The Early Edition: West Virginia Mountaineers

Jamie Squire

We kickoff West Virginia Week with this installment of The Early Edition.

Difference Makers

Clint Trickett. The QB situation in Morgantown is not a desirable one. Trickett missed the entirety of the spring practices recovering from shoulder surgery. And yet, he was still tabbed as the starter after spring ball. It's safe to say the QB competition will continue into the fall, and maybe into the season again. Trickett makes my list of Difference Makers because of he position he plays and the role in the offense. We know that with this kind of offense, the QB is the keystone. More on this later.

The Running Backs. I couldn't really just choose one because the Mountaineer backfield is salty. This is their most talented group on offense. This group will be lead by Dreamius Smith. Following him will be a pair of sophomores in Wendall Smallwood and Rushell Shell, with Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison rounding out the group.

Isaiah Bruce. Bruce has made the switch from their SPUR position to SAM linebacker (don't quote me on this, but I believe the SPUR position is similar to Tech's Raider position, a hybrid safety/linebacker). He will be playing alongside a couple of other solid LBs, and this group may end up being one of the best LB corps in the conference.

Daryl Worley. Worley is posed to really make a name for himself this season as one of the premier corners in the league. Standing 6-foot-2, he will be one of the biggest corners in the conference. His long stride and wide wingspan will help him blanket the better receivers in the Big 12.

What do we need to know about the Mountaineer offense?

There isn't much we don't know about the Holgorsen-led WVU offense. We've seen Dana here at Tech, Oklahoma State and Houston before going to Morgantown. There hasn't been much change to the way he runs things, just the talent of his skill positions. I loved the move he made by putting Tavon Austin in the backfield. I just think it was too late. Outside of Dreamius Smith, this offense doesn't have that "go to" playmaker. They don't have a Tavon Austin, a Stedman Bailey or a Geno Smith. They have guys.The offensive line is ok, not great. The receiving corps will be good, but you won't be hearing any of their names thrown around for post-season awards. Probably.  I may be selling guys like Daikiel Shorts and Mario Alford short, but without a QB, it's a wash. The QB position needs help. Even when healthy, I don't know if Trickett is the answer in the pocket.

What do we need to know about the Mountaineer defense?

We've seen Holgorsen make some changes on the defensive staff lately after finishing 9th in the Big 12 in total defense. Former safeties coach Tony Gibson has been promoted to coordinator, Joe DeForest to safeties coach, and they added Tom Bradley as the defensive line coach as well as Damon Cogdell to coach the linebackers. They will continue to run their 3-3-5 defense. Their defensive line will consist of two ends and a nose tackle, so a little fundamentally different from Tech's 3-man front. Behind them will be a kind of traditional 3 linebacker unit with a Sam, Will and Middle. The five defensive backs will consist of two safeties, two corners and a position they call SPUR, which as I mentioned above, I think is similar to Tech's Raider.

Starting up front, I think we'll see West Virginia struggle on defense because of their defensive line. You can essentially carbon copy Tech's defensive line woes (and total defense, too) to West Virginia. They're light in the pants and will be replacing two starters. If they expect their season to turn around from last year's 4-8 campaign, they're going to need those two new starters on the defensive line to pan out.

How will West Virginia affect Texas Tech?

I'm not sure what to think when I look at West Virginia's schedule. They open the season against Alabama, then host Towson, travel to Maryland, host Oklahoma and Kansas, travel to Lubbock, host Baylor, travel to Stillwater, host TCU, travel to Austin, host Kansas State, and then travel to Ames. There isn't really a tough streak or a break for them. It's just solidly difficult from Maryland to Iowa State.

On the flip side, Tech will be hosting West Virginia after trips to Stillwater and Manhattan. And after West Virginia, Tech hosts Kansas. So it wouldn't be a trap game with Tech looking ahead to...Kansas. However, depending on how the previous two games turn out, this game could be quite meaningful. If Tech stumbles to both the Cowboys and the Wildcats, this would be an opportunity to right the ship. Grab a couple of wins before ramping it up for TCU, Texas and Oklahoma in consecutive games. If Tech wins both against the Cowboys and the Wildcats, Tech will be riding into this game likely at 5-0, looking to start 7-0 again, with tons of momentum. But they could easily overlook the Mountaineers in this scenario. Now, we don't know very much about how Kingsbury's teams perform riding momentum going into a "let down" game because at 7-0 last season, they went to Norman. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

I mean no disrespect to the Moutaineers, but this game is likely part of a two-week stretch where Tech can grab a couple of wins between two difficult stretches in the schedule. However, I know thinking like that can lead to games where Tech loses on where they shouldn't. I believe Tech will more than likely be favored in this game by 10+ and should be able to handle the Mountaineers in Lubbock.

Where will West Virginia finish?

Looking at their schedule, it's hard to say they're going to top last season's results (4-8). There isn't a chance in their schedule to really gain momentum and take down some upsets. In fact, I see it setting up just the opposite for them. If they get on a bad streak there, it could snowball and really get out of hand quickly. They could be out of bowl contention by November. And if that happens, I don't know how much longer the West Virginia brass hold on to Holgorsen. I've seen "dream" predictions at 8-4. Reasonable predictions with wins ranging from 5-7. I just don't know if they have the horses, with this schedule, to top last season.

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