West Virginia Football: Grading Every New Starter's Week 1 Performance

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIISeptember 3, 2013

West Virginia Football: Grading Every New Starter's Week 1 Performance

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    West Virginia's Week 1 debut against William & Mary wasn't the most impressive performance imaginable. 

    The Mountaineers needed a 17-point second-half rally and a fourth-quarter touchdown run from freshman Wendell Smallwood to edge the Tribe, 24-17.

    However, despite the overall lack of proficiency, WVU did benefit from a number of strong individual performancesmany of which came from its new starters.

    Smallwood, quarterback Paul Millard and running back Charles Sims were just a few of the bundle of newcomers who made an impact Saturday afternoon at Milan Puskar Stadium.

Paul Millard, QB

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    Grade: B

    Paul Millard has asserted himself as the starter at quarterback for now.

    However, Dana Holgorsen said during a conference call with reporters Monday that, while he was happy with Millard's performance, he still believes Clint Trickett brings something to the table that Millard doesn’t.

    Until Trickett becomes more comfortable in the offense, Millard is the guy for WVU.

    He was solid in his debut, but not remarkable by any means.

    Aside from one unfortunate fumble, he was excellent in protecting the ball. 

    The junior completed a number of short passes, often finding freshman Daikiel Shorts. Millard was off target on one deep ball early but made up for it, hitting Ronald Carswell with a 69-yard touchdown strike late in the third quarter.

    His final stat line, 19-of-25 passing for 237 yards and one touchdown, was relatively pedestrian for a Holgorsen quarterback.

Running Backs

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    Charles Sims: A+

    Dreamius Smith: A

    Wendell Smallwood: A

    Where would West Virginia be without Charles Sims?

    The Houston transfer lived up to his billing in his first game in gold and blue, showing that he is every bit of the stud he was expected to be and more.

    Sims tallied 126 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, also hauling in a 12-yard reception.

    As for the rest of the backs, both Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood looked like they might have come close to the production of Sims if he wasn't on the field.

    Smith bruised his way to 46 yards on 12 carries and was an outstanding complement to Sims. Both showed the ability to run through and around defenders.

    Smallwood was one of the most pleasant surprises of the game. The true freshman pounded in the game-winning touchdown and 22 yards on four carries.

    If these three balanced backs can replicate that kind of production every game, the WVU offense will be in excellent shape—at least on the ground.

Daikiel Shorts, WR

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    Grade: A-

    Freshman Daikiel Shorts flew under the radar going into 2013, as fellow newcomers Shelton Gibson, Kevin White, Mario Alford and Ron Carswell stole the preseason spotlight.

    However, in his first appearance, Shorts showed that he might be West Virginia's best receiver this season.

    The Clayton, N.J. native brought in a team-high seven passes for 63 yards, showing an uncanny ability to gain separation from defenders.

    He also displayed great awareness when he pounced on a fumble by KJ Myers to keep WVU's game-winning drive alive. 

Ronald Carswell, WR

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    Grade: B+

    Without Stedman Bailey, West Virginia needed a new deep threat in the receiving corps.

    The Mountaineers may have found one in junior college transfer Ronald Carswell.

    Carswell showed some blazing speed when he darted through the W&M secondary and snatched a long pass from Millard. He then turned on the afterburners and dashed into the end zone for a 69-yard touchdown in what was the most exciting play of the afternoon for WVU.

    His role should increase going forward.

    Given Jordan Thompson's struggles returning punts against the Tribe, it will be interesting to see if Carswell takes over that job as well.

Defensive Ends

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    Eric Kinsey: B

    Dontrill Hyman: B

    Even though the WVU pass rush was mediocre as a whole, both Eric Kinsey and Dontrill Hyman showed promise against the Tribe.

    Kinsey logged three tackles and combined with Will Clarke for a tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

    Hyman didn't have a tackle but showed off his athleticism as he chased W&M's Michael Graham down to record a quarterback hurry.

    Kinsey often moved to the inside during passing situations, making room for Hyman on the outside.

    This seems to be the optimal rotation for these two, with Hyman acting as a third-down rusher.

Brandon Golson, OLB

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    Grade: B

    Wearing jersey No. 2, Brandon Golson put in a solid debut at WVU's "buck" outside linebacker position.

    The junior college transfer registered five tackles on the day and showed excellent lateral speed, often pushing W&M runs to the sideline.

    While he kept the Tribe's running game from cutting upfield, he also displayed some terrific tackling power. As the season rolls along, Golson is bound to turn heads with a few bone-jarring hits in the open field.

    The only gripe with Golson's involvement was the lack of a pass rush, a phase of the game in which the buck position is intended to have a major impact.

Defensive Backs

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    Ishmael Banks: D

    Travis Bell: D

    K.J. Dillon: B+

    Both Ishmael Banks and Travis Bell showed some improvement from last season.

    Rather than completely failing in their coverage, the two were in good position more often than not. However, they still failed to make a play on the ball.

    Baby steps.

    Banks yielded the longest play of the day for W&M, a 40-yard reception by Tre McBride. To Banks' credit, McBride isn't a run-of-the-mill FCS receiver and looked talented enough to start on most FBS teams.

    Sophomore K.J. Dillon solidified himself as the do-it-all nickel defender in the WVU secondary, as he made a key third-down deflection in the fourth quarter.

Nick O'Toole, P

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    Grade: A+

    In addition to having a legendary mustache, Nick O'Toole also has a tremendous leg.

    The junior college transfer epitomized "flipping the field" against W&M, as the Tribe's best field position off an O'Toole punt was their own 27-yard line.

    That result happened to come off his longest boot of the day, a 60-yard bomb in the fourth quarter that eventually helped to set up West Virginia's game-deciding drive.

    Three of his five punts went 56-plus yards, giving him an average of 50.6 yards on the day.

    William & Mary netted just three yards off punt returns on the day.