West Virginia will be without stars Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey in 2013, but a new collection of players is ready to make its mark in Morgantown.
While the offense moves on without its prolific trio, the defense will be out to show improvement from an embarrassing 2012 season.
Together, these two units will go forward against a Big 12 Conference that is expected to be as deep and competitive as ever.
Can the Mountaineers assert their will in their second year in the Big 12, or will the competition be too stiff yet again?
Before moving on to 2013, each member of Mountaineer Nation is allowed one final disappointed groan over the 2012 season.
WVU had high hopes for 2012 with three of the best offensive players in the nation. The Mountaineers looked strong early, making their way into the Top Five.
Then they fell off a cliff, losing their next five games.
A brief rebound came with two wins at the end of the regular season, but the underachieving 2012 squad met a fitting end with an embarrassing showing in a Pinstripe Bowl loss to Syracuse.
This 2013 squad will look much different than the cast that took the field last season. Will the results be different as well?
Note: This depth chart projection may change as more information becomes available.
1. Clint Trickett 6'2", 180
2. Paul Millard 6'2", 219
3. Ford Childress 6'5", 234
1. Charles Sims 6'0", 213
2. Dreamius Smith 5'11", 217
3. Wendell Smallwood 5'11", 196
4. Dustin Garrison 5'8", 182
1. Cody Clay 6'3", 252
2. Garrett Hope 6'3", 245
1. Kevin White 6'3", 211
2. Ivan McCartney 6'2", 182
1. Mario Alford 5'9", 175
2. Jordan Thompson 5'7", 168
1. Daikiel Shorts 6'0", 201
2. Devonte Mathis 6'1", 210
1. KJ Myers 6'2", 197
2. Ronald Carswell 6'0", 180
1. Curtis Feigt 6'7", 314
2. Pat Eger 6'6", 302
1. Marquis Lucas 6'4", 312
2. Stone Underwood 6'4", 285
1. Tyler Orlosky 6'4", 296
2. Tony Matteo 6'4", 296
1. Mark Glowinski 6'5", 305
2. Russell Haughton-James 6'5", 312
1. Quinton Spain 6'5", 335
2. Nick Kindler 6'6", 298
Note: This depth chart projection may change as more information becomes available.
1. Will Clarke 6'7", 273
2. Noble Nwachukwu 6'2", 271
1. Shaq Rowell 6'4", 305
2. Christian Brown 6'3", 308
1. Eric Kinsey 6'2", 265
2. Dontrill Hyman 6'4", 265
1. Isaiah Bruce 6'1", 231
2. Wes Tonkery 6'2", 222
1. Doug Rigg 6'1", 237
2. Jared Barber 6'0", 233
1. Nick Kwiatkoski 6'2", 232
2. Tyler Anderson 6'2", 244
1. Brandon Golson 6'2", 220
2. Dozie Ezemma 6'2", 235
1. Ishmael Banks 6'0", 182
2. Brodrick Jenkins 5'10", 183
1. Travis Bell 6'1", 188
2. Avery Williams 5'11", 183
1. Karl Joseph 5'10", 200
2. K.J. Dillon 6'1", 200
1. Darwin Cook 5'11", 203
2. Ricky Rumph 5'11", 182
Head coach Dana Holgorsen provided an injury update on Aug. 15:
CB Nana Kyeremeh: Shoulder surgery, out for season
OL Adam Pankey: Knee surgery, expected to return October
LB Jewone Snow: Injured, out indefinitely
LB d'Vante Henry: Personal issues, out indefinitely
LB Darrien Howard: NCAA clearinghouse issues, not with team
Of Note: Dave Boucher and Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail reported Thursday that WVU has hired a private law firm to assist with unspecified eligibility issues.
Offense: Mario Alford, IR
Mario Alford isn't Tavon Austin, but he'll do his best to fill the void left by No. 1 in the slot for West Virginia.
The junior college transfer doesn't have the same running style as Austin, but has more than enough speed to burn.
Look for Alford to take short passes upfield and, of course, gain plenty of yards on the receiving end of WVU's touch-pass jet sweep, while also having a role in the return game.
WVU will undoubtedly miss Austin, but if Alford is as good as advertised, he will be able to assuage those empty feelings.
Defense: Brandon Golson, LB
West Virginia fans are familiar with Karl Joseph and Isaiah Bruce, who will again lead the defense on the field. However, this season newcomer Brandon Golson may join Joseph and Bruce as the team's biggest impact defenders.
Golson, who along with Alford was a signing-day flip from Arizona, will take on the "buck" outside linebacker role left open by Josh Francis, who had a solid senior season. But Golson should prove to be an even better pass-rusher and overall defender.
WVU needed to upgrade its pass rush, and Golson will be that upgrade.
