West Virginia Football: Five New Faces Looking to Make an Impact in 2013
With 15 graduating seniors and others leaving the WVU football team, the program is in need of some new faces to take over the squad.
It wasn't just Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, and Stedman Bailey who moved on. The offense has all of two returning starters, and they're a couple of offensive tackles (one of whom has been trying out center in the offseason).
The entirety of the offensive play makers has disappeared. The defense lost key players in the front seven, not to mention that unit ranked 117th out of 124 FBS schools in 2012. There's no reason why some new talent shouldn't be able to show up on day one.
So that brings us here, at the start of July with the first game coming against William and Mary coming on August 31. The same old numbers will be out on the Milan Puskar Stadium turf (in new uniforms, of course), but the athletes wearing them will be entirely different, looking to make a name for themselves as those who preceded them did.
Honorable Mention: Dreamius Smith, Stone Underwood, Wendell Smallwood
Wendell Smallwood eludes tacklers during the 2013 WVU Spring Game in April. Courtesy of WVUSports.com
Two running backs have taken over this category as they just missed the top five. Dreamius Smith, a JUCO freshman transfer, is filling the role that Shawne Alston left. He's a back with a big build and a head for making contact. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry at the WVU Blue-Gold game simply by taking the handoff and running straight.
The other back is a much smaller Wendell Smallwood. The 5'11" freshman enrolled in the spring and has made a different with his straight-line speed and lateral agility. He could struggle to enter the competition with such a loaded backfield, but if Coach Holgorsen uses his personnel correctly, keep an eye out for Smallwood.
The other player receiving an honorable mention is Stone Underwood, a 6'4", 285 lb offensive lineman transfer from Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi. His size alone is a big plus, but with such an absence of experienced lineman on the team, he may be forced to step in immediately.
Sure, having offensive linemen as impact players is rare, but Underwood has the chance to mold with the players already on the roster and can start from day one.
No. 5: Kevin White, Wide Receiver
Kevin White looks on during spring practice. Courtesy of WVmetronews.com
What does every quarterback look for in a receiver? A big target. Towering at 6'4", 210 pounds, Kevin White is a quarterback's dream.
Coming from Lackawanna College, where he spent two years after high school, White enrolled at WVU in the spring of 2013 in order to immediately fill the void of four wideouts who left the program.
Last year he caught 36 passes for 535 yards: not exactly stellar numbers for an athlete transferring to a Division I school. However, Lackawanna ran the rock nearly twice as many times as the team threw it in 2012.
White could potentially be listed as a starter for the first game of the year. He'll be a big presence on the outside while smaller guys like Jordan Thompson work the slot. He'll be a straight-line guy who will go up and bring the ball down better than anyone else on the team (his vertical jump is slightly ridiculous).
One thing is for sure: Wide receiver is the position that needs to step up in 2013. Two players who broke school records in nearly all receiving statistical categories are gone, and they need to be replaced sooner rather than later if the Mountaineers want to succeed in the Big 12.
No. 4: Dontrill Hyman, Defensive Lineman
Photo Credit: 247sports.com
Once again, another transfer makes his way onto this list. According to 247sports.com, Dontrill Hyman is the top-ranked strong-side defensive end in the country for junior college players.
Hyman originally committed to East Carolina out of high school, but due to poor grades he was forced away and played two seasons at Hinds Community College.
During this time he stayed in contact with the man who recruited him at ECU, Brian Mitchell. It just so happens that Mitchell became a part of the WVU coaching staff this year, so Hyman reconsidered his loyalty to the Pirates.
Will Clarke heads the athletes on the defensive line for the second year in a row. The others up front will see Kyle Rose and Shaq Rowell as the most likely opening day starters. According to cfbstats.com, Rose didn't manage a single sack last season, while Clarke had all of one-and-a-half in 12 games played.
What Hyman has that seems to be his money-maker is his high motor. His high school coach compared him to Michael Myers, an 11-year NFL veteran, based simply on his urge to tackle the ball carrier. Someone with such an outstanding motor would almost seem like enough to break the mold and garner more sacks from the outside this coming season.
