What to watch for: West Virginia spring game

With a 70-33 victory over Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl still fresh in the memory banks of every West Virginia fan, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Saturday’s Gold and Blue game. Kickoff is 6 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPN3.

The Mountaineers are using the spring to get ready for their transition to the Big 12, which isn’t going to be easy. Dana Holgorsen, who is actually in charge for his first spring in Morgantown, has been pleased with how his team has looked.

WVU does have the appearance of an experienced and confident team that believes it can actually be a top five program this fall. But until the Mountaineers make a road trip to Austin and face Oklahoma at Milan Puskar Stadium, the jury is still out on this group.

Holgorsen has made it clear he wants to get at least 30,000 fans at the spring game, but ticket sales have been a little slow. Maybe the fans are saving for some of those long road trips this fall.

Here are five things Crystal Ball Run will be looking out for when the Mountaineers take the field:

1. Will the Mountaineers find a future quarterback?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that Geno Smith won’t see a lot of playing time in the spring game. He has little to prove and keeping him healthy is important.

So this opens the door for Paul Millard to get some quality reps. He saw limited action last season and this spring is a big step in his maturation, as well as showing some signs that he’s ready to take over when Smith graduates.

It will also be the first time many fans get a look at true-freshman Ford Childress. But Millard will get the majority of playing time.

2. Depth at cornerback is a must.

West Virginia has just four cornerbacks on a scholarship and one of them is Pat Miller, who has missed the entire spring following surgery. Miller should be back to 100 percent by the time fall rolls around, but his absence has given some fresh faces an opportunity this spring.

So who should be making the biggest impact? How about Terrell Chestnut, who was a big recruit in 2011? WVU could really use him stepping up and becoming the player they think they recruited.

3. Keep an eye on Tavon Austin.

Holgorsen just scratched the surface with his talented offensive players and he’d love to find even more ways to utilize Tavon Austin, his speedy receiver.

Austin is coming off a huge season, and an even bigger Orange Bowl performance. Reports out of Morgantown have been very positive in relation to Austin.

No one wants to see Austin take too many hits in the spring game, but it will be interesting to see if Holgorsen teases the crowd with some new looks for Austin.

4. How will the new defense look?

Installing a new defense takes persistence and patience. It’s even more difficult when you are converting from something as unique as the 3-3-5 that Jeff Casteel preferred.

Now new defensive coaches Erik Slaughter and Joe DeForest are looking to utilize a more standard 3-4 and 4-3.

Things started off a little slow this spring, but of late the reports have been very positive … even from Holgorsen. If WVU is going to make a successful transition to the Big 12 then the defense will need to make the adjustment quickly.

5. Which player will open some eyes in the spring game?

My bet is on true freshman safety Karl Joseph has been lighting it up this spring. The 5-foot-10, 195-pounder plays physical and has already made some big hits in practice.

In high school he was a tackling machine and he just may get the chance to do that for the Mountaineers right away. He’s also considered a solid coverage back.

Joseph has also been a workout warrior, which is something that has endeared him to teammates and coaches. His maturity and commitment should show in the spring game.