2013/11/27 6:13 am
2013/11/13 6:01 pm
[Editor's note- this article was prepared over the course of a few days, and does not contain information with regard to yesterday's dispiriting loss to Virginia Tech. Probably better. Would've made the tone of the piece much darker.]
Man, this year has been depressing.
Between the sudden realization that bowl eligibility might be our new measure of success in football and the basketball team coming off its worst season under Bob Huggins (finishing 13-19), Mountaineer fans are seeing their teams struggle in a manner not seen since the early days of Beilein and Rodriguez.
The disaster that was the 2012-2013 Mountaineer basketball season led to a complete turnover of the roster in the form of a whopping FIVE transfers (Keaton Miles, Aaric Murray, Jabarie Hinds, Aaron Brown, and Volodymyr Gerun) on top of graduating players Matt Humphrey, Dominique Rutledge, and Deniz Kilicli. (Vaya con dios, Turk.)
So with a brand new roster of transfers and freshmen, many fans are worried that this could be another down season with the WVU Basketball team possibly in full-on Rebuild Mode.
I say turn that frown upside down, Mountaineer Nation!
That's right, this is an optimistic preview!
(Well, relatively speaking. If you're expecting the Mountaineers to go to the Final Four, or probably even make the NCAA Tournament, this might be a downer of a season for you.)
While some are worried about the state of the Mountaineer program, there is reason for optimism- just ask Bob Huggins. Huggybear has been positively beaming in preseason interviews, exuding confidence in his young squad at nearly every opportunity. For example, when asked in this CBSsports.com article if he likes the state of the Mountaineers at this point, Huggins thought about it and said, "We're so young, but I think so. I think we're going to be a really good a year from now. Not just good, but really good."
So while a revamped roster might distinctly remind some Mountaineer fans of a particular scene from the movie "Major League" when Indians fans saw a lineup they didn't recognize, that might not be such a bad thing.
Because if we did recognize the same guys from last year on the floor again this year, we would also recognize that the team was going to suck again.
With that in mind, let's get some music to get you in the mood to meet your new West Virginia Mountaineer basketball team!
While newcomers will play a significant role on the team this year, many of the shots and minutes will be occupied by five guys you already know from last year.
The two key contributors and major suppliers of points for the Mountaineer offense will be sophomores Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, who also fall under the classification of "The Only Bright Spots From Last Season At All."
Harris somehow led the team with 9.8 points per game last season as a freshman, which tells you all you need to know about last season. Henderson averaged a point less per game, though he was nearly shooting 40% from 3-point range. Both players will see increased scoring opportunities (read- more shots) on a team that is now going to be far more perimeter-oriented than the recent trend of Deniz Kilicli/Kevin Jones post-scoring Mountaineers.
Bob Huggins sees an opportunity for his young stars to step forward and lead a team with many newcomers, as indicated in this article from the Charleston Daily Mail:
"Those guys went from being very shy, skinny little guys not knowing what to do and kind of being not very assertive to taking a leadership role. We don't have any seniors, and we only have five returning guys, so those five guys kind of have to assume a leadership role for us. It's kind of fun watching those two guys grow into that role, helping the younger guys with the things that I think they struggled with maybe initially a year ago."
Harris is a quick guard with a lightning trigger on long-distance shots, while possessing athleticism not seen in Morgantown since Mike Gansey and his 5 t-shirts under his jersey.
Expect to see a LOT of Eron Harris in this position this year.
Photo by wvusports.com
Henderson is more in the mold of a classic small forward (even though he's listed as a guard), though he's been working to be more than just a long-distance threat, as indicated in this interview with the DA:
“I definitely got bigger and stronger. (I’ve) been working on attacking the basket more, because I know everybody’s going to be playing me for the three-ball. So I’ve been working on that all summer and can’t wait to prove it this year.”
Redshirt junior Juwan Staten returns as the primary ball-handler for the Mountaineers, and for his part, Bob Huggins could not be more pleased with the progress that the second-year transfer has made over the summer. Staten found his way into the legendary Huggins Dog House last season, but the Coach has sung his praises repeatedly during the lead-up to this season, as he did in this article from the DA:
“(Staten’s) been so much better offensively. He’s not hesitating when he’s open; he can step up and make shots,” Huggins said. “He’s doing a better job at the perimeter. I think he’s dramatically improved.”
