2014 WVU Preview: What You Need To Know
West Virginia RB Dreamius Smith
West Virginia RB Dreamius Smith
Posted Jul 1, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About West Virginia (Getty Images)

2014 West Virginia Preview

What You Need To Know

- 2014 West Virginia Preview 
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer
What You Need To Know About The Offense: The Geno Smith era is long gone - the Mountaineers have to find their pop and explosion again after an inconsistent and frustrating year. The attack almost never game up with a big play at the right time, not able to make up for a bad defense that gave up with points and yards to keep up the pace. Can the offense settle on a quarterback for the entire season? That's not a sure thing, even if one does rise up and becomes the main man at the start of the year. Fortunately, the running back situation is fantastic with Pitt transfer Rushel Shell joining a crowded backfield full of talented options. The big key will be a passing game that wasn't nearly as dangerous as it should've been far, far more efficient and effective. The receivers need to be more explosive and the quarterbacks have to be better at moving the chains.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: The defense hasn't shown up since joining the Big 12, and now it'll be up to new defensive coordinator Tony Gibson is trying to make the D more physical and tougher after getting beaten up and blown away time and again by anyone who tried to bring a punch. The pass rush was non-existent at times, finishing with just 17 sacks, but that's about to change with a more aggressive attitude and a focus on getting behind the line. The back seven should be better with a nice-looking linebacking corps, more overall depth, and a safety in Karl Joseph with potential and abilty to be among the Big 12's best. If the pass rush is better, the secondary will be, too.

Players You Need To Know

1. S Karl Joseph, Jr.
An absolute killer as a freshman, the 5-10, 194-pounder made 104 tackles with a sack, two picks and three forced fumbles, but he took a step back last year and wasn't in on as many big plays against the run, coming up with just 68 stops with 12 of those coming against Kansas State. Even so, he's still an excellent hitter with great range, and it shouldn't take that much to get back to his All-America level. Wanted by a slew of SEC teams and some of the bigger Big 12 big boys, he was a great get for West Virginia, and he's about to show why again. With NFL upside, he needs to be the star of the secondary again.

2. OG Quinton Spain, Sr.
At 6-5 and 342 pounds he's a massive run blocker who's the one everything works around. With NFL size, he's build for the interior, and while he's not a tackle at the next level, he can move just well enough to be decent in pass protection and get out on the move. He'll start out the season at left guard, where he found a home last year starting eight times, and while he can move out to tackle if needed – he started 13 times at left tackle as a sophomore – he's far stronger and far better inside.

3. LB Isaiah Bruce, Jr.
The two-year playmaker took a step back last year after coming up with 94 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss in a fantastic freshman season, he struggled a bit last year. At 6-2 and 232 pounds, he's a big hitter with track speed – he's a former Florida state champion hurdler – and he's special in the weight room. It took a little while to get things going last year, and he was fine, but he's too talented and too good to not be one of the team's leading tacklers again.

4. LB Nick Kwiatkoski, Jr.
Somewhat out of the blue, the 6-2, 230-pound junior stepped up and became a physical presence coming up with 86 tackles with two sacks, and he surprisingly turned good against pass making three picks on the way to honorable mention All-Big 12 honors. Able to play inside or out, he worked on the weakside, but he'll get a shot in the middle this year while being able to move back out if needed. With 11 tackles against both Oklahoma and Kansas State, and 14 against Iowa State, he can be the star of the defense at times, and he's also one of the steadiest defenders to count on.

5. WR Mario Alford, Sr.
After a hot finish, he could be just scratching the surface. Is it time to break out and be a superstar target who takes the offense to another level? He's not Tavon Austin, but the 5-9, 175-pounder is extremely quick and can be a big-time playmaker when he's on. In a wildly disappointing year, he did next to nothing most of the way, and then he showed what he's capable of catching eight passes for 215 yards and a score against Iowa State. The talent is there to go from okay to great, averaging 20.44 yards per catch, but he has to get the ball in his hands more.

6. RB Dreamius Smith, Sr.
Can he stand out in a crowded backfield? The 5-11, 224-pound former JUCO transfer did a nice job in a complementary role behind Charles Sims rushing for 494 yards and four scores, and while he might be at his best in a rotation, he'll get his shot. He hit the weights and bulked up a bit after leading Butler CC to the NJCAA national title, and while he's not going to hit the home run on a regular basis, he'll bring some thump and will move the chains.

7. WR Daikiel Shorts, Soph.
Is the 6-1, 197-pound sophomore the next big thing? He surprised as a key part of the passing game, starting nine times and turning into a surprisingly nice target catching 45 passes for 495 yards with two touchdowns – with both scores coming against Georgia State. Now he has to be more of a regular playmaker on the inside, and if the quarterback play is better, he'll become a bigger part of the offense with the speed and skill to grow into a No. 1 target.

8. FB Cody Clay, Jr.
Part tight end, part fullback, the 6-4, 256-pound junior earned All-Big 12 honors as a great blocker who can catch a little making nine grabs for 73 yards and a touchdown. Smart and a good leader, he's used in a variety of ways with good hands and the potential to be used more in the passing game, but he's at his best when he's hitting someone.

9. P Nick O'Toole, Jr.
The West Virginia punting game was a miserable nightmare in 2012, but Toole came in from the JUCO ranks and changed things around right away – West Virginia finished seventh in the nation in punting - averaging over 44 yards per kick and putting 22 inside the 20 while forcing 23 fair catches. At 6-3 and 215 pounds, the junior who earned Second Team All-Big 12 honors can blast away and get the team out of jams.

10. RB Rushel Shell, Soph.
Is he in shape? Are all his problems left back at Pitt? If he's back to his 2012 form, he has the talent and potential to be the best back in the Big 12. At 6-0 and 218 pounds he has good size, great balance, and the ability to be a workhorse to work around. However, he has to be ready to make the most of his abilities after getting suspended at Pitt before making the move to Morgantown. A superstar prospect, if he wants to be special and he's looking to play in the NFL, the opportunity is there, and he seems ready to be fantastic. At some point this year, watch out – he'll bust out and don't be shocked if he takes over the offense.

- 2014 West Virginia Preview