MORGANTOWN-While there may be more questions than answers heading into West Virginia's season opener against William and Mary at noon on Saturday, third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen is hoping those are reversed following the Mountaineers' 17th meeting with The Tribe.
"Experience," Holgorsen explained during Monday's Big 12 teleconference. "Our team was known for some very strong personalities, especially on offense. Now, there is a little unknown."
Starting at the quarterback position where incumbent Paul Millard and Florida State tranfer Clint Trickett have distanced themselves from redshirt freshman Ford Childress, but not from one another.
"Clint and Paul both looked good, so we decided to give them both more of a look. If we played tomorrow, they'd both play. Ultimately, it's about the guy that doesn't make mistakes. It might be a situation where we continue to snap both guys."
Some decisions have been made, however.
Taking over the primary running back duties is University of Houston transfer Charles Sims, while freshman Wendall Smallwood and junior college transfer Dreamius Smith take up the next two spots on the current depth chart. Last year's opening-day starter, Andrew Buie, as well as junior Dustin Garrison have moved down the depth chart as the Mountaineers prepare to open the season.
WVU, W&M Comparison Chart
2012 Team Statistics
Time of Possession28:3829:30
2012 Individual Statistics
"Andrew (Buie) and Dustin (Garrison) have proven what they can do," said the coach. "But any time you add a Charles Sims, it's going to change the dynamics of that position."
West Virginia's head coach isn't unfamiliar with the former Cougar, having recruited him while he was in high school. The second-team All-Conference USA runner led Houston with 851 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He added 37 receptions for 373 yards and three scores to finish third in C-USA in rushing yards per game and scoring and second in all-purpose yards.
Running back isn't the only position experiencing transition as senior Ivan McCartney and redshirt sophomore K.J. Myers hold down the starting slots at wide receiver with freshman Daikiel Shorts topping the depth chart at inside receiver.
All three, however, are receiving challenges as redshirt sophomore Ronald Carswell and junior college transfer Kevin White are pushing for more playing time at the wideouts while redshirt freshman Devonte Mathis is in the mix behind Shorts.
"We would like to play about eight (receivers)," Holgorsen said. "Once a guy proves that he's won the position, we'll back up the reps of the other. That has not happened as of yet.
"I anticipate, once we get into game situations, that one guy will separate from the others."
Locally, Parkersburg South's Michael Molinari is expected to see more playing time as the former Patriot has added kickoff duties to his holding duties and is slated behind sophomore transfer Nick O'Toole at punter. Redshirt freshman Josh Lambert will handle the placekicking duties.
"That's kind of the way we hoped it would work. Josh will be our placekicker, Mike will be our kickoff guy and Nick will be the punter."
Defensively, West Virginia will have many of the same names as a year ago. But, the former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator is hoping the results will be different.
"It's a lot of the same guys (on defense)," explained the coach. "It's just they're a year old. Last year we played eight to 10 true freshmen.
"There's a bunch of different things. Mostly, that they are a year older and been in the system."
Seniors Will Clarke and Shaq Rowell as well as sophomore Eric Kinsey will man the front in WVU's 3-4 alignment while sophomore Isaiah Bruce (Spur), junior Jared Barber (Sam), sophomore Nick Kwiatkosi (Will) and junior college transfer Brandon Golson (Buck) top the depth chart at linebacker.
The secondary will once again see senior Darwin Cook (Border) and sophomore Karl Joseph (Field) at safeties while juniors Travis Bell and Ishmael Banks will look to improve the Mountaineers' play at the corners.
"It doesn't make any difference because if they are at West Virginia, they are pretty good players," William and Mary head coach Jimmye Laycock said. "They plug in different players, but it's still the same scheme they have been running."