Staten has also been praised for his leadership with the younger players on this year's team. Many Mountaineer fans remember Staten being benched last season for a few games and came to partially blame him for some of the chaos that existed on the team, but Huggins has indicated that Staten came to own his responsibility for knowing the system and his role in it, and Staten himself has acknowledged that there was improvement to be made, as evidenced by this article in the Charleston Gazette:
"My whole life I've been kind of recognized as a leader. So for our coaches to say that last year we didn't have any leadership really struck home for me. I did some stuff, some evaluation, in the offseason. I looked at a lot of game film and a lot of tape and thought about some things I could do this year to help this team and to separate myself as a leader.''
Redshirt junior forward Kevin Noreen won't be featured on many Sportscenter highlight reels for the Mountaineers this season (unless he's getting dunked on by Andrew Wiggins or something), but he returns as a tough-minded, smart cog in Coach Huggins' scheme, responsible for screens, rebounding, and a general ability to be in the right place All The Time.
Noreen's most important job might be as a leader of all the young talent filing into Morgantown in the front court for the Mountaineers. As the only front court player with any collegiate experience, it will be on Noreen to guide young players like Devin Williams, Nathan Adrian, and others on their roles and responsibilities in the Huggins system.
When I read that Bob Huggins told reporters that junior guard Gary Browne was the best shooter on the team this year, my initial reaction was "Oh, sweet Jesus, we're going to suck again this year." But apparently, Browne's status as a shooter is more of an indication of his own hard work and improvement as a shooter than it is of the talent level of other shooters around him.
Or at least let's hope so.
In the meantime, Browne will provide solid guard play off the bench, providing some experience in a backcourt that is in desperate need of it. His shooting was always his achilles heel, as he has always been a solid defender and passer, so if he's improved in that regard, Browne should be a nice weapon for the Mountaineers.
THE FRESH FACES
The fortunes of the Mountaineers this season will probably rise or fall based on exactly two variables:
1) Are the new guys any good, and if not,
2) How much can they learn over the course of the season to get there?
Let's go in order of the most likely to the least likely to contribute:
A highly-touted recruit out of Cincinnati, Ohio, Williams is a 6'9" forward who was ranked 42nd in the ESPN 100 top recruits in the nation, turning down offers from Memphis and Ohio State to play for Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers.
Williams is a fierce rebounder (sorely missing in Morgantown last season after the departure of rebound-machine Kevin Jones) and has some scoring ability in the post as well, and he isn't lacking in confidence, either, as noted by this quote from this article in the Exponent Telegram:
“I know there’s not a player in the country that can guard me one-on-one down there as far as what I can do."
As this article from the Charleston Daily Mail notes, Williams' look is fairly distinctive on the court for his goggles, required because of severe near-sightedness. Don't let the Steve Urkle look fool you though, (not that it really would on a 6'9'' 255 pound dude anyway) Devin Williams has a mean streak in the post.
Post scoring? Rebounding? Exxxxcellent...
Another freshman forward will be a key contributor for the Mountaineers, albeit in a totally different facet of the game from Devin Williams. Nathan Adrian has been on the radar of the Mountaineers for some time as a native of Morgantown and graduate of Morgantown High School, and will space the floor for WVU with his 6'9'' frame and his ability to shoot from the outside.
As a native West Virginian, Adrian knows what the play of the Mountaineers means to Morgantown and to West Virginia as a whole:
"I do know how important it is because I've been a fan my whole life," says Adrian in this wvllustrated.com article. "They've gone through their ups and downs and the whole town is just more fun when the teams are winning. Hopefully we can get back to that."
Adrian's ability to stroke the 3-ball will be a welcome sight to Mountaineer fans who had increasingly grown to dread the sound of rims clanging in a continuing series of poor-shooting over the past few seasons. He's also the leading candidate for New Player Most Likely To Be Everyone That Pines For The Beilein Years' Favorite Player Award.
