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Five Mountaineers to Watch This Fall

Will Grier
WRITTEN BY JOHN ANTONIK 

West Virginia University is wrapping up summer conditioning before Dana Holgorsen’s seventh preseason football training camp begins on Sunday, July 30. Who’s on the spot? 

Here are five names to watch this year, in no particular order:

Kyzir White 

Kyzir White

Photo by Dale Sparks/WVU Athletic communications


White, once a four-star recruit out of Lackawanna Community College who turned down offers from USC and Penn State to play in Tony Gibson’s West Virginia defense, is one of the players on the spot in this year’s defense simply because of the position he plays – spur safety. 

The spur has to be versatile enough to cover small slot receivers out in space in passing situations and also take on tackles, guards and fullbacks at the line of scrimmage during running plays. It requires a big, physical football player with speed and athleticism to do all of this. 

When Gibson has a spur that fits all of those qualifications and can remain on the football field in any situation – such as K.J. Dillon did in 2015 – it means he has the freedom to call any defense he wants without tipping his hand to opposing offenses. That’s how important the spur safety is to West Virginia’s overall defensive scheme.


Kyle Bosch 

Kyle Bosch

Photo by Bill Amatucci Jr./WVU Athletic communications


West Virginia will be breaking in a new center in Matt Jones, a talented sophomore from Hubbard, Ohio, and one of the guys lined up next to him, senior left guard Kyle Bosch, is going to be a key factor in Jones’ development. 

Bosch, a former Michigan transfer, is unquestionably the leader of the offensive line this year and he will be the player Holgorsen relies on to keep that group organized on the field during games. 

Holgorsen breathed a big sigh of relief during last spring’s Gold-Blue Game when Bosch got up and walked off the field after suffering a minor ankle injury. He is WVU’s most seasoned player on the offensive line.


Dravon Askew-Henry 

Dravon Askew-Henry

Photo by bill amatucci sr./WVU Athletic communications


West Virginia’s defense felt the stinging loss of free safety Dravon Askew-Henry last year when he went down with a knee injury during preseason camp. However, the junior’s damaged ligament has since healed and he’s been given full medical clearance to resume his Mountaineer career. 

Once the top defensive prospect on West Virginia’s recruiting board when he signed out of Aliquippa, Pa., the former ESPN.com true freshman All-American is a ball hawk capable of making game-breaking plays, such as the pick-six he came up with at Oklahoma State during his freshman season.

A healthy Askew-Henry will also provide over-the-top help to untested starting corners Elijah Battle and Hakeem Bailey.


Justin Crawford 

Justin Crawford

Photo by brent kepner/WVU Athletic communications


Senior Justin Crawford is the leading returning rusher in the Big 12 after generating 1,184 yards and an impressive 7.3 yards-per-carry average in 2016. He has the jets to cross the goal line when he’s out in the open, and Holgorsen is hopeful Crawford can become a much more frequent visitor to the end zone this fall. 

For a player with his speed and elusiveness, scoring just five touchdowns as he did in 2016 isn’t going to cut it this year. If Crawford can remain healthy and he touches the football more than 200 times this season, either by carrying the ball or by becoming a pass receiver out of the backfield, expect his touchdown total to swell considerably in 2017. 

Crawford was named to the 29-member preseason All-Big 12 football team announced earlier this month.


Will Grier  

Will Grier

Photo by WVU Athletic communications


Not since Jeff Hostetler first pulled a gold and blue jersey over his shoulder pads has a transfer quarterback’s WVU debut been as eagerly anticipated as Will Grier’s. 

Grier played the first six games of his redshirt freshman campaign at Florida in 2015, leading the Gators to a 6-0 record, before his season ended prematurely when the NCAA deemed impermissible an over-the-counter supplement he was taking to gain weight. Soon afterward, the former Parade Magazine National Player of the Year departed the Florida swamps for the hills of West Virginia. 

Grier immediately won over the Mountaineer locker room last year with his willingness to help the team in any manner, including playing on the scout team, and now he’s ready to use all that built-up locker room cred to lead the team this fall when the games count. Earlier this month, Grier was recognized as the preseason Big 12 newcomer of the year.
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