Much thanks to Matt Kirchner from The Smoking Musket for taking the time to answer a few questions about the West Virginia Mountaineers. You can find Matt's twitter handle @MKirchner12.
Seth: From an outsider's perspective, it really looks like West Virginia has turned a corner in terms of their overall play. The offense is better, the defense is better and the team appears to be playing really well. What do you attribute that turnaround?
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Matt: Honestly, the biggest thing is system familiarity. Last year we had a quarterback mess and a bunch of skill position players who had never been on the same field and it showed.
This year, we've taken a huge step forward and that extra time in Holgo's system is what's behind it
As for defense, it has to be depth. We finally have honest to goodness Big 12 depth after two years of digging out of an enormous hole.
Seth: I'm not sure how many folks are really paying attention to this, at least from the conference perspective, but the Mountaineers have been killing it on the recruiting trail, for the second straight year. After a losing season (something that Texas Tech could be facing this year) what do you think is the reason for the recruiting success?
Matt: This recruiting cycle has been amazing, not gonna lie. The staff we've assembled is filled with ace recruiters of our biggest pipelines. Jajuan Seider and Damon Cogdell handle South Florida (with Cogdell scoring a ton of kids from his former job at Miramar High) and Tony Gibson and Tom Bradley own Western Pennsylvania.
I also think that despite last year Holgo's offense recruits itself to skill players, and honestly, we can promise pretty early playing time to top defensive kids and that's worked on the recruiting trail as well.
Seth: It looks like the light clicked with Clint Trickett and his 2014 thus far is significantly better than his 2013, talk a bit about why you think he made that leap and some of his offensive weapons.
Matt: This is going to be a very similar answer. Its mostly timing and familiarity, combined with actually being healthy.
The big weapons, of course, are Kevin White and Mario Alford. White has been one of the best WRs in the country so far and Alford is playing the Tavon Austin role quite well.
On the ground, the rushing attack has been revitalized thanks to Pitt transfer Rushel Shell. That's taken a lot of pressure off of Clint.
Seth: Earlier in the week, Dana Holgorsen said that he made some changes to the defensive line in anticipation of having more passing oriented teams rather than run-based teams. What were those changes and are you in agreement with them?
Matt: Basically, we've changed our look from a bunch of big guys up front to a whooooole lot of speed so we can focus on getting to the QB. Last week saw the first starts for pass rushers Edward Muldrow and Shaq Riddick and LB Brandon Golson moved to a pass rushing DE spot similar to the role played by Bruce Irvin in 2010 and 2011.
Getting to the QB is everything in this league, so I'm cool with this.
Seth: WVU has really made significant improvements on the defensive side of the ball, talk about the defensive coordinator, Tom Bradley, and some of those defensive players who are making an impact. Ed. note: What an awful gaffe. Sorry Mountaineer fans.
Matt: The DC is actually Tony Gibson, but having the experience of Bradley on the staff has been huge for Holgo. He lost out on a year to really mature when the Stew stuff went down and having a guy like Bradley has been great for him.
As for changes to the defense, you won't see a ton. We're back to a 3-3-5 from a 3-4 but most of the personnel is the same. Karl Joseph is a star at safety and Wes Tonkery has quietly had a great year. Nick Kwiatokowski is a monster ILB with great instincts and tackling ability.
The most important thing, though, is the return of top CB Daryl Worley from suspension. Its good to get your best INT guy back against a team that throws a ton of picks.
Seth: I like to ask at least one question that doesn't relate to football and for fans that might be planning a trip to Morgantown next year, plan the perfect trip (things to do and see, restaurants to dine at, etc.) assuming that I arrive on Thursday night and leave on Sunday.
Matt: Way back when we first joined the league, our SmithFire13 wrote an excellent series on this and he did a way better job than I could.
Go give these a read and you will know all you need to know, Raiders.
Thanks again to Matt for taking the time to help us out!