Things We Wish We’d Seen At West Virginia’s Spring Game
With West Virginia’s Blue-Gold Spring Football Game now history even before it ever left the future, thanks to Jim Cantore and his ilk, perhaps it is time to think about what we are missing when it comes to the viewing of the Mountaineers’ 2018 edition.
What were we hoping to see out of this game, the keys to the future, so to speak, a Top 10 that we were hoping to get a good glance at.
No. 1 — This one is easy, is the broken finger that prematurely ended Will Grier’s season last fall completely healed?
We all remember the grotesque way it was mangled as he dove for the pylon in the end zone against Texas.
We’d been assured it was fine, but we just wanted to get a look at him in a game situation, unleashing perfect spirals into windows that few quarterbacks seldom see, let alone try to spin a football through.
No. 2 — We’ve heard about how WVU is going to employ tight ends and fullbacks more this season, to incorporate them into an offense that already has enough tools to make any carpenter happy.
Promises, promises, but Dana Holgorsen isn’t Vince Lombardi and no one is Kellen Winslow, so we remain unconvinced although they keep saying it’s coming, it’s coming.
“I think you can do a lot more when you have that tight end element,” said Jake Spavital, the offensive coordinator, who wants to do more with Trevon Wesco and Jovani Haskins.
If they turn into reliable receivers, Grier is going to need two footballs to satisfy so many receiving options.
No. 3 — Darius Stills has the nose guard job with the departure of Lamonte McDougle. He isnt just renting it until McDougle heals, for McDougle announced he’s transferring, so we all wanted to get a good look at Gary Stills’ son and Dante’ Stills’ big brother as he tries to establish himself as the man in the middle.
Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson says Stills’ is the “most athletic” nose guard that he’s had at West Virginia and it would have been fun to see him turned loose.
No. 4 — Speaking of the middle of the defense, perhaps the largest loss the defense suffers this year is senior Al-Rasheed Benton, who became a physical force in the middle and also a keen mental factor on the field that saw that everyone was on the right page.
Tony Gibson moved Bridgeport’s Dylan Tonkery from outside linebacker into that spot, Tonkery possessing the same kind of football smarts and more speed and quickness, but lacking the experience there, with high hopes that he would be able to fill that void and work with David Long, who would have missed the spring game recovering from shoulder surgery, to give him a pair of tackling machines.
No. 5 — A year ago we all got to see the multi talents of both Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway at running back but the featured back was Justin Crawford.
In the backup role, the two combined for 745 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns.
Now their role grows, but the most interesting thing that would have come out of the spring game was a look at the third running back, redshirt freshman Alec Sinkfield, a 5-9, 184-pound Floridian who may give them the breakaway runner they lacked.
Sinkfield completed his high school career with 2,231 career rushing yards, averaging 8.6 yards per carry, and 26 touchdowns.
No. 6 — In the end, West Virginia’s defense is going to be as good as its cornerbacks.
Doug Belk, the position coach, believes he’s got talent but in this league that’s a wait-and-see proposition. Certainly, if that group could do well against Grier, they could handle anything that will be thrown at them this year.
“We need guys to come along and come along fast,” Belk said. “I have confidence in the group, but I don’t think we’re nearly at the point where we need to be yet.”
Belk has a lot of players to choose from but all of them need to show big-time improvement over last year’s group.
No. 7 — The new, improved Dravon Askew-Henry we are being promised at spur would have been on display for the first time this spring.
A year ago, coming off surgery, Askew-Henry was supposed to be the leader of the defense but, quite frankly, he did not play well at bandit, so he’s at spur now and showing his stuff in practice.
“Dravon probably had his best day tackling in the last two years he’s been on the field,” Gibson said of the last scrimmage. “Last year he struggled at times, but Saturday I thought he tackled really well.”
No. 8 — If there was anything we wanted to see just to see it, it was Kenny Robinson at safety.
He became a big play man as a freshman, moving from corner to safety, making 3 interceptions and returning 2 of them for touchdowns, one for 94 yards. He also was 6th on the team in tackles made with 46.
Just to see him perform again would have been worth the price of admission.
No. 9 — OK, it’s unfair to say we wanted to see center Matt Jones in action because, let’s face it, no one watches the center or even is aware of him unless there’s a bad snap or a holding call on him.
Unfortunately, there was too much of that last year as he took over for Tyler Orlosky, but Jones is primed to make a big leap this year, having much to learn from his first season as a starter and it’s expected that he may well wind up the team’s most-improved player.
No. 10 — The final thing we wanted to see was Marcus Simms running deep.
This is the lightning that can open up the entire offense if Simms can become a more reliable deep receiver. Last year, he averaged 18.9 yards a catch to lead the team and did catch 5 scores, but there’s more there than the 35 catches he had last season.