Why WVU offense will remain elite

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen has a long history of developing elite offenses. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Annual personnel changes are inevitable in the world of college football, but sometimes those adjustments can look like they will have disastrous consequences.

Take the case of the West Virginia Mountaineers' passing game. This dominant platoon lost Heisman Trophy contender Geno Smith, Biletnikoff Award candidate Tavon Austin, top vertical receiving threat Stedman Bailey and No. 3 wide receiver J.D. Woods to a combination of graduation and early entry into the NFL draft.

The skill position losses are compounded by the fact that, as head coach Dana Holgorsen put it, their returning offensive line is composed of "two guys who started at offensive tackle." West Virginia's three returning offensive starters is the lowest total in that category among BCS conference teams and is a major factor as to why ESPN Insider Brian Fremeau projects the Mountaineers to finish seventh in the Big 12 this season.

But is the situation really this bad? There are a multitude of factors that indicate it isn't, and many of these also suggest the Mountaineers' passing offense could produce at somewhere near the level it operated at last season.