Camp has opened up. The chances of sustained success this year could come down to injuries. There is a troubling lack of depth on the d-line, cornerback, and running back. Graduation, loss of players to academics and disciplinary issues, and injuries from last year and spring are mounting.
Teviat Finau, penciled in by everyone during signing day as a starter at end, has not taken enough classes to qualify academically until February. So he'll be ready for March Madness. Another defensive end not making it academically was Corey Freeman. They join corner Jerome Swinton, d-lineman Bernard Smith, and guard Benji Kemoeatu as academic casualties. Kemoeatu and Finau, at the least, are expected to eventually make it to Morgantown when academics are straightened out. Another loss is J.J. Dorsey. The potential corner from Winchester failed to clear the NCAA Clearinghouse and has disappeared. He may be replaced on the roster, at least as far as slot/corner guy with initials, by D.J. Thomas.
Thomas, a defensive back and/or slot receiver who was originally signed by Virginia Tech in 2007, spent last season at Hargrave Military. He is expected in camp Monday after he finishes his last class at Hargrave and his eligibility doesn't seem to be in question.The losses have led to some shuffling and hoping. First the hoping. After the loss of Keilen Dykes to graduation and Johnny Dingle attempting to use the Fiesta Bowl as a spring board to the NFL the defensive line is thin. Especially after James Ingram was dismissed from the team after police broke up his small business enterprise and he decided to take them to his house to show them all the rest of his weed in individual bags (worst decision ever). Scooter Berry probably has the most experience on the line, but has bad knees too. End Zac Cooper had heart problems during the spring. The other returning players are Doug Slavonic and Chris Neild. The only other player with any experience is Thor Merrow and he has been moved to fullback. This leaves WVU hoping that Pat Liebig is granted the extra year of eligibility he has requested from the NCAA. Liebig should find out this week if he is reinstated after missing two years of football to return to his home after his father fell ill.
On the shuffling side it appears as though Bradley Starks is going to stay at WR for the year. He'll be joined by Devon Lyons, brother of Wes, who transferred from Ohio State for his final year of eligibility. One receiver that is on the move elsewhere may be Brandon Hogan. Hogan, who looked impressive at the slot in the spring game, has been at least temporarily moved to corner to provide depth.
Cornerback is problematic for the Mountaineers because the top three from last season - Larry Williams, Antonio Lewis and Vaughn Rivers - are gone. Those three played nearly 90 percent of the snaps in 2007.To finish up the defense it is still unknown whether or not Reed Williams will be ready to play after offseason shoulder surgery. He is four months into a normal 6 month rehab program. Luckily linebacker is one of the only positions of real depth for WVU should Williams have to take a medical redshirt.
Ellis Lankster and Kent Richardson are at the top of the depth chart to start camp, backed up by Guesly Dervil and Eddie Davis, the latter playing his third position (running back and wide receiver were the others) in a year. Of the four, only Lankster has significant experience. A junior college transfer expected to help, Brantwon Bowser, is out for the season with a knee injury.
On offense there are a group of players vying for a spot behind Noel Devine at backup tailback.
If the season began today, the job would fall to Sanders, the slot receiver. But Zach Hulse, Mark Rodgers and Terence Kerns provide three unique options. Hulse is a speedy junior college transfer with experience, Rodgers a fast freshman from California who didn't play football last year and Kerns a punishing 240-pound freshmanRodgers is a 5'9" 180 pound running back that gained 2,319 yards as a senior in California. Zach Hulse is a 5'10" 200 pound running back that played for Glendale Community College and gained 1,101 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry last year. While Rogers and Hulse are in the Devine mold and can play slot as well, Kerns breaks the mold. Kerns is 6'1", weighs 240 pounds, and has around a 4.4 second 40.
Finally, some good news to finish. Kicker will also have some extra depth as Tyler Bitancurt was ruled eligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse. So we've got that going for us.