What We Know
Returning Starters: Offense - 3, Defense - 6
The Defense Proved It Still Needs Work
While the majority of the key losses come from the offensive side of the ball, there are major concerns prevalent on the defensive side of things. Last season, the Mountaineers were a team that gave up 472.46 yards per game along with 64 total touchdowns. Their Achilles' Heel? Limiting the big plays. During the course of the Spring Game, it appeared that the defensive line did a much better job at defending the run. However, at this point that has to be taken with a grain of salt as three interior linemen are being replaced on the offensive side of things. This single fact led to quite a few breakdowns for the offense.
Consistency In Rushing Attack
One thing will remain consistent on this team, that is the rushing attack. Andrew Buie seemed to emerge out of thin air to lead this Mountaineer team to victory over the Texas Longhorns with 207 yards after being listed as third on the depth chart. Dustin Garrison missed a portion of last season while recuperating from an ACL injury. While they do lose Shawne Alston, the one-two punch of Buie and Garrison should provide them with steady gains on the ground.
As the West Virginia Mountaineers continue to search for their new identity on the field, they will be debuting new uniforms during 2013. According to the athletic department, WVU will have 27 different combinations from Nike in their arsenal that include but are not limited to a white or gold helmet. The inner lining of the collar is where you will find the West Virginia State motto, Montani Semper Liberi, which is Latin for "Mountaineers are Always Free." Check out SBN's The Smoking Musket for a more in depth look.
Three Question Marks
The Quarterback Battle: Who Wins the Job?
The biggest factor in deciding the success of the team will be placed upon the quarterback position. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, they are losing a player like Geno Smith. Looking to replace him has pitted Paul Millard, a junior and former backup, against Ford Childress, a redshirt freshman, for the job. Now, Clint Trickett has inserted himself into the equation after leaving Florida St. for "greener pastures."
With two years of eligibility left and graduate student status, Trickett is available to start immediately for Dana Holgerson at West Virginia. While Trickett has a better track record than the other two candidates have combined, his small frame begs the question as to if he can hold up for the length of an entire season.
Departures Create Lack of Playmakers?
"We'll have guys that can make plays. Each and every year that we've lost great players, the initial reaction is ‘How are we going to score a point?' And then other guys step up." - Dana Holgerson
West Virginia loses Stedman Bailey early to the NFL Draft. Wide receiver/running back Tavon Austin will also be playing in the NFL while the Mountaineers are forced to replace J.D. Woods to round out the top three receivers from last season.
Many people think that Paul Millard or Ford Childress and now Clint Trickett are more than capable passers, but they will be without three starters on the offensive interior line. It seems that WVU lacks the playmakers from 2012 to surround whoever wins the starting job at quarterback. The two-deep at receiver is slim pickings at this point. Will a handful of fresh talent rise to the occasion given the opportunity and pick up the slack of this once potent offense?
How Will the Coaching Changes Impact the Season?
The pieces of the coaching staff started to come unglued with the close of the regular season. Finishing 118th nationally in defending the pass, cornerbacks coach, Daron Roberts was released. Following him out the door was special teams coach, Steve Dunlap while the quarterbacks coach in Jake Spavital took a position at Texas A&M. The latest addition to that list came when offensive line coach, Bill Bedebough took a position at Oklahoma.
Lonnie Galloway, the receivers coach, will have a lot to learn if he hopes to produce an electrifying group. There is some slack there but there are also a few talented receivers in Jordan Thompson and Kevin White, ready for duty.
While the losses in coaches on the offensive side of things may have not been anticipated, they most certainly have to be accounted for. In an attempt to sure up the defense, West Virginia made a few moves but will they produce the expected product in the next few season? Only time will tell.
The name that rises to the top of the list is none other than Andrew Buie. After leaving a mark on the field in the early going, the expectations for this kid are that he will have a better performance during the 2013 season. Buie rushed for 851 yards on 179 attempts for an average of 4.8 yards per carry behind an inconsistent at best offensive line.
The Sooners will be looking at an inexperienced defensive line that was weak against the run. If Andrew Buie lives up to the expectations he has coming in to this season, Oklahoma might have a tough time containing him.