Preview 2017: West Virginia Needs To Reload, Not Rebuild
After a ten win season, can the Mountaineers reload and be in the Big 12 title hunt?
Does West Virginia have the ability to reload, and not just rebuild?
Dana Holgorsen wasn’t able to fully capitalize on his big first season in 2011 – winning the Big East title and destroying Clemson in the Orange Bowl in the 10-3 campaign – with four years of uneventful mediocrity after joining the Big 12.
But the team was built up over the year culminating in what was a good 2016, but probably should’ve been stronger.
Going 10-3 was great, but the Mountaineers were blown out in the three losses to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and in the bowl to Miami. Now it’s up to Holgorsen and West Virginia to show that last year’s production wasn’t the best it could do.
It’s not like the Big 12 is that great at the moment, but it’ll be better. Texas, TCU and Baylor all had down years, but that will change soon, if not this season. West Virginia can’t be in for a down year, or after finishing third last season, it could be back to the world of the also-rans – finishing fifth in the conference in two years under Holgorsen, and seventh in another season.
There are expectations. It’s not like West Virginia has to be in the national title hunt every year for Holgorsen to keep his gig, but he does need to keep the program in the Big 12 championship mix. He has to keep the team relevant, and in the new era of a revamped conference title game, he needs his Mountaineers to be players in the chase up until the end.
This year’s team isn’t as good as Oklahoma or Oklahoma State should be, and again, several of the other normal stars are going to rise back up again soon, but the Mountaineers have to prove they can get past the loss of most of the key defensive parts.
They have to get by without their top receivers, a key part of the running game, and a solid starting quarterback who led the way to plenty of great wins over the last few seasons.
The quarterback side shouldn’t be a problem if Will Grier is the player the hype will make him out to be.
He had a great six-game run at Florida two years ago before being suspended for – apparently – being the only college football player to use PEDs. He left the program, landed in West Virginia, and should not only solve the QB problems right away, he might improve the position.
Justin Crawford might just be the Big 12’s best back – if he can stay in one piece – and Ka’Raun White leads another great group of Mountaineer receivers.
The West Virginia skill spots have no problems with this whole reloading thing.
The line, though, might be another story. One of the best in the Big 12 last season, the offensive front should take a little while to to gel. But, at the very least, it’s a bigger front five.
Don’t expect a whole lot of flash from the D, but it should be competent. And don’t blow that off – being merely okay defensively is usually good enough in the Big 12.
The defensive front six also has bulk up front, with the stars at linebacker in Al-Rasheed Benton inside and David Long outside. The secondary should be solid with a little bit of work – it’s the team’s most experienced area.
So if Grier really is that good, and if the big line can crank out the yards for Crawford and the rest of the good-looking backs, and if the receivers are going to be fine replacing the lost production, and if the defense should be good enough to get by, and if the kicking game is okay – at least the punting, with Billy Kinney back – then go ahead West Virginia.
Prove there’s staying power. Show that you can not only reload, but improve. No one’s going to pick anyone but Oklahoma or Oklahoma State to win the Big 12.
Reload that musket.