Freshman: Al-Rasheed Benton, LB
WVU should see contributions from a number of freshmen in 2013, including Al-Rasheed Benton, receivers Daikiel Shorts and Shelton Gibson and running back Wendell Smallwood.
Benton at linebacker may have the biggest impact. West Virginia already has plenty of talent and solid depth at the position, but with as many as four linebackers on the field at a time, Benton will have opportunities to shine.
Just a true freshman, he already has the physical presence of an upperclassman. Last year Joseph and Bruce laid out the blueprint for how a freshman can succeed in this defense.
Now Benton just has to take his imposing skill set and apply it to that blueprint.
Dana Holgorsen: Third year, 17-9
Special Teams Coordinator
New: Joe DeForest
Previous: Steve Dunlap
Joe DeForest moved from his post heading up the WVU defense to take over special teams. After coaching special teams at Duke and Oklahoma State, he earned an excellent reputation as a special teams coordinator.
New: Keith Patterson
Previous: Joe DeForest
Keith Patterson lost his "co-defensive coordinator" title to become the full-time defensive boss. On paper, this looks to be an upgrade for WVU. Patterson has experience defending spread offenses dating back to his tenure at Tulsa from 2003-2010.
New: Shannon Dawson
Previous: Jake Spavital
Jake Spavital left WVU to coach Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M quarterbacks. Rather than hiring a new quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson took the job.
New: Lonnie Galloway
Previous: Shannon Dawson
As Dawson moved from coaching receivers to quarterbacks, West Virginia made a great hire and picked up former WVU coach Lonnie Galloway. A proven recruiter, Galloway also coached receivers for the Mountaineers during the Bill Stewart era before leaving for Wake Forest.
New: Ron Crook
Previous: Bill Bedenbaugh
Bill Bedenbaugh jumped across the Big 12 to head up the offensive line at Oklahoma. West Virginia made another impressive hire with Crook. Most recently, the West Virginia native coached offensive tackles and tight ends in Stanford's power offense.
New: JaJuan Seider
Previous: Robert Gillespie
After Robert Gillespie left for Tennessee, WVU added more West Virginia flavor, hiring Mountaineer graduate JaJuan Seider. Another excellent recruiter, Seider previously coached at Marshall, helping the Thundering Herd to finish as the No. 6 offense in the nation.
New: Tony Gibson
Previous: Joe DeForest
As Joe DeForest left the defensive staff, Tony Gibson was added to coach the Mountaineer safeties. Another former WVU coach, Gibson is also regarded as an outstanding recruiter. The Van, W.Va., native followed Rich Rodriguez to Michigan, then later to Arizona before returning to the Mountaineers.
New: Brian Mitchell
Previous: Daron Roberts
After a rough 2012 season for the WVU corners, the Mountaineers added Brian Mitchell from East Carolina to help shore up the secondary. Mitchell's impressive resume includes NFL playing experience. The former pro has also groomed nine defensive backs who went on to play in the NFL.
H/t to Jeff Woolard for pointing out a mistake on the Lonnie Galloway section of this slide.
West Virginia will be tested early and often in 2012. The first test on the road against Oklahoma in Week 2 will show how the Mountaineers will be able to measure up against one of the Big 12's best teams.
Nearly every game from Sept. 28 on will be a test for WVU, as the Big 12 is expected to be competitive and deep yet again.
Projected conference front-runners are Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas. However, there are numerous Big 12 teams that can't be counted out in the preseason, particularly Baylor and TCU.
|Aug. 31||William & Mary||12 p.m. ET||Morgantown, W.Va.|
|Sept. 7||Oklahoma||7 p.m. ET||Norman, Okla.|
|Sept. 14||Georgia State||12 p.m. ET||Morgantown, W.Va.|
|Sept. 21||Maryland||TBD||Baltimore, Md.*|
|Sept. 28||Oklahoma State||TBD||Morgantown, W.Va.|
|Oct. 5||Baylor||TBD||Waco, Texas|
|Oct. 19||Texas Tech||TBD||Morgantown, W.Va.|
|Oct. 26||Kansas State||TBD||Manhattan, Kan.|
|Nov. 2||TCU||TBD||Fort Worth, Texas|
|Nov. 9||Texas||TBD||Morgantown, W.Va.|
|Nov. 16||Kansas||TBD||Lawrence, Kan.|
|Nov. 30||Iowa State||TBD||Morgantown, W.Va.|
* = At neutral site: M&T Bank Stadium
Italics = Key games
West Virginia will be loaded at running back, as much as any team in the Big 12 in 2013.
However, that doesn't mean Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson are going to abandon the pass in their Air Raid offense.
Each Mountaineer back is capable of catching passes out of the backfield and, even without Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, WVU will have talent at receiver.
This offense has an abundance of ability at the skill positions, and it has three quarterbacks capable of effectively distributing the ball to those athletes.
