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May 11, 2013West Virginia didn't receive the warm welcome it expected in its inaugural year as a Big 12 school. The Mountaineers were thought to be a Big 12 title contender entering the 2012 season, but five-straight losses midway through the season -- beginning with a 49-14 demolition in Lubbock -- turned WVU's dream season into a nightmare.
Dana Holgorsen has a well-deserved reputation as an offensive genius, but 2013 could be a challenge following the departure of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, Stedmon Bailey and most of the team's offensive starters. Still, a change at defensive coordinator and the team's year of experience in the Big 12 have fans hoping WVU can improve on last year's 7-6 mark.
We caught up with WVSports.com's Keenan Cummings for the latest on the Mountaineers.
THE SPRING LEAD
The biggest question in Morgantown is who will replace quarterback Geno Smith, and the answer isn't immediately clear.
"That's kind of the battle everyone had their eyes on the entire spring," Cummings said. "It has since been muddied even a little bit more with (transfer) Clint Trickett coming in from Florida State. There really wasn't any headway made between junior Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress. Both of them had their moments in the spring game, but overall the two went back and forth.
"That's going to continue to be the story here heading into the fall. It's what everybody is talking about here."
Cummings said a second primary storyline is West Virginia building on its first season in the Big 12.
"As we all know, West Virginia's defense struggled mightily last season," he said. "It was one of the worst in the country, statistically, and a historically bad defense for West Virginia. There are a lot of returning starters and they're trying to rebuild their confidence. There have been some defenses here that have struggled, but this defense last year was really surprising. They couldn't stop anybody hold on third down, they couldn't generate a pass rush and West Virginia had a change last season with Keith Patterson taking over as the full-time defensive coordinator from Joe DeForest.
"There is confidence in the spring. The group looked as good as you could expect for a spring game, but that's going to need to spill over."
West Virginia only returns two offensive players that started seven or more games in 2012, but the program expects to reload with a handful of talented newcomers and the return of running back Andrew Buie.
"One of the biggest surprises is just how deep the offense is as a whole," Cummings said. "I don't want to say it's not missing a beat because there's a lot of work still left to do. But they should be able to move the football effectively."
Two receivers in particular received especially high marks.
"It seems like West Virginia will have some playmakers step up," Cummings said. "West Virginia lost a lot on offense, especially the wide receiver positions, but there are even guys coming in this summer that will add to the mix even more. Throughout the spring, there were some guys that really kind of made a name for themselves.
"Junior college transfer Kevin White enrolled early and stole the show at the spring game along with Jordan Thompson who got some burn last year. I think both those guys fared well."
Buie's return is a big positive, but he isn't Holgorsen's only option in the backfield.
"They return leading rusher Andrew Buie and people know what they expect out of him," Cumings said. "There's another junior college transfer, Dreamius Smith from Wichita, Kansas. He's a guy that can be an every down back and add depth along with early enrollee Wendell Smallwood."
We're back at square one. The biggest concern entering fall camp is whether one of the quarterbacks can set himself apart from the others and take control of the team.
"The coaching staff is pretty coy with its answers," Cummings said. "I think they're being genuine though. They're really saying there is no one taking the reigns. Clint Trickett is involved now as well. He arrived a couple of days ago. Dana's offense comes down to timing and getting the football out of your hands and those are things Clint Trickett does very well."
There's no predetermined date for Holgorsen to decide among the three quarterbacks.
"This could be a thing where the battle goes to the last day of fall camp," Cummings said. "It could go all the way until the first game. It could go into the season. Dana said he wants to decide on one, but one of these guys needs to take the reigns and show he can be the leader of this team."
? Missed Significant Time: CB Terrell Chestnut (ACL), LB Jewone Snow (shoulder), WR Dante Campbell, CB Avery Williams (neck), OL Adam Pankey (ACL, out until October)
? Position Switches: CB Vernon Davis from Miami has been switched to WR
? Schedule Note: Unlike last season, WVU will not make back-to-back trips to Texas in 2013. ... The 'Eers don't have back-to-back home games this season, and will only play in Morgantown twice between the end of September and Thanksgiving -- Texas Tech (Oct. 19) and Texas (Nov. 9).
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