We're back with our latest installment of West Virginia football depth-chart predictions. Now that spring practice is all said and done, we're going to take another stab at what the Mountaineers depth chart may look like this fall.
Keep in mind that this isn't the official depth chart—it's simply a prediction.
You'll notice that some similarities and differences between the first tentative spring depth chart which was released by the WVU football program in April. That official depth chart, as well as my analysis of it can be seen here.
The biggest difference between that official depth chart and this one will be the newcomers that are set to join the Mountaineers this summer.
Now that the formalities are out of the way, let's take a look at some two-deep projections.
1. Paul Millard
2. Ford Childress
The spring game didn't provide a whole lot of insight as to who will replace Geno Smith under center for West Virginia this fall.
Both junior Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress looked pretty good but by no means great while splitting snaps at the Gold-Blue game.
After the performance, the WVU coaching staff has to be relatively happy with where these two are, considering how little experience they each have.
There's plenty of room for improvement, but there is also a lot of time left for them to make that improvement.
To me, Millard looked just a little bit better than Childress in the game, though both had their ups and downs. Additionally, most of the reports from spring practice came out slightly in favor of Millard—even though, again, they both had good and bad days.
There's still a chance that Florida State transfer Clint Trickett could come in and change the complexion of this race. As reported by Mitch Vingle of The Charleston Gazette and others, WVU is among the schools Trickett is considering in his transfer process.
No announcement has been made one way or the other of his final decision, but if he does decide to transfer to WVU, he'll start at square one with a new playbook, making it an uphill climb to surpass Childress and Millard by the fall.
Having said all of that, Millard is most likely to take the first snap for West Virginia against William & Mary on August 31.
1a. Dreamius Smith
1b. Andrew Buie
1c. Dustin Garrison
2. Wendell Smallwood
HB 1. Cody Clay
This may look like a bit of a cop out as far as depth charts go, but this is really the most accurate way to describe what West Virginia's running game will likely look like in 2013. All three possible starters bring something to the offense and all will have their opportunities.
Dreamius Smith, with his incredible blend of size and speed, should be the feature back. He looked every bit as good as expected during the Gold-Blue game and will only improve as he becomes more familiar with the system.
Andrew Buie didn't play in the spring game, but he had a breakout season last year and is poised to be even better in 2013.
Finally, Dustin Garrison looked as fast and as strong as he ever has at the Gold-Blue game. He was injured before the Orange Bowl back at the end of the 2011 season but looks like he has made a full recovery and then some.
All three of these backs have the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield as well, which will be really beneficial to this offense.
Additionally, true freshman Wendell Smallwood looked solid as the fourth option during the spring game. He is still young and has a few areas for improvement, but he showed a lot of potential. This could work out well because if one of the three starters ends up injured late in the season, Smallwood should be able to provide some depth by then without worry.
Finally, Cody Clay looked great at the fullback (HB) position for WVU. He's just enormous but still moves very well, and he'll make for some serious matchup issues for opposing defenses working out of the backfield this season.
Though their roles are completely different, Clay is undoubtedly West Virginia's best fullback since Owen Schmitt.
If there's anything to be excited for about this 2013 WVU squad, it's the running game.
X: Shelton Gibson
Y: Mario Alford
Z: Kevin White
Out of everyone on the field at the Gold-Blue game, JUCO transfer Kevin White at receiver was most impressive.
At 6'3", 211 pounds, he is the most physically imposing receiver WVU has had in a while, and he has the talent to go along with the size. From what he has shown this spring, it looks like he could be the go-to guy in this offense this season.
The other two starters, Shelton Gibson and Mario Alford, aren't even on campus yet. However, if they each pan out as expected, they'll be starters by the end of the summer.
No matter who ends up as the starters, there will as many as seven or eight receivers who contribute this season, including the always reliable Connor Arlia and tall and talented sophomores Dante Campbell and K.J. Myers.
Finally, there's the enigmatic Jordan Thompson. The undersized sophomore had another huge spring game—this time hauling in three touchdown passes. However, it didn't translate to the regular season last year, so before he earns a starting position, he'll have to show that he can have the same impact against Big 12 Conference competition in 2013.
Regardless, the West Virginia receiving corps looks to be in great shape—especially considering the massive losses it incurred from the 2012 season.
LT: Quinton Spain
LG: Marquis Lucas
C: Pat Eger
RG: Mark Glowinski
RT: Curtis Feigt
The offensive line unit didn't look great at the Gold-Blue game. Just as with pretty much every other unit, though, it had its ups to go along with the downs.
Pat Eger, the presumed center, was out for the game, so his return should bring some stability to the group.
