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10 for 10: Jake Spavital Has to Learn to Run the Durn Ball

The Smoking Musket’s 10 for 10 series will break down the ten most important players, coaches, ideas, and general areas of concern that must shine for the Mountaineers to get back to the 10 win plateau in 2017. Today, we look at our shiny new/old Jake Spavital.

NCAA Football: California at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Spavital is the new/old hotness in Morgantown. His presence has allowed Contract Extension! Dana Holgorsen to ascend to his final form of CEO Holgo, and my lord have we enjoyed this stress free, fundraising, Pardon My Take-appearing machine that is this new Dana Holgorsen. However, the biggest test that this new Holgo may face in his first season under his new contract is can he rein in Jake Spavital and get West Virginia to play to its strengths?

West Virginia has a true three headed monster at running back going into the 2017 season, with Justin Crawford, Kennedy McKoy, and Martell Pettaway each providing a different set of skills. West Virginia has a truly balanced and devastatingly effective backfield and the potential to spread teams out with Pistol and Shotgun formations but run right down the throats of defenses. It’s what allowed West Virginia to win 10 games despite consistently inconsistent quarterback play from Skyler Howard.

Now, the keys to the offense have been turned over to our shiny new (AND ELIGIBLE!) Will Grier, but the strength of the offense is still very clear, all the hype notwithstanding. The wide receivers—while there’s some experience in the corps--are generally raw and there’s a very clear pattern of Holgorsen’s quarterbacks struggling in their first season running the offense at West Virginia (this is totally not foreshadowing for a future piece in this series). If we’re going to succeed in 2017, we’re going to succeed by #running #the #durn #ball. And that surprisingly simple concept is how we can judge the success of Program CEO Dana Holgorsen.

Jake Spavital loves to pass and his quarterbacks have had the gaudy stats to show for it. Last year at California with Davis Webb, he threw 621 times compared to 356 rushing attempts—a 63/37 split. At Texas A&M, he saw a similar situation in personnel to what he’s inheriting at West Virginia in 2017, and the results were, for lack of a better term, mixed.

At running back, in 2014 the Aggies had three running backs: Tra Carson, Trey Williams, and Brandon Williams. A bruiser, a shifty guy, and a speed guy. All had different skills but none were complete backs. Criticisms of Spav included the fact that he used a running back by committee approach, never letting one guy be "the man," and often times used them in ways that appeared to be counter to their strengths.

That quote in a 2015 piece by our friends over at Good Bull Hunting looms large when you look at our backfield and leads to the biggest question marks in Spav’s return to Morgantown. Has he learned from his mistakes and grown as a coach and playcaller? Will he be able to resist the urge to let Will Grier let it fly and throw 45-50 times each game? And if he can’t, can Dana Holgorsen rein him in like a red bulling chugging Tywin Lannister bringing Joffrey to heel? For West Virginia to get back to 10 wins and challenge for a spot in the Big 12 championship 2.0 in Jerry World, the answer to all three of those questions has to be yes.