The sky is the limit for this group, but its production will depend on how quickly the newcomers develop and become comfortable on the field.
Depending on the severity of the learning curve, this could be a group that blossoms late in the season.
Unlike on offense, WVU will not be short of experience on defense.
Two standout sophomores, linebacker Isaiah Bruce and safety Karl Joseph, will lead the defense as it looks to improve on the disappointing 2012 season.
Joining Joseph in the secondary is senior safety Darwin Cook and what looks to be a more experienced and seasoned cornerback unit, led by Ishmael Banks and Travis Bell.
The Mountaineers' corners struggled mightily last year but should benefit from an improved pass rush this time around.
Junior college transfer Brandon Golson is an outstanding athlete and will bolster the pass rush from his "buck" outside linebacker position.
Another JUCO transfer, defensive end Dontrill Hyman, is one of the most formidable athletes on the roster. Hyman joined the team a bit late, but he will have a great impact once he becomes accustomed to the system.
Also along the defensive line, seniors Shaq Rowell and Will Clarke are poised to lead what might be West Virginia's best unit on either side of the ball.
If this cast can generate a consistent pass rush, it will fix many of the problems that plagued the 2012 squad.
Offense: Clint Trickett, QB
Clint Trickett hasn't officially been named the starter for WVU under center. However, all signs point to him taking the job.
As always in Holgorsen's spread offense, the quarterback will be responsible for making the offense click.
Decision making will be the key for Trickett. If he can efficiently distribute the ball to Charles Sims and the rest of the West Virginia playmakers, while also avoiding turnovers, the offense will be in great shape.
Conversely, if Trickett fails to avoid mistakes, West Virginia will lose games and he will lose his starting job.
Defense: Ishmael Banks, CB
West Virginia had made major strides to improve its pass rush and take pressure off its cornerbacks.
Meanwhile, the corners desperately need a leader on the field. Ishmael Banks has been the best of the bunch this offseason, and he must translate that to the regular season.
The Big 12 is full of pass-happy offenses and talented receivers, so Banks and company will have their hands full all season long.
Coach: Dana Holgorsen, HC
All offseason Holgorsen has insisted that he isn't worried about replacing Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin.
WVU should have its share of talent offensively, but the multitude of newcomers will have to come together quickly for this team to be successful.
It will be on Holgorsen to bring this group together. If he can do it, West Virginia will surprise its doubters in 2013. If he can't, his seat will heat up quickly.
Holgorsen's leadership may be the difference between a 3-9 and a 9-3 finish for the Mountaineers.
How quickly will the new-look offense progress?
The WVU offense will feature almost an entirely new cast of players.
If this new group can take shape in time for the beginning of the Big 12 slate, the Mountaineers will be in prime position to notch upsets and compete for the conference crown.
If they are slow to form, it will be a long season.
Can WVU defend the pass?
West Virginia couldn't defend the pass in 2012, for a multitude of reasons.
Now with a new defensive coordinator and some added athleticism on the front end of their defense, the Mountaineers look poised to improve their pass rush.
The improved rush, in conjunction with more experience and continuity in the secondary, could be enough to make a weakness into a strength.
Year 2 in the Big 12: Will WVU take a step forward or backward?
WVU fell far short of high expectations in its first year in the Big 12.
The conference will be competitive, but again lacks one dominant, alpha team. With the league up for grabs, can West Virginia make some noise?
Or will the Mountaineers again fall victim to the rough weekly grind of their new league?
After dominating a Week 1 warm-up against William & Mary, WVU will face its first test at Oklahoma in Week 2.
The Mountaineers will give the Sooners a run for their money, but will fall short of the upset. However, the new cast still forming together will gain confidence in the process.
After the loss, they will turn around and take their frustrations out on Georgia State, then again on Maryland, a slightly tougher test.
A 3-1 WVU team then will embark on a long Big 12 slate, losing its next two conference contests to Oklahoma State and Baylor, two of the league's best teams.
After a week off to regroup, West Virginia will pick up its first two Big 12 wins by avenging 2012 losses against Texas Tech and Kansas State.
The following week, WVU will fall to TCU in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs, who can't afford another loss if they want to win the conference, will find a way to edge the Mountaineers in one of the most thrilling Big 12 games of 2013.
After that frustrating loss, the Mountaineers will host Texas. In front of an electric crowd at Milan Puskar Stadium, they will together their best performance of the season and knock off the Longhorns.
WVU then will narrowly avoid a hangover loss at Kansas, winning by just one score. After the scare, WVU will have another week to regroup before taking care of business on senior day against Iowa State.
At 8-4, the Mountaineers will have exceeded expectations and earned a berth in the Holiday Bowl.
Sticking with Holiday Bowl tradition, WVU will be in a shootout with USC, but will fall 45-38.
Final Record: 8-5 (5-4)