Dibo is a sweet-shooting, 6'7'' junior transfer forward out of France by way of Mountain State Academy in Beckley that reminds me more than a little bit of his countryman, Boris Diaw in his style of play.
He can put it on the floor, he can shoot from outside, and he can bang in the post- not bad for a guy that came to basketball relatively late in life before some small-school experience at Mountain State and Casper State before that. Bob Huggins saw in him an ability to shoot and guard- two abilities that will ensure that he sees some playing time in gold and blue this year. (It's worth noting here that Dibo was the star of game for the Mountaineers in the disheartening loss to Virginia Tech yesterday, scoring 17 points on 50% shooting from the floor.)
Watching this 6'9'' (7 feet even with the hair) freshman on the floor for the Mountaineers so far this season has allowed my little heart to pitter patter, dreaming of days to come of someone on the team that can ACTUALLY BLOCK SHOTS. The Mountaineers haven't had anyone with the ability to send a shot from whence it came of Watkins' ability since D'Or Fisher (with apologies to Sir Wellington Smith.)
Watkins is an athletic big that can disrupt and re-direct shots in the paint, while also possessing more touch than you would think a shot blocker of his caliber would have. He drew interest from major programs like Kansas, Florida, and Clemson before signing with the Mountaineers.
While he's definitely a project that could stand to add some bulk to his 235 pounds (and will definitely add that bulk if he follows the same training regimen as other Mountaineers in Bob Huggins program before him), Watkins will play and contribute immediately, particularly in games against teams with larger front courts. (So far his major adjustment will be to collegiate officiating, as he's been in foul trouble relatively quickly in every game so far this season.)
GET THAT S*** OUT!
Another freshman, Connor is a 6'1'' guard out of Shady Spring, West Virginia that turned down a scholarship offer to Radford to be a preferred walk-on at WVU- volunteering for a reserve role he hopes will turn into soemething bigger down the road, as illustrated in this interesting article from the Register Herald.
Connor can shoot from the outside and pass as well, but his time on the floor is probably going to be limited as he learns the collegiate game, builds strength, and learns to play defense at this level.
THE FRESH FACES THAT PROBABLY WON'T PLAY
Elijah Macon and Jonathan Holton are two highly-touted players eagerly awaiting their opportunity to suit up for the Mountaineers, though both have encountered eligibility problems with the NCAA. Macon is in eligibility purgatory at the moment, falling victim to something known as "partial eligibility."
WVU fans have been waiting for Elijah Macon for a while, one of Bob Huggins' highest-ranked recruits since he's been at WVU. He's had problems qualifying academically, a member of the 2012 class who sat out a year at a prep school. He isn't even practicing with the team at the moment (he also had some injury concerns), and isn't expected to see any time this season, with the hope that the rigorous courseload at WVU isn't too much for him to qualify next season. (Only a moderate degree of sarcasm there.)
Junior college transfer Jonathan Holton was also considered a prized recruit and has been practicing with the team, but, similar to Macon, his own eligibility concerns make it likely that he'll have to redshirt this season, leaving the Mountaineers thinner in the front court than Bob Huggins expected to be this season.
(Translation- you know these new, ridiculous, ticky-tack rules that are leading to 30 fouls per half per team? That's not going to help us in the post.)
Tyrone Hughes and Greenbrier East High School graduate Richard Romeo are two walk-ons that probably won't see a meaningful minute this season, but more power to them for being Mountaineers. It's better than being something else.
Long-time readers at the Couch know what a special thing these season predictions have been in the past. (If not, just search "Season Prediction" in this article from 2 seasons ago. Finished reading yet? I've been pretty effing good at this, right?)
Last year, out of pure laziness, I neglected to post a season prediction and preview for the Mountaineers for the first time since 2004. (Seriously. We've been around for a while.)
That laziness turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because I would have predicted last year's team to go to the NCAA Tournament with about 10 more wins than they actually finished with. And why not? Bob Huggins had never failed to get the Mountaineers to the Tournament, no matter the roster or the doom and gloom predicted by many Mountaineer fans.
