In 2016, WVU won 10 games for one of its best seasons in recent memory, climbing as high as No. 10 nationally at one point. It marked the ninth time the Mountaineers finished with double-figure wins.
West Virginia tied for second place in the Big 12, finished with a top-20 national ranking and made an appearance in the Russell Athletic Bowl, its fifth bowl in the past six years and 14th in the past 15 years.
That is what Dana Holgorsen, beginning his seventh season at West Virginia University, is hoping to build upon on the eve of fall training camp, set to open on Sunday.
Here is a detailed preseason look at Holgorsen's 2017 West Virginia Mountaineers:
Dana Holgorsen added some punch to his staff, bringing back Jake Spavital as the offensive coordinator and will hand the play-calling duties to his protg this season. There are 15 lettermen returning, including six starters from a year ago and 10 players with starting experience. The rushing attack will be a strength for West Virginia once again and with Florida transfer Will Grier operating under center, the passing attack should make its own mark. Grier led Florida to a 6-0 mark and a Top-10 ranking as a redshirt freshman before missing the remainder of the season.
Justin Crawford is back as the Big 12's top returning ground gainer, putting up 1,184 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomores Kennedy McCoy and Martell Pettaway showed flashes of brilliance as first-year runners last year, each posting 100-yard games and look to be even more valuable this season.
The receiving corps will be led by redshirt senior Ka'Raun White and juniors Gary Jennings Jr. and David Sills V. White was the team's second-leading receiver with 48 catches for 583 yards and five touchdowns, and Jennings had 10 catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns. As a freshman two years ago, Sills moved to receiver and had seven catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner against Arizona State in the Cactus Bowl. He returned to WVU in January after spending last season as the starting quarterback at Riverside City College. Junior Jovon Durante and sophomore Marcus Simms and junior college transfer Dominique Maiden look to make their marks in the receiver rotation this season.
The offensive line will be anchored by redshirt senior Kyle Bosch at one guard position and redshirt senior Grant Lingafelter at the other. Redshirt junior Yodny Cajuste returns from a season-ending knee injury at left tackle and redshirt sophomore Colton McKivitz at right tackle. Redshirt sophomore Matt Jones had a productive spring and looks to replace All-American and Rimington Trophy finalist Tyler Orlosky at center.
The defense returns 16 lettermen, four starters and eight players who have starting experience. Under fourth-year coordinator Tony Gibson, the Mountaineer defense will look once again to be one of the nation's most aggressive and stingy units. However, it will have to re-tool after losing eight starters for the second straight year and must begin the season without promising outside linebacker David Long Jr., on the mend following a preseason injury. In conference games, the unit was the best in the league in scoring defense, total defense and opponent first downs, second in rushing defense and third in opponent third downs. The defense ranked No. 24 nationally in fumbles recovered and turnovers gained and No. 35 in interceptions and scoring defense.
The defensive line has to be replaced as all three starters signed NFL free agent contracts. Redshirt sophomore Adam Shuler II and sophomore Reese Donahue should get the early nod at the ends and redshirt senior Xavier Pegues is expected to clog up the middle.
Redshirt senior Al-Rasheed Benton returns as the starting middle linebacker after putting up 80 tackles a year ago, redshirt sophomore David Long Jr., who finished 2016 with 65 tackles, two sacks, 4 1/2 tackles for loss and a forced fumble, will be back at some point this season at the weak-side, and senior Xavier Preston returns at the strong-side linebacker.
Redshirt junior Dravon Askew-Henry returns after missing the entire season with a knee injury, and, along with senior Kyzir White and redshirt junior Toyous Avery, form a top-notch safety unit. Askew-Henry started all 26 games in his first years, and White finished with 58 tackles, three sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. Avery played in 11 games and recorded 24 tackles. Redshirt senior Marvin Gross Jr. and sophomore Jovanni Stewart provide quality depth.
Holgorsen has made personal oversight of the special teams his priority and all coaches will have a part in coaching the unit. Redshirt senior kicker Mike Molina, redshirt junior punter Billy Kinney and redshirt senior long snapper Nick Meadows return. Molina hit 15-of-22 field goals, including a 50-yarder, and Kinney averaged 41.7 yards per punt, had seven boots of more than 50 yards and placed 17 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Redshirt freshman Jonn Young will look to handle kickoffs and add depth at the other kicking positions.
Jennings Jr. and Sills V will get the first look at handling kickoff return and punt return duties.
Heading into his seventh season, Holgorsen has the program operating at a high level, and the Mountaineers look to build off that momentum.
The offense has a strong running game, the passing game looks to be more consistent, the defense is reloading for continued success and Holgorsen is molding the special teams for improved output.
The Mountaineers open their season against old border rival Virginia Tech at FedExField, then face FCS team Delaware State and East Carolina at home to finish the non-conference schedule.
In league play, WVU travels to Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and TCU and faces Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech at home.