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West Virginia 2015 Fall Camp Preview and Key Position Battles to Watch

Jordan Thompson

Jordan Thompson

West Virginia enters the 2015 season with its deepest roster since joining the Big 12. More than 50 players have Big 12 experience and head coach Dana Holgorsen has not hidden his excitement about the upcoming season.

However, with fall camp set to begin, there remain multiple questions on both sides of the ball that will have a large impact on the Mountaineers’ success this season.

West Virginia’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines

1. Can the Mountaineers Survive October?

WVU has possibly the most difficult October of any school in the country. The Mountaineers travel to Oklahoma on Oct. 3 followed by a home game against Oklahoma State. Then the Mountaineers travel to Baylor on Oct. 17 and, folllwing a bye, finishes off the month at TCU on the 29th. While WVU will most likely be favored against Oklahoma State at home the other three road games are challenging. Getting through October at 2-2 would be a feat, 3-1 would be impressive, and 4-0 would be a legendary month for Holgorsen’s team.

2. Who Replaces Kevin White and Mario Alford?

While WVU has a history of producing NFL-caliber wide receivers, replacing both White and Alford will be a tall task. Holgorsen has praised redshirt sophomore Shelton Gibson as being one of the fastest wide receivers he has ever coached. Unfortunately Gibson is unproven on offense, as he was used primarily on special teams last season. Junior Daikiel Shorts is just slightly more experienced than Gibson. Incoming freshmen Jovon Durante and Gary Jennings may see significant playing time in their first seasons. Jordan Thompson is the most experienced wide receiver on the roster but he will work primarily out of the slot. Moral of the story, no matter who starts on the outside receiver position he will be inexperienced.

Related: 10 Position Groups Under Pressure in the Big 12 for 2015

3. Will the Secondary be the Heart and Soul of the Defense?

Karl Joesph, KJ Dillon, Dravon Askew-Henry and Daryl Worley all return, but who plays opposite of Worley? Smart money is on Terrell Chestnut, who was named to the Wuerffel Award watch list, but can he stay injury free? If Chestnut is the man, offenses will likely attack him early and often as Worley is considered by many to be a shutdown corner.

Sophomore Dravon Askew-Henry emerged as a potential shutdown corner last season as a true freshman and there are incoming players who have the ability to contribute there as well. The secondary, which is arguably the best in the Big 12, will have plenty of experience and talent, both of which is needed in a conference like that likes to go to the air early and often.

4. Will the Defensive Front be Able to Compete Against Larger Offensive Lines?

WVU returns the same defensive line that had issues against larger offensive lines and had difficulty at times stopping the run last season. Can the Mountaineers’ front measure up against larger offensive lines such as Oklahoma’s?

During the spring senior linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski was moved to the outside in favor of senior Jared Barber, who is returning to the middle following ACL surgery. Will the changes in the middle hurt the defense’s chemistry and overall speed? Will they miss Kwiatkowski in a spot where he has previously thrived? 

5. Will Skyler Howard be the Answer at Quarterback?

Holgorsen has a history of developing quarterbacks dating back to his tenure at the Houston. However, the most successful quarterbacks under Holgorsen have been primarily pocket passers. Howard does not exactly fit that mold. Howard became the Mountaineers’ starter late last season, replacing Clint Trickett against Kansas State. Howard stayed top the depth chart due to what turned out to be a career-ending concussion suffered by Trickett, and finished the season 1-1 as the starter.

While Howard is comfortable outside the pocket, Holgorsen’s offense doesn’t exactly conform to that type of improvisation. Howard brings options to the WVU offense that have not been available in recent seasons, but his accuracy needs to improve. Will Holgorsen change his offensive scheme to accommodate Howard’s strengths or will the quarterback have to conform to Holgorsen’s style?

— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.