College Football Countdown | No. 78: West Virginia

We can conclude West Virginia’s in-progress slip in many ways, regulating many metrics, relying on many forms of statistical comparison and pursuit on any series of just-the-facts descriptions, yet let’s keep it simpler:

Last year’s organisation was a initial in a Big 12 given 2007 to mislay to both Kansas and Iowa State in a same season.

That’s one approach to put a Mountaineers’ stream existence into perspective. If you’re acid for another, cruise that WVU is 4-12 after Sep during a past dual years. If you’re acid for a third, cruise how final year’s patrol didn’t merely finish ninth in a Big 12 in sum invulnerability – this is now standard for a march – yet also fifth in sum offense, about 50% off Baylor’s national-best clip.

Hey, Baylor is what WVU was supposed to be – and what WVU was, for a brief time, during a 5-0 start as a member of a new discussion in 2012. Now those were a days: West Virginia outscored Baylor and Texas to swell into a tip 5 before acrobatics to also-ran status, and afterwards found a new low in a catastrophic 2013.

How fast all can change. The offense has left from unstoppable to error-prone: WVU finished final year tied for 103rd in a Football Bowl Subdivision in interceptions and 120th in turnovers. The invulnerability has stood pat, radically creation a friendly home during rock-bottom.

Unsurprisingly, Dana Holgorsen has left from descent designer – a face of Mountaineer football; a cocky can’t-fail triggerman behind a 70-point Orange Bowl – to a hottest chair in a Big 12.

“We have high expectations during West Virginia University for success on and off a margin and as Coach Holgorsen has concurred to me, we are not assembly those expectations on a field,” jaunty executive Oliver Luck pronounced final December.

So there’s your opinion of confidence, and it’s as unsure a block as you’ll find on a coaching circuit. Holgorsen needs a miscarry to urge his pursuit security. The Mountaineers, meanwhile, need a miscarry to infer another elementary fact: that West Virginia football still matters.

LAST YEAR’S PREDICTION:

I cruise a Mountaineers win 7 games during a unchanging season, unconditional a non-conference line-up and winning 4 games opposite Big 12 foe – Iowa State, Kansas and dual others, maybe one an upset. Based on WVU’s continued intensity on offense, this organisation will be a bother to each organisation in fasten play. It competence be tough to suppose a unfolding where a Mountaineers plea for a top-three symbol in a Big 12, yet it’s even some-more formidable to prognosticate a unfolding where WVU falls flat.

 

2013 RECAP:

In a nutshell: Combine an unhandy invulnerability with an mostly unstoppably prolific offense and we get 7 wins, West Virginia’s sum during a Big 12 debut; brew defensive insufficiency with descent uselessness and we get a four-win follow-up, a program’s many unsatisfactory deteriorate in some-more than a decade. Meet a squad that couldn’t fire straight: WVU’s invulnerability was an abomination, stability a trend, yet a Mountaineers’ defining trait was this discouraging decrease on a descent side of a ball. One can sum adult a beating with a corresponding comparison to 2012: WVU tossed 28 fewer touchdowns and 9 some-more interceptions, threw for 67.1 fewer yards per diversion and averaged 1.3 fewer yards per try – and a final series competence not seem large, yet a sum adds adult when we chuck a round 464 times, as WVU did a deteriorate ago.

High point: The win opposite Oklahoma State. For one week, during least, WVU was a Big 12 contender.

Low point: Losing to Kansas and Iowa State. In a same season. In a same month.

Tidbit: West Virginia is 167-14-1 given 1980 when scoring 30 or some-more points. Of those 14 defeats, 6 have as a member of a Big 12: TCU (39-38), Oklahoma State (55-34) and Oklahoma (50-49) in 2012 and Baylor (72-43), Texas (47-40) and Iowa State (52-44) in 2013.

Tidbit (Kansas edition): Since fasten a fasten dual years ago, WVU has authorised an normal of 501.78 yards per game, 6.48 yards per play and 40.5 points per diversion opposite Big 12 competition. Those numbers demeanour even uglier if we mislay Kansas from a equation. Without those dual dates with a Jayhawks, a Mountaineers are permitting an normal of 523.88 yards per game, 6.61 yards per play and 43.0 points per diversion during fasten play.

Tidbit (coaching edition): The descent staff hasn’t altered a bit: Shannon Dawson’s still a coordinator, Lonnie Galloway still leads a receivers, Ron Crook a descent line and JaJuan Seider a using backs – and Holgorsen still oversees a whole deal, of course. But changes are stirring on defense, commencement with Tony Gibson’s graduation from safeties manager to coordinator, replacing Arizona State-bound Keith Patterson. In turn, Holgorsen changed Joe DeForest to safeties coach. There are also dual new additions: Tom Bradley is a comparison associate conduct manager and defensive line coach, and Damon Cogdell, before of Miramar High School in Miramar, Fla., takes over as linebackers coach.

