The West Virginia Mountaineers have high hopes for 2017.
A new quarterback, the return of an All-American safety and the growth of a few local players all give reason to believe the Mountaineers expect a successful season.
First things first, Skyler Howard, who the led the Mountaineers to a 10-3 season in 2016 is gone. Yet, head coach Dana Holgorsen seems very impressed with his transfer quarterback from Florida, Will Grier, as he continues to build chemistry with his receivers.
"Will gets better every day, just by the familiarity he has and what he's been doing with Jake Spavital. The timing I see with the top four receivers right now with Ka'Raun White and Marcus Simms on the outside and Gary Jennings and David Sills on the outside, I see them improving every day," said Holgorsen.
Defensively, the Mountaineers are losing 12 players with starting experience from last year, but are extremely happy to see safety Dravon Askew-Henry back on the field. Askew-Henry missed the entire 2016 season after tearing his ACL in preseason camp. But it was an injury Henry calls a valuable learning experience.
"I had to realize what's important and what's not. I had every day to think about that. The first thing I'd do was wake up, go to the treatment room, workout with Mike Joseph and watch film. That got me through the whole year," said Askew-Henry. "A lot of people go through an injury like that and get depressed like, I don't know what I'm going to do now, but me I had to step up to the challenge and I overcame it."
It's not too often the Mountaineers have many in-state kids taking snaps, but this season Holgorsen expects three from our area to be making plays, including, fullback Elijah Wellman from Spring Valley, defensive end Reese Donahue from Cabell Midland and wide receiver Druw Bowen from George Washington.
"Eli is a team captain and fifth-year senior who does everything right. We're excited about him. Reese is a starter and he's playing well at defensive end. He knows what he's doing and we're happy with his progression. Drew has really had a good camp so far. He's the next inside receiver in the game next to Gary and David. We've got him on about every special team and is coming a lot nicely at receiver as well," said Holgorsen.
The first round of Associated Press rankings list WVU at No. 22. The Mountaineers open their season Sunday, September 3rd against No. 21, Virginia Tech.