Additionally, this unit will benefit the most from additional time under the guidance of new offensive line coach Ron Crook. He was arguably the most important new positional coach addition and with some time, his presence should improve this group.
The five starters listed in the tentative spring depth chart by WVU look to be the five best linemen on the team, and they're all listed as starters here as well.
Additionally, there are a few capable backups that will provide some solid depth for this group as well.
DE: Will Clarke
NT: Shaq Rowell
DE: Kyle Rose
Defensive line may prove to be one of West Virginia's best individual units in 2013.
Will Clarke and Shaq Rowell will be two of the veteran leaders of this defense and joined by Kyle Rose should form quite a formidable defensive front.
This group will also carry quite a responsibility, however, as the Mountaineers struggled in their pass rush in 2012. Between Clarke and Rose and lesser-known names like Noble Nwachukwu and JUCO transfer Dontrill Hyman, the QB pressure must improve this season.
A major battle could end up playing out for the third starting slot currently held by Rose. Depending on how well Hyman lives up to expectations, the newcomer could challenge for the starting position.
For names off this list, keep an eye on incoming freshman Darrien Howard. Initially thought of as an inside linebacker, Howard could end up adding weight and moving down to the defensive line, where his athletic presence would bring a lot to the group.
Sam: Isaiah Bruce
Will: Al-Rasheed Benton
Buck: Brandon Golson
Spur: d'Vante Henry
The linebacking corps is the toughest unit to sift through at this point, as there is still so much uncertainty.
There is really only one position that is locked down, which is Isaiah Bruce and Doug Rigg at the "Sam" slot.
Outside of that, there are a number of experienced returners, including Nick Kwiatkoski, Jared Barber, Shaq Petteway, Dozie Ezemma, Wes Tonkery, Garrett Hope, and Sean Walters, who will figure into the mix.
Additionally, there will be a host of very talented newcomers joining the ranks this summer, including Al-Rasheed Benton, Brandon Golson and d'Vante Henry. All three of them could challenge for and win a starting position.
As a note, it does look like Golson will be joining the team, even despite his legal troubles earlier this winter. Bob Hertzel in the Exponent-Telegram quoted defensive coordinator Keith Patterson commenting specifically on both Golson and Henry:
Hopefully we’re not relying on too many freshmen, but the junior college players we are bringing in have a chance to come in and make a tremendous impact. D’Vante Henry and Brandon Golson, those are the guys right there. They have the size and length and the positions we positions need them, right at the edge of the defense.
With four starting positions and plenty of rotation time up for grabs, there will be a few names not listed here that will have an impact as well, particularly Barber and Petteway, as previously mentioned.
With some experienced returners and extremely athletic additions to this unit, this may be WVU's most exciting position battle this summer and fall.
FS: Karl Joseph
SS: Darwin Cook
FC: Travis Bell
BC: Brodrick Jenkins
It looks like Karl Joseph and Darwin Cook have the two starting safety slots locked up at this point. However, Cook must avoid an in-season collapse this season, or he'll see that playing time swiped up by K.J. Dillon in a heartbeat.
Dillon had a great spring game and showed why he's regarded as one of the most dynamic athletes on this defense. Regardless of whether he starts or not, expect to see him on the field in 2013.
Out at corner, another guy who had a great spring game—Travis Bell—should be able to take a starting corner position if he continues that kind of play through the summer and fall.
Finally, senior Brodrick Jenkins, like Cook, has room for improvement in his final season in Morgantown, and if he can't make that jump, there will be a number of youngsters, including Nana Kyeremeh, Rick Rumph and Brandon Napoleon, who are lined up to take his playing time.
Jenkins has the tools to be a solid corner and has shown that he can be a serious playmaker on the outside, but he must find more consistency in 2013.
K: Josh Lambert
P: Nick O'Toole
PR/KR: Mario Alford
Freshman Josh Lambert had a rough start to the spring game, missing his first two field-goal attempts. After that, however, he seemed to shake off the nerves of his first appearance at Milan Puskar Stadium, as he turned around and booted two impressive kicks.
As he continues to improve and become more comfortable on the field, the WVU field-goal game should be well set.
At punter, Michael Molinari stands as the starter right now. However, the coaches were impressed enough with JUCO transfer Nick O'Toole to award him a scholarship, so he could very well come in and take the full-time job.
Similar to last year, Molinari will be available if either of the others falter.
Vernon Davis looked like a capable returner during the spring game. He hasn't had a lot of experience returning for WVU, so he could be even better with time.
This summer, JUCO transfer Mario Alford will join him in the return game, where they could act as a tandem similar to how Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey were used last season.
Though it would be crazy to expect similar results to the ones that were brought by Austin and Bailey, the return game should be relatively productive with Alford and Davis.