Projecting WVU’s Depth Chart
But for those who can’t wait that long, here is my projection as to what West Virginia’s depth chart will look like going into game one.
Quarterback – If you don’t know that Will Grier is West Virginia’s starting quarterback, please move on to another website; this one isn’t for you. The question coming into fall camp was which of the two other scholarship QBs – Jack Allison or Trey Lowe – would serve as Grier’s backup this fall. Allison has won that battle, and the hope is that Lowe, a true freshman, will be able to redshirt. With the new rules regarding participation, though, Lowe could see action in up to four games and still qualify for a redshirt.
Running back – The order of the depth chart at the running back position is the hardest to project of any on this team. Veterans Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway, as well as youngsters Alec Sinkfield and Leddie Brown, all have drawn raves from the coaches during preseason practice. My educated guess is that it will be McKoy and Sinkfield, in that order, but any of the four could start.
Tight End/H-Back/Fullback – Trevon Wesco will be the every-down tight end, and will also line up in the backfield at fullback at times. Jovani Haskins will see plenty of snaps as well, but he will be used more as a pass catcher than a blocker. In addition, watch out for true freshman T.J. Banks. Eventually he may be the best of the bunch.
Offensive line – Yodny Cajuste and Colton McKivitz will definitely start at the two tackle spots, and Josh Sills is the No. 1 left guard. That leaves center and right guard as the two starting jobs that aren’t locked in yet. Jacob Buccigrossi and incumbent starter Matt Jones are battling for the No. 1 spot at center. Buccigrossi probably wins the competition, though Jones figures to see plenty of playing time as he’ll likely rotate regularly. At right guard, juco transfer Joe Brown appears to have a leg up on Isaiah Hardy. The second-stringers are expected to be Kelby Wickline and Chase Behrndt at the tackles with Mike Brown at left guard.
Wide Receiver – WVU wide receiver coach Tyron Carrier says he has eight receivers he’d be comfortable playing at any time. You don’t have to be an astute observer to know that returning starters Gary Jennings, David Sills and Marcus Simms are the first three names on that list. Alabama transfer T.J. Simmons is certainly there as well, and Tevin Bush, who saw most of his action at running back last year but is being used primarily at slot receiver now, also is part of that top-eight group. Dominique Maiden has worked his way into the rotation as well. For the other two, true freshmen Randy Fields and Sam James seem the most likely to earn regular snaps.
Defensive line – Ezekiel Rose and Clemson grad transfer Jabril Robinson seem likely to start at that two defensive end spots, though Reese Donahue and true freshman Dante Stills will get plenty of action at those positions in backup roles. At the noseguard position, I’m guessing that USC grad transfer Kenny Bigelow starts just because he has the most experience, but I’d be surprised if Darius Stills doesn’t see nearly as many snaps at that spot. Jeffery Pooler and Brenon Thrift also figure to get regular work as reserves.
Linebacker – The starting three are set with Charlie Benton manning the strong side, Dylan Tonkery in the middle and David Long at the weak side. Shea Campbell, a former walk-on who was awarded a scholarship this summer, has been working as the backup to Benton at the sam, while Adam Hensley and Zack Sandwisch are the top reserves behind Tonkery and Long respectively, though true freshman Josh Chandler is making a strong push to be the No. 2 at the will. Exree Loe could also see action, though the former safety is still learning the linebacking position and it may take him a while to work his way into the rotation. Injuries to Quondarius Qualls and Brendan Ferns will keep each of those linebackers out until at least midseason, but by November, it is hoped both can return to provide depth.
Safety – Dravon Askew-Henry is in his fourth year as a starter, but this will be the first season he’s been at the spur safety spot, having played free and bandit in the past. The coaches have raved about him this fall, and he’ll likely be on the field as long as he can stand up. Kenny Robinson started the final five games of the 2017 season as a true freshman at free safety, and he’s back in that role again. Toyous Avery had long been assumed to be the No. 1 bandit, but JoVanni Stewart has been making a push for that spot in the preseason. Avery probably still starts, but Stewart will likely receive plenty of reps. Deamonte Lindsay seems to hold a slight edge over true freshman Kwantel Raines for the backup spur role behind Askew-Henry, though both figure to play. And the No. 2 spot at free safety behind Robinson is a battle between E.J. Brown and Sean Mahone, a converted corner. Give Brown a slight edge because of his experience at the position.
Cornerback – WVU’s coaches have said that they have three corners they consider starters – Hakeem Bailey, Josh Norwood and Derrek Pitts – though only two of them will be on the field for the first snap. It would seem that Bailey and Norwood will likely get those first snaps, though Pitts figures to play just as much, even if he’s on the sideline for the initial defensive play. Keith Washington will also be a part of the cornerback rotation. With sophomore Jake Long out until midseason with a broken hand, Jordan Adams assumes the role of the fifth corner, though Mahone, who recently was moved from corner to free safety, can always move back if the need arises.
Specialists – Evan Staley will again handle the field goals and extra points, and Billy Kinny returns to do the punting. Rex Sunahara will likely be the long snapper, though true freshman J.P. Hadley is pushing for the job. It appears that Skyler Simcox will perform the kickoff duties. Like last year, Marcus Simms will serve as the main returnman for West Virginia’s punts and kickoffs, though Gary Jennings and Tevin Bush will sub in at times on punts, and Alec Sinkfield is an additional option on kickoffs. Also expect speedy true freshman Sam James to get some kickoff return opportunities.