[Writer's Note: This article is based upon the best available depth chart and may not feature players who have shifted during camp.]
The West Virginia Mountaineers boasted a host of returning talent in 2016. A senior quarterback, junior receivers, a senior offensive line, senior defensive linemen. That amount of returning talent helped pave the way to the Mountaineers second 10-win season of the Dana Holgorsen era.
As often happens with teams that returned a host of talent, the 2017 Mountaineers are one of the teams in Power 5 conferences that do not return a lot of production. Losing Skyler Howard, Shelton Gibson, Daikeil Shorts, Tyler Orlosky, Adam Pankey, Noble Nwachukwu, Darrien Howard, and Rasul Douglas, among others, has Big 12 media writers predicting the team to finish middle of the pack in the conference.
2017 WVU Depth Chart
|Running Back||Justin Crawford||Senior|
|Tight End||Trevon Wesco||R-Junior|
|Wide Receiver (X)||David Sills||Junior|
|Wide Receive (Z)||Ka'Raun White||R-Senior|
|Inside Receiver (Y)||Gary Jennings||Junior|
|Left Tackle||Yodny Cajuste||R-Junior|
|Left Guard||Kyle Bosch||R-Senior|
|Right Guard||Grant Lingafelter||R-Senior|
|Right Tackle||Colton McKivitz||R-Sophomore|
|Defensive End||Adam Shuler||R-Sophomore|
|Nose Tackle||Xavier Pegues||R-Senior|
|Defensive End||Reese Donahue||Sophomore|
|SAM Linebacker||Xavier Preston||Senior|
|MIKE Linebacker||Al-Rasheed Benton||R-Senior|
|WILL Linebacker||David Long||R-Sophomore|
|Left Cornerback||Hakeem Bailey||R-Sophomore|
|Right Cornerback||Elijah Battle||Senior|
|SPUR Safety||Kyzir White||Senior|
|Free Safety||Dravon Askew-Henry||R-Junior|
|BANDIT Safety||Toyous Avery||R-Junior|
Looking at the current depth chart, there are familiar names, but names that haven’t seen a lot of playing time. Will Grier is a former Parade All-American but hasn’t thrown a football in a live game since October 10, 2015. The leading returning receiver had 48 catches for 583 yards. The starting defensive line is two sophomores and a senior, and 4 of 6 defensive backs weren’t starters in 2016, while Dravon Askew-Henry is returning from an ACL tear.
It makes sense why the Mountaineers wouldn’t be picked high. There is talent there but it is unknown how the talent will mesh right now.
But what about 2018? Do you see what I see in the 2017 depth chart? There are only 10 seniors. 12 players are slated to return in 2018, including quarterback Will Grier. No single position has to be overhauled, as it has in 2016 and 2017.
2018 West Virginia Depth Chart
|Running Back||Kennedy McCoy||Junior|
|Tight End||Trevon Wesco||R-Senior|
|Wide Receiver (X)||David Sills||Senior|
|Wide Receive (Z)||Ricky Rogers||R-Senior|
|Inside Receiver (Y)||Gary Jennings||Senior|
|Left Tackle||Yodny Cajuste||R-Senior|
|Left Guard||Chase Behrndt||R-Sophomore|
|Right Guard||Josh Sills||R-Sophomore|
|Right Tackle||Colton McKivitz||R-Junior|
|Defensive End||Adam Shuler||R-Junior|
|Nose Tackle||Jaleel Fields||R-Senior|
|Defensive End||Reese Donahue||Junior|
|SAM Linebacker||Zach Sandwisch||R-Sophomore|
|MIKE Linebacker||Adam Hensley||Junior|
|WILL Linebacker||David Long||R-Junior|
|Left Cornerback||Hakeem Bailey||R-Junior|
|Right Cornerback||Jordan Adams||R-Junior|
|SPUR Safety||Derrick Pitts||Sophomore|
|Free Safety||Dravon Askew-Henry||R-Senior|
|BANDIT Safety||Toyous Avery||R-Senior|
Only four members of the offense will be “new”, two of which will be on the offensive line. The only skill players on offense to replace is fullback Elijah Wellman and X receiver Ka’Raun White.
On defense, both Reese Donahue and Adam Shuler are slated to return at defensive end. Linebacker will lose Al-Rasheed Benton and Xavier Preston but will return David Long, along with talented players like Brendan Ferns, Logan Thimons and Adam Hensley.
Hakeem Bailey will return at cornerback while Dravon Askew-Henry and Toyous Avery will be back at safety.
Overall, the 2017 team will gain a lot of valuable experience and will surprise many in the national media. It will then set up the team to have a very special 2018 season with a senior experienced quarterback and experienced senior skill players on both offense and defense.