ARBITRARY TOP FIVE LIST:

Current FBS coaches promoted from within staff

1. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
2. David Shaw, Stanford
3. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
4. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
5. Gary Patterson, TCU

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Offense: The Mountaineers’ backfield is usually filthy. Charles Sims is gone, loyal – and missed, regardless of a obligatory crew – yet WVU will have 5 clever contenders for snaps in a using diversion and as pass-game reserve valves: comparison Dreamius Smith (494 yards), final year’s backup; sophomore Wendell Smallwood (221 yards), a dangerously prolific behind final tumble in a tiny representation size; sophomore Rushel Shell, a Pittsburgh send with sky-high intensity as a pristine runner; youth Dustin Garrison, a intensity difference-maker if he’s entirely recovered from that knee injury; and youth Andrew Buie, maybe a best of a bunch. Buie, who led a Mountaineers in rushing in 2012, earnings to movement after holding a redshirt a deteriorate ago. Quibble with a quarterback maze and a pieces adult front, yet rest positive of one fact: WVU is installed – usually loaded – during using back.

It’s not all good news. But it’s not a terrible conditions during far-reaching receiver, where WVU lacks game-breaking ability – there’s no make-’em-miss blazer here – yet is prolonged on arguable production. At worst, a Mountaineers have a talent indispensable to make waves in this system; Holgorsen merely needs to find a quarterback able of delivering a football on time, in space and underneath pressure. The receiver corps leads with comparison Mario Alford (27 receptions for 552 yards) and sophomore Daikiel Shorts (45 for 495), a latter a earnest talent, followed by comparison Kevin White (35 for 507) and youth Jordan Thompson (22 for 175). Beyond this starting quartet, WVU should have no problem cobbling together a second tier between youth KJ Myers, sophomore Devonte Mathis, sophomore Vernon Davis and 5 redshirt and loyal freshmen. Blame a quarterback, not a receivers, should this flitting diversion destroy to produce.

Or censure a edges of a descent line, that is again of estimable regard as a Mountaineers ready for summer workouts. The interior is steady: Quinton Spain is an all-conference close during left ensure and right ensure Mark Glowinski should swell easily as a second-year starter. But WVU is worrisome during center, where sophomore Tyler Orlosky stairs in as a full-time starter, and in apocalyptic straits during left and right tackle. How many assistance will sophomore Adam Pankey need on a blind side? Lining adult alongside Spain is a good start, yet we have perspective a Mountaineers’ ability to pass strengthen as a debility until proven otherwise. Junior Marquis Lucas seems some-more prepared for a starting pursuit during right tackle, yet his miss of prototypical believe creates him a identical doubt mark.

Defense: Look for Bradley’s impact to be felt via a defense, where he’ll be an useful sounding house for Gibson, yet a longtime Penn State assistant’s biggest symbol will be done on this three-man defensive front. It’s a front in progress: WVU mislaid a span of starters, heading a one starting holdover to change spots and fixation vigour on a core of ex-reserves to collect adult a slack. For starters, demeanour for youth Kyle Rose (49 tackles, 8.5 for loss) to pierce from finish to nose tackle, replacing Shaq Rowell; Rose has a coherence to pierce behind outward when WVU goes to an even front, creation him Bradley’s many irreplaceable cog. When Rose does pierce – or takes a breather – Bradley can insert sophomore Darrien Howard, a unequivocally nice-looking youngster, or Brandon Jackson, a 340-pound junior. In a three-lineman look, WVU will side Rose with sophomore Christian Brown and comparison Dontrill Hyman; youth Eric Kinsey (15 tackles) and sophomore Noble Nwachukwu will be a tip reserves. Brown’s brew of distance and explosiveness could make him a pivotal to a whole deal. Unfortunately, this isn’t an overly considerable organisation by any means.

But a invulnerability improves along a behind seven. we like what a invulnerability pierce to a list during linebacker, quite with youth Isaiah Bruce (43 tackles) relocating down from a Mountaineers’ hybrid linebacker-safety spot. Bruce’s pierce will pull a could-be starter into a backup role, yet that’s a good point: WVU has several linebackers with starting believe during a disposal, definition this organisation – like a descent backfield – has a low and tested second tier. Not there’s many discuss among a tip three: Bruce will be on a clever side, comparison Brandon Golson (41 tackles, 4.0 sacks) on a diseased side and youth Nick Kwiatkoski (86 tackles), final year’s heading tackler, in a middle. They competence not blow your hosiery off, yet WVU’s linebackers are a defensive strength.

