West Virginia Football: Mountaineers Make Strong Lineup Changes After Weak Start

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIISeptember 9, 2013

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 7:   Quarterback Paul Millard #14 of the West Virginia Mountaineers looks to throw under pressure during the game against the Oklahoma Sooners September 7, 2013 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated West Virginia 16-7. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Brett Deering/Getty Images

West Virginia has made a remarkable defensive turnaround so far from 2012 to 2013, as the Mountaineers scoring defense has improved from No. 117 in the nation to No. 31.

The offense, however, has gone in the opposite direction. After ending 2012 as the No. 9 scoring offense in the nation, WVU has regressed to the No. 109 scoring offense, averaging just 15.5 points per game.

As a result, the team has issued an updated depth chart ahead of its contest with Georgia State with some clear goals in mind, as seen in their Georgia State game notes release.

The first change is the reopening of the quarterback battle, which again includes Paul Millard, Clint Trickett and Ford Childress.

The running back group remains the same, as all four backs—Charles Sims, Wendell Smallwood, Dreamius Smith and Dustin Garrison—will continue to share carries after an outstanding start. Together they have averaged more than 170 yards per game on the ground.

By far the biggest change came in the wide receiving corps, which features three new starters, all of which are new to the WVU roster for 2013.

Previously, Ivan McCartney, Daikiel Shorts and KJ Myers were listed as the X, Y and Z receivers respectively.

Now, a trio of junior college transfers, Ronald Carswell, Mario Alford and Kevin White, will take over the three starting positions. Carswell and White will take the outside, while Alford will occupy the slot position.

This comes as no surprise, as head coach Dana Holgorsen revealed after the Week 2 loss to Oklahoma that he was looking for receivers capable of making plays and particularly generating yards after the catch.

Carswell hauled in the biggest play of Week 1, a 69-yard touchdown reception. He then followed that up with a three-reception, 44-yard performance against OU.

Alford and White were both anticipated starters in the offseason but were limited or out of action in Week 1 against William & Mary.

White led all receivers with seven receptions for 80 yards against the Sooners.

Alford had just two receptions for 11 yards in that game but has as much speed as any player on the WVU roster.

The final change on offense was the addition of senior Pat Eger to the starting lineup. Eger replaced freshman Tyler Orlosky at center.

On defense, the changes were limited.

Kyle Rose replaced Eric Kinsey at defensive end, as Kinsey moved to a reserve "buck" outside linebacker role. WVU was in need of depth at the "buck" position after an injury to Dozie Ezemma against W&M.

The final major change came at the punt returner slot, which has been problematic for West Virginia thus far.

Carswell has been named the newest punt returner.

Previous returners, Jordan Thompson and Mario Alford, both fumbled a punt. Thompson's muffed punt came against William & Mary, but the sophomore was able to recover his mistake. Alford wasn't as lucky, as his fumble was recovered by Oklahoma and led to a Sooner touchdown.

These changes all appear to be excellent moves, as the Mountaineers are in grave need of playmakers.

WVU won't have much time to settle its quarterback situation or become acclimated to the moves. The Mountaineers play Georgia State this week before taking on rival Maryland in Baltimore the following week.

The Terrapins have looked strong, winning by 33 points or more in each of their first two games.

After the rivalry tilt with UMD, WVU will host Big 12 Conference favorite Oklahoma State on Sept. 28.

If these changes stick, the remainder of West Virginia's season is promising, given the defensive improvements.