and the defensive staff this offseason after WVU was near the top nationally in turnovers but generated less than 5 yards per turnover last season. Its not a surprise to see the defense struggle after losing 4 players to the NFL draft and losing 9 starters from last years team. Dravon Askew-Henry looks improved in coverage and will help bridge the gap between last years experienced squad to this years defense.