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Saturday August 17 2019
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WVU Spring Outlook

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From holes in the secondary to a new offensive coordinator to a slew of early arrivals, the Mountaineers have a lot to cover this spring.

1. THE OC: The Mountaineers hired 34-year veteran coach Joe Wickline as their new offensive coordinator in January. Wickline was the offensive line coach for two seasons at Texas under Charlie Strong before being fired following the 2015 season. There is a sense of familiarity between Wickline and head coach Dana Holgorsen dating back to 2010, when Holgorsen was the offensive coordinator and Wickline was the offensive line coach for Oklahoma State.

Holgorsen will most likely continue calling the plays, while Wickline will work closely with the offensive line and the run game.

2. RECRUITS READY: Nine incoming recruits are already enrolled at WVU and will participate in spring practice: QB Cody Saunders, RB Kennedy McKoy, WR Marcus Simms, OL Jacob Buccigrossi, DLs Reese Donahue and Jeffery Pooler, LB Logan Thimons and DBs Jacquez Adams and Dylan Tonkery. At least four may get the chance to make an impact this spring, especially on defense.

With four linebackers departing, Freeport’s Logan Thimons should get an opportunity to crack the two deep as the back up to Al-Rasheed Benton at middle linebacker. Tonkery, younger brother of ex-WVU star Wes, could compete for the spur safety position vacated by K.J Dillon, while cornerback Jacquez Adams is in line to benefit from the departures of Daryl Worley, Terrell Chestnut and Rick Rumph.

McKoy may have a chance at playing time behind Russel Shell and Elijah Witmann because of questions about the development of Donte Thomas-Williams and Jackie Marcellus.

3. MOLDING NEW CLAY: Tight end Cody Clay was a three year starter, amassing 20 catches for 175 yards and three touchdowns in his career. The numbers aren’t gaudy but the Mountaineers have to find a way to replace his character, leadership and commitment to excellence. Juco transfer Trevon Wesco is the leading candidate to start heading into the spring.

4. LINEBACKER: The Mountaineers will have to find a way to replace eight starters on defense, but no position was hit harder than linebacker. Benton, Xavier Preston, David Long, Justin Arndt and Sean Walters will have to find a way to get up to speed with the defense. All have playing experience, but neither has been a consistent starter.

5. 20-23: That’s Dana Holgorsen’s record in the Big 12. The Mountaineers are 26-25 overall since joining the league four years ago. Holgorsen’s seat was white-hot after a 4-8 season in 2012, but seven wins in 2013 and eight last year have instilled some level of confidence that the tide is slowly turning. What Holgorsen has not done, however, is leave much room for error. The AD that hired him, Oliver Luck, is gone and a step backwards could prove to be devastating for the fifth-year coach.

6. COUNTRY ROADS: It may have taken some time, but Holgorsen finally has a coaching staff that knows its way around the country roads that spread across West By God Virginia. Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson grew up in Van and coached at WVU previously under Rich Rodriguez. Offensive line coach Ron Crook is from Parkersburg. Running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider played part of his college career at WVU. Defensive line coach Bruce Tall and receivers coach Lonnie Galloway returned to work for Holgorsen after previous stints as Mountaineer assistants under Rodriguez.

That’s a big deal, says former WVU head coach Don Nehlen.

“You can’t sell it if you don’t believe it,” Nehlen said at a banquet in Beckley, WV, last month. “If you think Minnesota is the greatest place in America, then you’re going to have a tough time selling West Virginia. It’s like anything else. If you sell Hoover sweepers, you better believe in the damn things, or you’re not going to sell many of them. If you’re going to sell the state of West Virginia, you better believe in it.”

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