Disclaimer : I am sure that I have something wrong with this preview. If something is incorrect, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email (doubletnation AT gmail DOT com) and I'll get things corrected either in the story or in the comments. The purpose of this preview is to help educate myself and Texas Tech fans about your team.
A while back some friends bought my kiddo a big floor puzzle of the United States and this is tough to admit, but that's fine. I don't think I really had the geographical sense, despite looking at the map during realignment, as to the situation that West Virginia is in related to playing in the Big 12. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that the Mountaineers are part of the Big 12, but I didn't really get the sense as to how far away West Virginia really is until I helped Fits put that floor puzzle together 100 times or so. The travel is tough and it makes sense as to why the Big 12 would add a team that is geographically closer to West Virgina.
Back to football, which is why you're here. I think that I'm very much unsure what to think about this team overall. I don't know why we wouldn't think of West Virginia and Dana Holgorsen as not being able to re-load just like Art Briles does or like I think Kingsbury will be able to do. I don't think that Holgorsen has ever had a bad offense, not one that I can remember, so why would I think that this year will be different? Let's get to it.
Offense | Pass
They are all gone! Okay, that's an overstatement, but Holgorsen is essentially starting from scratch, and I think he'll be fine, but it was quite a luxury the last two years to have some very good players, Stedman Bailey, Geno Smith and Tavon Austin. But now WVU was saved by the transfer of some players that should help any issues with having to play sophomores or redshirt freshmen at some of these skill positions. QB Clint Trickett arrives from Florida St. and RB Charles Sims arrives from Houston. Not that West Virginia was struggling at the running back spot, but Sims isn't going to hurt anything, he'll help.
Back to Trickett, he'll help, he's already graduated and he'll have two years available. Trickett was supposed to the heir apparent to EJ Manuel, but that didn't happen, so Trickett is one of those transfers that has already graduated, like Jacob Karam, and has two years to play. In limited action for FSU Trickett completed 22 of 34 passes for 272 yards, about 8 yards an attempt and didn't throw a touchdown or an interception. Behind Trickett is Paul Millard, redshirt freshman Ford Childress and freshman Chavas Rawlins. I can't help but think that Trickett is the guy otherwise why transfer.
From what I can tell, the top three receivers are all gone. Bailey and Austin each caught over 110 passes with seniro J.D. Woods catching 61. The top leading receivers are Ivan McCartney, Travares Copeland and Jordan Thompson, who caught between 13 and 9 passes all year. So I really don't know who is supposed to step up here. I've read the spring prospectus and obviously there are talented players in the fold, but I don't know who it will be. Daikiel Shorts and Kevin White are mentioned as being guys with potential, but really everyone is unproven.
As an side, RB Andrew Buie caught 28 passes last year and Sims caught 37. They could see a lot of passes this next year.
One more thing on the offensive line, which is that WVU was 49th in sacks allowed. Smith wasn't a statue by any means, but I remember that line being a bit worrisome from a WVU perspective. We'll get more into the line below, but I think this adds to the reason why there will be some drop-off offensively.
Offense | Run
Let's get to the line first. LG Josh Jenkins, C Joe Madsen, and RG Jeff Braun are all gone. So the interior of the line will need to be complete re-worked. Again, not doubting Holgorsen before, but it should be interesting if he's able to replicate a top third rushing offense this year as well. Quinton Spain and Curtis Feigt return at the tackle spots.
From a running back perspective, Buie and Sims should be able to hid a lot of flaws because they're talented and most teams would love to just have one of them. Sims has shown that he can do this on just about any level and Buie was just fine last year. For those of you that didn't follow along earlier in the summer, wanted to transfer to Texas Tech, but Houston's head coach, Tony Levine, decided that he didn't want Sims transferring to Texas Tech, so he chose the next best option and most likely a former coach of his in Holgorsen. Don't blame Sims at all.
WVU was the 5th best rushing offense in the Big 12 and 52nd overall last year. I might call it a wash offensively with having to replace the entire interior of the line, but adding Sims and a more mature Buie.