No. 3: Clint Trickett, Quarterback
Trickett transferred to WVU in the spring
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Six months ago, Geno Smith was leaving the program, and the Mountaineers looked doomed for what could come next for the most important position on a roster.
Paul Millard and Ford Childress were the men behind the scenes who followed and learned from Smith for some time. Both were unproven, inexperienced and filled with question marks.
Then in April, a young man from Florida State University decided to transfer and play ball where he grew up. Clint Trickett, a redshirt junior who has only started two games in his career, will be in Morgantown for up to two years of college football.
Trickett has ties to Morgantown as his father began his coaching career at WVU in the early 1970s. He lived in the state until the 2007 college football season when the family moved to Florida.
What matters most is if Trickett can play. He's made an appearance in 16 career games despite being being two first-round draft choices in Christian Ponder and E.J. Manuel.
In one of his starts, he piled up 336 yards and three touchdowns on 24-of-38 passing. At the end of the day, it resulted in a loss to No. 21 Clemson at the time, but it was one of the best quarterback performances for FSU at the time.
His stats far outweigh those who are already on the Mountaineers roster. In seven games last season, he had a 131.91 QB rating. His competition? Well, Millard had slightly above a 110 rating, but completed less than 50 percent of his passes in 2012. Ford Childress never saw a snap under center.
Trickett enrolled in May and has been learning from the two other quarterbacks. At this point, head coach Dana Holgorsen says the race is too close to call, but as the summer moves on, it's Trickett's job to lose.
No. 2: Shelton Gibson, Wide Receiver
Gibson is the most prized recruit of the 2013 recruiting class for WVU
Four-star recruit, Under Armour All-American, 4.42 second 40-yard dash and West Virginia's next big playmaker.
Shelton Gibson comes into Morgantown with the biggest shoes to fill. Expectations are already soaring for the incoming freshman from Ohio. Just take a look at one his several highlight videos.
We're talking about some explosion that is rare to watch. He's elusive in the open field with the burst to outrun anyone. His route running is iffy, but at the level he played, he didn't need precision routes because of his talent alone.
According to ESPN.com, Gibson is the No. 26 best receiving prospect in the 2013 graduation class. Position wise, that's average. Several other recruits who chose the Mountaineers were ranked higher for their position. But with the role he's playing in this pass-heavy offensive attack, Gibson will be a difference maker.
He turned down offers from Ohio State, Tennessee, Auburn and others. West Virginia poured everything into getting him. Turning the opportunity to play for a team who went undefeated in 2012 under Urban Meyer is no joke.
He's a track star who plays football. He files into a heavy loaded receiving corps and can start from day one with receivers who have been previously mentioned in this article. Keep him on the outside and get him the ball, and the Mountaineers won't hurt nearly as much as they could without Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
No. 1: Charles Sims, Running Back
Charles Sims recently transfered from Houston to become a Mountaineer
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Surprised? Charles Sims hits this list as the player who will make the biggest impact in 2013.
The transfer from Houston is eligible immediately as a graduate student. He'll have one year to push WVU into contention for a Big 12 Title.
Last season, Sims averaged six yards a carry in nine games played. He finished with 11 rushing touchdowns and added three more through the air. Perhaps the most vital piece of his game is his help in the passing game. He caught 37 balls for 373 yards last year with the Cougars.
West Virginia almost missed out on the running back stud as he was expected to enter into the NFL Supplemental Draft. However, Sims was a part of the offense Holgorsen ran during his freshman season, and he decided he has a chance to add to his résumé.
Sims goes into his final year as the fifth best running back prospect in the 2014 NFL draft, according to NFLDraftScout.com.
He has the ideal size to be a successful running back. West Virginia has added depth this season at running back, but each player possesses a certain skill. Sims puts all of those skills into one body.
Sims will be the every-down back for the Mountaineers. He has a strong lower body with a quick burst and enough strength to get through wimpy tackles. He doesn't have extreme lateral movement, but guys like Andrew Buie, Dustin Garrison and Wendell Smallwood can provide that in a given situation.
West Virginia's biggest task in 2013 was replacing the three offensive stars who carried them in 2012. The defense goes into the second season of their scheme, so experience will benefit them. One thing is for sure: In the Big 12, it's tough to gather a win without putting some massive points on the scoreboard.