West Virginia At a GlanceHome | Morgantown, WV (Big 12 Conference)
2011 Record | 10-3 (5-2) (Big East)
Offensive Starters Returning | 8
Defensive Starters Returning | 6
2012 Offensive MVP | WR Tavon Austin
2012 Defensive MVP | DB Darwin Cook
This is my yearly attempt to educate myself on the teams on the Texas Tech schedule. I am not an expert about any of these teams, but rather I have spent a few hours studying the team and it is more likely than not that I have something wrong. Please correct me in the comments. All helmet images via The Helmet Project.
Important Links | NCAA Stats (15th Total Offense; 33rd Total Defense) . . .
The Coach | Everytime I see West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen I want to post an Arrested Development GIF of Will Arnett's character doing something awesome because this is how I imagine that Holgorsen. You can just use your imagination. Plus, Arnett's character likes magic and I'm pretty sure that so does Holgorsen. That and Red Bull. Not bad for a first year, 10-3 and a top 15 or so team is returning for Holgorsen and thus far, it would be incredibly difficult to argue the results of his hiring, especially after the de-pantsing of Clemson in the Orange Bowl. But then you wonder how in the heck WVU lost three games. You can understand losing to LSU, everyone but Alabama lost to them, but being blown out by Syracuse is strange when you consider the rest of the season.
It's also interesting that of West Virginia's ten wins, four were within six points: beating Maryland by 6, Cincinnati by 3, Pittsburgh by 1 and South Florida by 3. Like Kansas St. last year, West Virginia had their share of close wins and so you wonder how that might play out in the Big 12 or if the odds are that West Virginia just loses a couple of those games.
This doesn't fall under the head coach category, but long-time WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel left during the offseason for Arizona to team up with his former boss, Rich Rodriguez. Casteel might also be a coaching wizard and he is one of the few people that has successfully implemented the 3-3-5 defense and at West Virginia and he was damn good at it. Holgorsen replaced Casteel with Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson as co-defensive coordinators and will be running the 3-4. And it also seems like that Holgorsen hired former Red Raider Mike Smith to be the coordinator, who took the job at WVU, then went back to the NY Jets. DeForest was at Oklahoma St. for more than a decade in various capacities, while Patterson has had an incredibly quick rise to a defensive coordinator spot as Patterson was just an assistant at Allen high school in 2002. Last year I harped on the idea that Oklahoma St. was bound to take a bit of a dip in production offensively after losing Holgorsen, but that didn't happen. You would think that moving to the Big 12, losing one of the better defensive coordinators in the country and changing defenses, would be a cause for concern. Let's hope that DeForest and Patterson are the Glasgow and Willis (without the domestic issues) of West Virginia.
DTN 2012 Previews* 9/1/12 Northwestern St. Demons (Preview)
* 9/8/12 @ Texas St. Bobcats (Preview)
* 9/15/12 New Mexico Lobos (Preview)
* 9/29/12 @ Iowa St. Cyclones (Preview)
* 10/6/12 Oklahoma Sooners (Preview)
* 10/13/12 West Virginia Mountaineers (Preview)
* 10/20/12 @ TCU Horned Frogs (Preview)
* 10/27/12 @ Kansas St. Wildcats (Preview)
* 11/3/12 Texas Longhorns (Preview)
* 11/10/12 Kansas Jayhawks (Preview)
* 11/17/12 @ Oklahoma St. Cowboys (Preview)
* 11/24/12 Baylor Bears (Preview)
What We Do Know | So I was a bit surprised that WVU was "just" 15th nationally in total offense and I say that with the thought that I have obscene expectations for Holgorsen and so that thought really isn't fair. WVU will be led by WR Tavon Austin and he is very good and will cause problems for Texas Tech. Austin had 101 receptions for 1,186 yards and 8 touchdowns while fellow WR Stedman Bailey had 72 catches for 1,279 yards and 12 touchdowns. Austin should really scare you and Bailey isn't far behind. Interestingly, Holgorsen did not really spread the ball around to the different receivers, but instead, the top three receivers last year had 62% of all receptions. WVU also returns their top three rushers last year in Dustin Garrison, Shawne Alson and Austin. As a unit, WVU was only 92nd in the nation in rushing, which is a bit of a surprise, however, when something else works, you roll with it.
And we haven't even talked about QB Geno Smith. Smith averaged 337 passing yards a game, had 31 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He'll most likely be better with another year in the system. I believe that WVU also returns a few offensive linemen, and that information has been tough to find, but Phil Steele named Jeff Braun and Josh Jenkins to his Big 12 third team.
Defensively, I think that in addition to losing Casteel, West Virginia loses their most productive players. DE Bruce Irvin was just awesome at rushing the passer last year, had 8.5 sacks by himself last year. Plus, Julian Miller and Najee Goode also left due to graduation. That's your top three pass-rushers from last year. That's problematic. I suppose that you would rather have to have players replace productive players rather than trying to figure out if unproductive players will step-up.
The Big 12 preview of West Virginia says that West Virginia only had 4 scholarship defensive backs for spring practices, but the West Virginia roster has 20 defensive backs, so I'm thinking that West Virginia will have some options.
More after the jump.
What We Do Not Know | It's really tough to even consider that the offense is a question mark, although I do find it interesting that Texas Tech averaged more yards a game, but West Virginia averaged more points a game. I would have guessed that Texas Tech would have lost on both points to West Virginia, but maybe that's because the Orange Bowl beat-down of Clemson sticks in my mind. The difference is that West Virginia's low scoring point of the year was 21 points, to LSU and to PIttsburgh. I tend to think that things may be tougher on West Virginia in the Big 12 as you would expect that the Big 12 defenses would be a bit tougher than Big East offenses.
I am concerned about the defense for West Virginia. Maybe that's because I think too much of Casteel, but I always thought that West Virginia was a good defense under his guidance and I can't help but think that going into the Big 12 with new co-defensive coordinators might be problematic at some point. Maybe this is an instance of me hoping that West Virginia has problems on defense rather than this actually happening. The other problematic item is the loss of so many good defensive players. It will be interesting to see which players step up their play, although I think that West Virginia will struggle some on defense this year. Just too many missing parts from last year's team.
There are a ton of writers that think that West Virginia is a top 10 or top 20 team and I think that based on the Holgorsen offense alone that could be true, but I just don't know how the defense is going to play in the Big 12 with new coordinators and players that weren't asked to produce last year.
Best Player | I think that Austin is the best player, hands-down. I'm not sure if there is a defensive player that is on the level of Austin. Plus, he caught 101 passes. That's a lot.
Break Through Player Candidate | WR Deontay McManus is a 4-star player that was offered by just about every program in the country. Without a doubt it will be tough for McManus to make an impact offensively with Austin and Bailey. Defensively, LB Sam Lebbie, another true freshman this year was the 6th higest ranked middle linebacker in the country and is already at a stout 6-3/235 as a true freshman. Why the heck not.
Overall Fear Level With 1 Being Not Afraid At All and 5 Being So Scared Baby | I'm really excited about this game because I'm really interested to see how the two new teams, WVU and TCU, will adjust and so I'm not sure how to judge my fear-level. I think I'm going with a 4 and if Texas Tech were playing in Morgantown, then I'd probably have this at a 5. And this will be the second road game in a row for West Virginia, playing at Texas the week before. That's the only time during the season that WVU has two road games in a row.