Unfortunately, last year had too much infighting, too many guys trying to get theirs, too much selfishness for Bob Huggins or any other coach to turn around. Some blamed it on being in the Big 12 for the first year, but if you think that was harder competition than the Big East pre-2012, you are probably too stupid to have made it this far in an article with words. Did you get here by accident? Go play with your sticks in the yard.
As of this writing, the Mountaineers are 1-1 with a win over a frisky Mount St. Mary's and a road loss to a Virginia Tech team that might not make the NIT this year, despite a 17 point Mountaineer lead in the first half.
And I don't care one bit about that loss.
This Mountaineer team is actually going to be fun to watch, folks. The shooting is already 4 times better than it was last season with legitimate outside threats like Adrian, Henderson, Harris, and Dibo. Interior defense and rebounding are far more intimidating with Devin Williams and Brandon Watkins than they ever were with Aaric Murray spending his time shooting 3's and the Turk in the post.
It is a VERY young team, so I tend to agree with Bob Huggins' assessment in his recent press conference that the team will be better this year, but REALLY good next year.
They will still have problems with rotation on defense, dumb fouls, errant passes, and all the other hallmarks of inexperienced teams. But at least we can watch them grow this season, giving us more passion and skill than we saw in last year's borderline unwatchable group of me-first Mountaineers.
I wouldn't be shocked to see this team make the NCAA Tournament, but I think predicting that might be expecting a bit too much out of this talented, but extremely young group of players. In the end, I think they start slow, but gradually get with the program as the season progresses.
OFFICIAL WMITC PREDICTION:
NIT Appearance, 17-13 record
Enjoy the season, folks. It should be a lot more fun than last season.
And hopefully when we get to the end of the season, we won't have to think about the other reference from "Major League" that might apply:
2013/09/09 4:48 am
**YOU HAVE ENTERED JUDE'S LIVING ROOM CHAT**
Jude: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Jude: ARE YOU ****ING KIDDING ME?
Jude: WE ARE OUT OF TIMEOUTS WITH A WHOLE QUARTER LEFT TO PLAY IN THE HALF... FOR THE SECOND TIME TONIGHT?!?!
Dolla_Dolla_Bill: I'm waiting.
Jude: Woah. What in the hell are you doing here, Coach Stewart?
Dolla_Dolla_Bill: I'm just wondering when it's going to start.
Jude: When what is going to start?
Dolla_Dolla_Bill: Well, I seem to recall that quite a few Mountaineer fans got their jollies from criticizin' me for my timeout use and game-management skills.
Dolla_Dolla_Bill: And if I'm not mistaken, your website ran a big 'ole article called Preposterous Punts and Clock (Mis)Management which basically said that I knew about as much about callin' timeouts as I did about flyin' a rocketship to the moon.
Jude: You're right.
Dolla_Dolla_Bill: So I'm just wonderin... When's the criticism of THIS coach gonna start for the same damn things you said I did so poorly?
Jude: I'm thinking right now.
Dolla_Dolla_Bill: You're darn tootin.
Dolla_Dolla_Bill: Oh, and by the way... at least I didn't have anyone on my staff that embarrassed the school OFF the field, either.
**YOU HAVE ENTERED THE WVU LIBRARY CHAT**
cantseeDeForestfromthetrees: /furiously burns all copies of this week's Sports Illustrated
2013/09/02 12:41 pm
2013/08/30 6:11 pm
Click here for Part I of the 2013 WVU Football Season Preview- Offense.
[NOTE- If you want to just skip to the season prediction, just skim down to the bottom of this page. Really, it won't hurt my feelings.]
The juices are flowing. I'm back in the game, now. Nothing can slow me down! My enthusiasm for expounding on Mountaineer football cannot be dampened!
What's that? It's time to cover the defense?
Ok, well, maybe it's not that bad...
Last year's defense was, without question, the worst defense in the history of organized football. I would back that hyperbolic statement up with statistics, but I'm afraid I might put the Mountaineer's musket in my mouth if I think about last year's defense for 5 more seconds.
During the course of the offseason, I've seen at least 10 different articles from various folks covering WVU describing a "much-improved defense" or an "improving secondary" or whatever. My response has been the same every single time:
It would be impossible NOT to improve on last year's defense.