Defense | Pass
Just abysmal here. I think that WVU burned down whatever scheme they were using last year and hired Keith Patterson before the bowl game. Holgorsen must have been tired of whatever they were running out there. Patterson was at Tulsa for a handful of years in the mid-oughts and the Pitt DC in 2011 and Arkansas St. DC last year. So I really don't know what to expect if you want me to be honest. I sorta get the idea that this is a Art Kaufman sort of hire. Let's just get lined up right, try to keep it simple and go from there.
Former Texas Tech coach Brian Mitchell is the cornerbacks coach (I think he was let go as the DC at East Carolina). CB Pat Miller is gone so I don't know how much that matters. This was just an awful group last year and I don't know where WVU turns for help. The hope is that the young players, freshmen Brodrick Jenkins, and Karl Joseph are going to be significantly better, but that's always a dangerous plan. Joseph was actually very good as a true freshman, but this is still a unit that was 118th in pass defense, which is third to last, just in front of Baylor and La. Tech.
Part of this is just life in the Big 12 and the fact that teams that play at a higher pace will have worse defenses, statistically speaking. The other part is that WVU gave up over 300 yards 6 different times, and gave up over 500 yards three different times, Baylor (581), Texas Tech (508) and Oklahoma (554). That's 40% of the total passing yards given up all of last year.
Defense | Run
The front seven loses DT Jorge Wright, Buck LB Josh Francis, Star and LB Terrance Gavin. I think the Buck spot is a outside linebacker spot. So this isn't all that bad for a unit that finished 60th nationally in rush defense. Returning along the line is NT Shaq Rowell (6-4/308) and DE Will Clark (6-7/271) and WVU got pretty decent production from both of them. The problem is that after that up front, it is a bunch of relatively inexperienced players, freshmen and redshirt freshmen from last year that are now sophomores or redshirt freshmen if they didn't have their redshirt removed. So other than Clark and Rowell, it's a pretty inexperienced unit.
SLB Isaiah Bruce did return and he was really pretty good last year, especially for a redshirt freshman, as he had 90 tackles and 6.5 TFL. Holgorsen did recruit a couple of linebackers from the JUCO ranks with Brandon Golson and d'Vante Henry. I think there is a lot of movement on who will play where at linebacker, so I won't begin to guess and try to sound knowledgeable. Garrett Hope, Wes Tonkery, Jared Barber and Nick Kwiatkoski are all supposed to be in the mix in some form or fashion.
WVU loses their primary returners, being Austin and Bailey, had the worst punter in the conference last year (as an aside, Texas Tech was 9th) and had a kicker that was 9th in the conference in field goals. So, we're pretty much just starting over here, which is maybe a good thing, other than the returners who were good. So I really don't have a clue how to rank a unit that really doesn't return anyone and was not good for the most part. I am starting to think that coaches in general view special teams as a necessary evil. I feel like this when I need to write a few words on the special teams.
Texas Tech travels to Morgantown, which should be pretty neat. I do want to go to Morgantown at one point in my life for a game because I bet it's just awesome in the fall and yes, I realize that this makes me sound old, but whatever. I still bet it's great.
As mentioned above, I don't know why Holgorsen doesn't have the same buzz that a lot of these other coaches don't have. Maybe the lustre wore off after one season where he struggled with a team that experts and the media thought should have been better. I don't know. Holgorsen will be starting his third year as head coach and he's still struggling the defensive part of the whole head coaching thing. This must be a bit worrisome as WVU had a traditionally pretty good defense for a long period of time and now that's not necessarily true. WVU won 10 games with Holgorsen in 2011 in the last year as the Big East, but I think the better teams was tougher for Holgorsen and WVU. I tend to think that a lot of people tend to underestimate just how offensive the Big 12 actually is.
Still, Holgorsen is an offensive savant, just like Briles or Kingsbury or anyone else. Holgorsen may have just as much influence on Kingsbury as Leach did, but Kingsbury actually coached alongside Holgorsen at Houston and branched off and did his own thing at Houston. Then Holgorsen picked up right where he left off at Houston. The distinction here, I guess, is that Holgorsen has had the benefit of having Smith around for three years and hasn't had to break in a new quarterback. Something tells me that Trickett will be fine, but I think that the defense is still a work in progress.
Rating the Mountaineers
|Offense - Pass|
|Offense - Run|
|Defense - Pass|
|Defense - Rush|