West Virginia enters the 2018 season as one of the oldest teams in the Big XII and the country. If you place stock in preseason depth charts, you’ll find 14 upperclassmen sprinkled throughout the starting lineup and a total of 25 listed in the two-deep.
This amount of veteran leadership has not gone unnoticed to head coach Dana Holgorsen.
“We have a lot of older, mature players,” Holgorsen commented. “From an overall maturity point of view, this team is light years ahead any I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
The Mountaineers’ maturity is sure to play a key part in what should be an exciting season. But like many other programs, West Virginia will also boast a talented group of incoming freshmen to compliment its veterans.
Here are 3 freshmen that will be called on to contribute in 2018.
Kwantel Raines – Safety
Raines was brought to Morgantown for one reason – to replace Kyzir White at the SPUR position. Such a position was tailor made for the former 4-star recruit out of Aliquippa. Raines is a physical defensive back capable of stepping into the box as a hybrid linebacker. The linebacker/safety hybrid position can be difficult to absorb for freshmen and is often delegated to older players that have been in Tony Gibson’s system for a few seasons, which is why senior safety Dravon Askew-Henry was asked to change to the SPUR this year. Raines, however, is a talent Gibson will have hard time keeping off the field.
Dante Stills – Defensive Lineman
After losing Lamont McDougle and Adam Shuler to the transfer market, Stills will be asked to add depth along the defensive line right away. That’s not to say the West Virginia native wouldn’t force his way onto the field regardless of who was on the roster. The former Under Armour All-American and 4-star recruit displays the perfect blend of size, speed and physicality that has already forced Tony Gibson’s hand.
“This is all I know after four days in shorts – he’s going to play,” Gibson said. “Is he going to start? Maybe.”
Leddie Brown – Running Back
Despite an already capable running backs corps, Brown (6-ft, 211-lbs) is already the most physically impressive back on West Virginia’s roster. The idea is that new running backs coach Marquel Blackwell isn’t afraid to split reps between Kennedy McKoy, Martell Petteway, Alec Sinkfield and Brown. It’s almost a foregone conclusion Brown will get his fair share of carries and with those opportunities, he’ll prove he’s the most gifted rusher of the group.