He’s already a good one – a equivocal all-conference claimant in 2014 – yet with a sip of combined experience, sophomore Daryl Worley should rise into a tip cornerback in a Big 12. That’s not an overstatement: Worley has all a collection one needs to gleam on a outside, not to discuss a assured mentality, and should as such be noticed as a many earnest underclassmen on WVU’s register – and one of a destiny stars in a Big 12. Joining Worley during cornerback is comparison Ishmael Banks (32 tackles), a 16-game starter, along with JUCO send Keishawn Richardson, youth Terrell Chestnut and sophomore Nana Kyeremeh. The Mountaineers will reinstate Bruce with youth K.J. Dillon, who has been adult to a charge when healthy. Along a behind end, WVU will change youth Karl Joseph (68 tackles) to criminal safety, replacing Darwin Cook, while sophomore Jeremy Tyler stairs in during giveaway safety. This could be a good group.

Special teams: You can’t oppose with WVU’s returning talent in a kicking game: Josh Lambert strike on 17-of-23 margin goals as a rookie, with 4 of those misses entrance from over 50 yards, while youth punter Nick O’Toole is a reigning second-team all-league pick. What’s startling about a Mountaineers’ special teams is a miss of punch in a lapse game; one would cruise Holgorsen had a claim speed and elusiveness during a ability positions.

 

 

POSITION(S) TO WATCH:

Quarterback: That Clint Trickett stands atop a post-spring abyss draft notwithstanding offseason shoulder medicine – and notwithstanding not holding a snap during drills – speaks to dual contribution about a Mountaineers’ station underneath center: one, it’s not a good situation, and two, Holgorsen clearly isn’t bullish on his 3 healthy options – seniors Paul Millard and Logan Moore and JUCO send Skyler Howard. Essentially, WVU gave Millard, Moore and Howard a possibility to safe to a forefront of a competition; nothing took advantage of a opportunity.

So Trickett will conduct into a heart of summer conditioning as a Mountaineers’ projected answer, wanting usually to infer his health, one would imagine, to enter a opener as a starter. Maybe – yet maybe one of a trio can step brazen in August. Perhaps Millard’s believe yields a stronger preseason performance, putting him behind into a starting position after pity a charge with Trickett final fall; maybe Howard struts his things with a some-more petrify believe of a offense; maybe incoming four-star beginner Williams Crest impresses a staff, yet he’s set to make an huge jump in competition. Bet on Trickett, yet keep tabs on how Holgorsen weaves a former Florida State send behind into a mix.

GAME(S) TO WATCH:

Kansas: Another detriment to Kansas should be followed by a bolt of updated résumés. It’s simply unacceptable: WVU will be outclassed by Alabama, will be a motionless loser opposite Oklahoma and will face a toss-up diversion during Maryland, yet a detriment to Kansas … that can’t happen. Once again – as during fasten play a deteriorate ago – it’s tough to locate a Big 12 wins; Kansas is one and Iowa State should be another, yet let’s remember a final month of final fall.

SEASON BREAKDOWN PREDICTION:

In a nutshell: It’s formidable to be overly optimistic. But let’s give confidence a try: West Virginia simply can’t be worse, I’d say, and has poignant room for expansion during quarterback, far-reaching receiver, a descent line, a defensive behind 7 and on special teams. At a same time, I’m tender by a peculiarity of a backfield and a intensity in a secondary; a actor like Worley could turn a capsule as a sophomore, a growth that will yield measureless assist to this new-look front and insignificant pass rush. If we wish to be confident – and who doesn’t – it’s probable to block WVU for 6 or some-more wins during a unchanging season.

Let’s be a hold some-more picturesque about WVU’s strengths, weaknesses and unknowns. One strength is a using game, that combines an positively installed backfield with a descent line’s clever interior. Another could be a receiver corps, should a quarterback position deliver. But quarterback is an unknown, if not worse, until Trickett proves he can make a throws in Holgorsen’s complement – or until one of a 4 remaining options stairs brazen in Aug and grabs a starting job. Among a Mountaineers’ weaknesses, cruise pass protection, pass rush, interior run invulnerability and a lapse game.

So this isn’t a Big 12 contender, yet we knew that already. Instead, we see WVU as a equivocal play organisation – not three-win bad, as some have suggested, yet hovering somewhere between 5 and 7 wins. WVU wins 5 if a stream predicaments during quarterback, descent line, defensive line and special teams sojourn unresolved; WVU goes 7-5 if dual or 3 groups urge before a opener. It’s a unsure situation, in my mind. The $1 million question: How many wins does Holgorsen need to lapse in 2015?

Dream season: West Virginia bounces behind to 8-4, finishing 6-3 in a Big 12 and tied for second place.

Nightmare season: The Mountaineers dump to 2-10, notching wins opposite Towson and Iowa State.

UP NEXT:

Who’s No. 77? This team’s quarterbacks manager was 14 when a conduct manager notched his initial career win.

RANKING EVERY FBS TEAM FOR 2014

 

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