West Virginia Football: Building an offense around Skyler Howard


Skyler Howard appears to be West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen’s quarterback for the 2015 season. Building an offense around him will be the key component to getting his offense ready to compete this coming season.

Howard, who saw action last season after Clint Trickett went down with concussion issues, has experience playing, but going in as a starter opens up a whole new door for the young quarterback.

One of the major questions heading into this season was if redshirt freshman quarterback William Crest could compete for the starting job. Crest has all the necessary tools to be a starting quarterback especially under an offensive whiz like Holgorsen.

After the spring game, however, Holgorsen gave the starting reps and majority of the reps to Howard.  Crest was used un a unique way — and the feeling is he’ll be used a utility player rather than a steady quarterback.

With Crest being used the way we believe he will be used, the offense has to be built around Howard.

Arguably the most important part of building the offense around Howard is the receiving corps. This season West Virginia will lack the experience and arguably the talent that possessed last year.

Players like Daikiel Shorts and Jordan Thompson bring some experience to the table, but they aren’t the duo that was Kevin White and Mario Alford. Shorts is off to a strong offseason, though as he is just might be the main target for Howard. Thompson will be the kind of short-yard, slot receiver, capable of turing on the burners and turing a short toss into a big-gain.

Other receivers like Sheldon Gibson, who has had issues with catching the ball, and need to see some improvement before being a primary staple in Holgorsen’s offense.

What the Mountaineers lack in the receiving unit, they make up for in the backfield. Holgorsen finds himself in a good position to perhaps boast the best running back group in the Big 12 conference. Wendell Smallwood, Rushel Shell, redshirt freshman Donte Thomas-Williams, redshirt sophomore Jacky Marcuellus all have great skills that will boost this offense.

Nov 1, 2014; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers running back Wendell Smallwood (4) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Smallwood will be especially important. Holgorsen has praised the junior running backs ability to be run the rock as well as aiding the passing game. It won’t be surprising to see Smallwood feature more in the ariel attack than the ground game.

Shell was the Mountaineers’ featured back last season and should Smallwood step into larger role in terms of the passing game, he will likely be in the position to be the No. 1 back again.

Shell has the necessary experience and skills to be the No. 1 back. He will have complements as well. Marcellus and Thomas-Williams showed a lot of spunk during the spring game. Thomas-Williams has the ground and pound quality as well as shiftiness to be a complete back, while Marcellus is the more small, elusive back that can wiggle his way through the line to bust off long-gains.

In the recent past, the quarterback position has been of utmost importance for Holgorsen. Just two seasons ago the team finished 4-8 and had a new quarterback what seemed like every game. Last season Trickett gave enough to see some major improvements, but he wasn’t the so called quarterback this kind of offense craves.

Not to say Howard’s the answer, in fact at first glance, he doesn’t look like he’ll be a showstopper under center. You don’t need to be perfect though, you just need to be good enough. With a strong backfield, a few experienced receivers and a utility players like Crest and Smallwoood, Howard has a solid arsenal to help him have a good, successful season.

How will all these parts gel, though? That will remain to be seen. Holgorsen has to be committed to crafting his offense around Howard. A quarterback carousel will not do.