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West Virginia Offensive Preview: Is Something Burning?

West Virginia has been known for high flying passing offenses. Their coach, Dana Holgorsen has made that his calling card over the years. This season though, it is a stable of running backs the Mountaineers lean on.

Wendell Smallwood carries a big stick in the running game.
Wendell Smallwood carries a big stick in the running game.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing Small About It:

Get used to the name Wendell Smallwood. He's been around for a little bit now, but he's now the feature attraction for the high octane, Red Bull-fueled, Dana Holgorsen offense. While Oklahoma State has struggled to run the ball the entire season, the Mountaineers have had the exact opposite experience. Smallwood alone averages over six yards per carry. That my friends is efficient. Oklahoma State couldn't average that if you added the last two conference games together. One person that will play a big role against Smallwood, will be one that people didn't necessarily expect. Well, they didn't until this bit of news came out.

So with Simmons out, that now puts redshirt sophomore Chad Whitener in an enhanced role. Enhancing meaning he's now the starter, replacing a guy that had started 31 consecutive games. Yeah...enhanced. It does ease the nerves though that Whitener had a career day last week against Kansas State. Whitener recorded nine total tackles and three tackles for loss. Two of those TFL's were sacks. I think the Cal transfer will do just fine, even though Simmons had been the reliable figure for so long.

Remain In The Balance:

This team is not Geno Smith and Tavon Austin. This team isn't even Skyler Howard and Kevin White. This team is as balanced as they come and it couldn't be any more potent. The Mountaineers average 500 yards a game. Yes you read that right. There's also a neat level of symmetry with the offense. The Fighting Holgorsens have three running backs that they platoon throughout their games and there are three passing targets: Shelton Gibson, Jovon Durante and Daikiel Shorts, that Skyler Howard targets the most. Gibson has been reliable all season, averaging nearly four catches each game.

Skyler's The Limit:

The aforementioned Howard had been solid all the up to the OU game last weekend in Norman, where he posted a QBR of 23.2. That number didn't just formulate on its own. Howard threw three interceptions in a game that many thought would be much closer than how it ended up. Many, along with myself, picked West Virginia to beat the Sooners. Howard though, had the poorest game of all the Mountaineers on that side of the ball. That would lead one to believe that if the Cowboy defense can exploit Howard, they may have a chance to win this football game. A great way to start that exploitation would be Emmanuel Ogbah making a living in the Mountaineer backfield. That might not be too far fetched with West Virginia starting a redshirt freshman in Yodny Cajuste.