WVU settles on its offensive line
In eight days West Virginia will pit its remade psyche and defense against Alabama. The game site is the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, a supposed neutral arena, but one that will be two-thirds filled with all shapes of people wearing red and yelling “Go Tide” at the top of their screams.
The two teams have similarities. Both lost their last two games to end the 2013 season.
Except that Alabama was 11-0 when it absorbed a morbid loss to bitter rival Auburn and then was stoned in its bowl game by Oklahoma.
West Virginia was 4-6 after its first 10 games and needed a road win at Kansas and a home-field success against Iowa State to be given one of the last bowl bids available. The Mountaineers lost badly to Kansas and then fell in overtime to Iowa State, finishing with a season dripping too many losses.
According to the pollsters predicting what this 2014 season will bring, Alabama’s two season-ending losses made them vulnerable.
The preseason ratings polls and predictions have ranked the Crimson Tide No. 2 in the country behind only defending national champion Florida State. Not much of a drop from the top spot Alabama occupied all of last season . . . before the trouble late in the Auburn game.
Alabama has a new, untested quarterback but it has Coach Nick Saban and tons of quality athletes sprinkled all over its depth charts.
While much of its landscape is fraught with too many unanswered questions, West Virginia does have the names of five starters on its offensive line. Those five are Adam Pankey, Marquis Lucas, Quinton Spain, Mark Glowinski and Tyler Orlosky.
Clint Trickett is the starting quarterback while being backed by Paul Millard and freshman William Crest.
One of the more celebrated running backs — Rushel Shell — has been injured, but the others — Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie — have been given their chances.
The wide receivers are Mario Alford, Kevin White, Jordan Thompson and Daikiel Shorts.
Kicking specialist Josh Lambert hasn’t alleviated any worries about whether he can be relied upon . . . or somone else needs to be found.
Linebacker Brandon Golson has missed practice time, but Wes Tonkery, Edward Muldrow and Nick Kwiatkoski have moved in as starters.
The defensive line has been shuffled and reshuffled more than any other group of hopefuls. Kyle Rose, Noble Nwachukwu and Dontrill Hyman are the likely starters but Christian Brown could supplant one of those players.
The names heading the list of probable, first-game starters in the defensive secondary are Travis Bell, Daryl Worley, Karl Joseph and K.J. Dillon. Free safety Dravon Henry has been injured and Jeremy Tyler has replaced him until he returns.
For too many years, West Virginia’s special teams coverage has withered all too often. Ineffective play by special teams against Alabama is not a way to beat a team ranked No. 2.
It’s just eight days until the season gets its start on a neutral field against a well-known power whose nerves have been made raw by the constant mentioning of last year’s disastrous finish.
West Virginia’s finish was just as woeful . . . except that it wasn’t playing for another national championship at a school where two losses against 11 wins is just not acceptable.