What you saw yesterday didn’t change overnight, but it’s going to change between now and Sept. 1. Where? It would seem receiver, defensive line and the secondary are most ripe for change. Too many guys repping at those positions not to see some movement. But on Aug. 20, when WVU had to put something on paper, people were put in places.
I didn’t mention the special teams stuff above, but that seems pretty interesting to me. It would appear Josh Lambert is bound to redshirt, even though the Mountaineers worked him pretty hard at kicker, punter and kickoff. I don’t think that’s the case, though. With Tyler Bitancurt and Corey Smith both in their senior seasons, my guess is WVU wants to get Lambert some seasoning. Should Smith wobble on punting or kickoffs, Lambert could play — but that, I think, has to be fairly early in the season.
And the return men? I wouldn’t take the depth chart as gospel. For starters, WVU has myriad options available. I mean, how do you not let Jordan Thompson return kicks. He has that Noel Devine “I’m a defender running down the field to make the tackle and I can’t find the return man” quality.
Plus, Tavon AND Stedman on kickoffs? That seems a little risky, but WVU also isn’t locking itself into those two when Thompson and Brodrick Jenkins and maybe others (Travares Copeland) are good at it. As for punt returns, I haven’t seen Tavon do anything in that realm, so I can’t say he’s better than ever, which he says is the case. I’ll believe him for now, but the first time one bounces and rolls and people gasp, how short is that leash? I don’t know. Just asking …
The defensive line is just a mixed bag. They’re going to play 3-4 and 4-3 and the front will change along with it. It’s nevertheless very important Shaq Rowell — a junior! — can handle the nose. People have spoken highly of him. Also, I give Tyler Anderson a lot of credit. He hasn’t slipped at all.
Linebacker may actually be fairly deep. There isn’t an all-American or all-conference player there (yet?) but rather a group of similarly skilled and able players. I don’t think starter and backup are vastly different at those spots and I think it said something WVU listed three players at all four spots and not one of them was at multiple positions. They might be OK there. Not great, but OK. And OK can get better.
Cornerback seems strange to me, and I wonder how much of this is strategic and realistic. Rumph was repping with the first team at times last week and, to hear others tell it, Kyeremeh was the better of the two. And now they’re third string? Maybe, and Avery Williams had been slowed by injury while Cecil Level is, as documented, very awesome. They flat need guys there, whatever the arrangement.
But those safeties? Hmm. Karl Joseph is a freshman. His backup, Ishmael Banks, is a converted corner who couldn’t get on the field there. Darwin Cook is a very good option at the other safety spot, but behind him is another freshman, K.J. Dillon. I think WVU wanted more from Travis Bell and Matt Moro, who are wiser players, but their names are nowhere to be found. Moro was hurt in camp and Bell wore red, though I was told not for injury. WVU wants to cross-train players back there, as is the case on both lines and at receiver and linebacker, but it’s still only a few bodies.
Now, as for receiver, I don’t know what else to tell everyone about Mr. McCartney, but let’s briefly review this:
1) Academic question mark early in camp, so he didn’t take any meaningful snaps
2) Academically safe, but then injured
You have to practice. Have to. He didn’t. So, for now, he’s just a guy with talent that is not on par with consistency. Only he can change that. So that’s how I’d say it. Others have other ways.
Anyhow, WVU has added options and flexibility at receiver, and especially inside, and I think that’s why you see Dante Campbell and Cody Clay as backups. They’re the bigger, blocking type, but WVU does like Devonte Mathis and Connor Arlia inside, as well.
Maybe it’s just me, but I get the feeling they want to pull the trigger on Arlia and let him play because he knows what to do, he knows the positions and he knows the plays. Whereas Mathis can blow a play up from time to time in practice, Arlia does not. He’s just not a big or fast kid and he’s not on scholarship. But you always see these passing offenses that throw walk-ons and nobodies onto the field and they produce, both because of themselves and because of the offense. If Arlia gets some burn, then this thing is in a good place. That’s my litmus test.