Summer Opponent Preview: West Virginia – The Preview

Quick Facts on West Virginia

Last Year’s Record: 7-6
Location: Morgantown, West Virginia
Coach: Dana Holgorsen
Returning Offensive Starters: TE Cody Clay, QB Skyler Howard, OL Marquis Lucas, OL Tony Matteo, WR KJ Myers, OL Tyler Orlosky, OL Adam Pankey, RB Rushel Shell, WR Daikiel Shorts, RB Wendell Smallwood, WR Jordan Thompson
Returning Defensive Starters: LB Jared Barber, DL Christian Brown, LB Isaiah Bruce, CB Terrell Chestnut, S KJ Dillon, S Dravon Henry, S Karl Joseph, DL Eric Kinsey, LB Nick Kwiatkoski, CB Nana Kyeremeh, LB Edward Muldrow, DL Noble Nwachukwu, LB Shaq Petteway, DL Kyle Rose, S Jeremy Tyler, CB Daryl Worley

Three Stars

  1. RB Rushel Shell (5-10/221): I don’t think it is a surprise to think that the running game will largely carry this team and deservedly so. I tend to think that West Virginia is trending towards a more running offense and although Howard has been okay, the strongest part of the offense is the running game and that starts with Shell.
  2. LB Nick Kwiatkowski (6-2/235): Kwiatkowski is very athletic and can cover very well. He had 103 tackles and 11.5 tackles for a loss last year, which was nearly 20 tackles more than last year. The strength of the defense is the secondary, but Kwiatkowski is really good as well as fellow linebacker Shaquille Petteway.
  3. S KJ Dillon (6-1/203):  I tend to think that Karl Joseph is the more well-known name, but I do like Dillon a bit more. He is more productive, registering 62 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, 10 pass break-ups, which includes 3 interceptions.

Five Things

  1. Probably Going to be Skyler: Howard replaced Trickett late in the year and he performed okay. Howard completed 65% of his passes against Kansas State, threw for 200 yards and threw 2 touchdowns and no picks. WVU only lost by 6, so he did not play terribly. Howard had a pretty good game against Iowa State, completing only 50% of his passes for 285 yards (pretty good there) and threw 3 touchdowns and no picks. Howard’s worst game was against Texas A&M where he only completed 44% of his passes, but threw for 346 yards and 3 touchdowns. There’s nothing terrible here, but nothing explosive. I’d also add that Howard can run. He doesn’t always run, but he can run, rushing for 69 yards on 7 carries against Iowa State is pretty good, so he’s got some legs. How goes the quarterback is how goes West Virginia. Trickett was pretty good last year and it wasn’t good enough. Looking back, WVU was 12th in total offense and 43rd in rushing offense and 9th in passing offense. There’s a pretty good chance that WVU is significantly better running the ball next year because of the depth and because of Howard’s legs.
  2. Pretty Terrific Defense: Lots of folks think that WVU is going to be pretty good based on the fact that the defense was pretty good last year. The Mountaineers were 66th in total defense and 63rd in rushing defense while being the 71st best passing defense in the nation. That’s pretty good for the Big 12 and I think we’d all love to have a defense that was 66th overall in total yards. I was (and probably still am) confused about the role of Tom Bradley. He was the defensive line coach and associate head coach, but not the defensive coordinator. I do think he was pretty instrumental in the defense and Bradley left for UCLA this offseason, but WVU does return, who was the defensive coordinator last year. I think that’s pretty much it. WVU did have problems on the defensive line as they weren’t great at getting to the quarterback.
  3. Building Momentum: WVU went 4-8 (sound familiar?) and then came back last year with a 7-6 record, losing the bowl game to TAMU, but having a pretty good year all things considered. Holgorsen has two 7-6 records and the aforementioned 4-8 record, things seem to be trending up. I’ll fully admit that I feel like I have a difficult handle on West Virginia. It’s not that they’re an after-thought, especially after last year’s last second loss for Texas Tech, but this is the first year that I’ve felt a little separated from the Mountaineers, which is odd. I’ve never felt this way and I’ve always enjoyed writing about WVU and looking at their roster and what Holgorsen is trying to do, but this year, I haven’t felt as motivated. Maybe it is because WVU doesn’t have that offensive start like they have had in the past or a quarterback with beautiful hair like Clint Trickett, but I’ve been off.
  4. Recruiting Well, to Quite Well: Believe it or not, West Virginia recruits really well, and the interesting thing is that they really don’t have to compete with anyone from the Big 12, which is great for WVU. Essentially, WVU recruits West Virginia, Florida, Maryland, New York, Ohio and Florida. And believe it or not, Florida is really great for them, which I don’t understand, but it’s true. And don’t think that WVU doesn’t recruit very well, because they do. They essentially recruit similarly to Texas Tech, they have four 4-star from last year’s class and a slew of 3-star players. the jewel of their class is maybe Javon Durante, from Miami, a 4-star player, and another guy that just became eligible, Rasul Douglas, a 6-3/200 safety sort of player from Nassau C.C. in New York. And Ka’Raun White is Kevin White’s little brother.
  5. Back to the 3-3-5: West Virginia just released their most recent depth chart and they are back to the 3-3-5, with K.J. Dillon at a linebacker / safety spot, where I think he’s going to be great in open space and just a bunch of players that cover a lot of ground. The frontline is pretty big, probably averaging near 300 pounds, while the linebackers are essentially in the 220 or so range and a secondary that looks to be terrific.

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