"NO, I DO NOT ACCEPT THE MOUNTAINEER DEFENSE CHALLENGE, BECAUSE THE MOUNTAINEERS' DEFENSE IS NO CHALLENGE."
- Clubber Lang, summing up the 2012 WVU defensive unit.
(2-for-2 with Rocky references in these preview articles. Maybe I am really getting back in form.)
First-year Mountaineer defensive coordinator Keith Patterson takes over the D this year, while last year's coordinator Joe DeForest
Patterson ran well-respected defenses at Tulane and (Eat Shit) Pitt before taking over as linebackers coach at WVU last year. The Mountaineer faithful are hoping that the D won't be such a liability with the reigns in Patterson's hands, and Patterson seems to think that we'll be satisfied with what we see.
“No. 1, we are going to be disciplined. We’re going to be a sound, fundamental football team,” Patterson said in this wvusports.com article. “I know that sounds like coach-speak but when they watch us they see us line up – just getting in our stances and getting lined up – they are going to see a disciplined, sound, fundamental football team.
“The other thing you are going to see are kids playing with relentless effort,” he continued in that same article. “We ask our kids for a five-second blowout on every play. If we do that, and we’re getting them to buy into it, the more people we get running through the whistle the more opportunities you’re going to have to make tackles for losses, three-and-outs and turnovers.”
Coach Patterson is certainly saying all the right things to make me think there might be improvement for a defensive unit that looked more clueless than Ralph Friedgen looking at a salad.
- Defensive line
The defensive line will return seniors Will Clarke and Shaq Rowell, so there is hope that another year of experience and training will shore up the defensive line. Clarke looks like an absolute beast on the end, while Rowell uses all of his 6'1'', 305 pounds to clog the middle in the Mountaineers' 3-4 scheme.
"Will and Shaq are two seniors that we are going to lean on from a leadership standpoint to do a lot of things for us," Holgorsen said in this News and Sentinel article. "They are having great off-seasons and are working hard, and their attitudes are great."
Will Clarke is coming to eat your quarterback. On a side note, since Florence got the pass off, I'm assuming the result of the play was a touchdown.
Sophomore Eric Kinsey will get the start at the other defensive end spot. Kinsey saw some playing time last year, but his improvement in the offseason caught the eye of defensive line coach Erik Slaughter.
“I think (Kinsey) is coming out of his shell a little bit with confidence and starting to believe in himself,” said Slaughter in this wvmetronews.com article. “You’re seeing a guy with a lot of talent growing up and having confidence in that talent.
“I trust him.”
That article notes that Kinsey has added 30 pounds in the time between when he was a high school senior and the start of his sophomore year.
I can empathize.
Coach Slaughter spoke of the need for multiple contributors on the defensive line other than just the starters in this News and Sentinel article:
"If you can help us win, I am going to play you," added Slaughter. "If you can't, then I won't. In the Big 12, because of the tempo, you better have more than three or four guys or you will be in a lot of trouble."
To that end, Kinsey will be backed up by highly-touted junior college transfer Dontrill Hyman, but Hyman will certainly see enough downs in a rotation to where you might as well consider him a co-starter as well.
Redshirt sophomore Kyle Rose, sophomore 6'3'' 308-pound nose tackle Christian Brown, and redshirt freshman Noble Nwachukwu all look to see time on the line in spurts this season. Rose, Nwachukwu, and Kinsey can all play all 3 positions on the line, while Brown was drawing high praise in the offseason for his raw ability, which admittedly still needed refining.
Sophomore Isaiah Bruuuuuuuuuuuce (Spur), junior Jared Barber (Sam), sophomore Nick Kwiatkosi (Will) and junior college transfer Brandon Golson (Buck) make up the starting linebacking corps in WVU's 3-4 defense for tomorrow's opener.
Bruce, along with providing WVU fans the ability to chant his name for another 3 years, takes over the spur spot after playing inside linebacker last year as one of the few bright spots for an otherwise dismal defense. (He earned honorable mention All-Big XII honors- not bad for a freshman on a swiss cheese defense.)
For his part, he enjoys being able to rush the passer more than he could in the middle.
“I like it,” he said in this article from the Exponent Telegram. “I get to rush a little bit more. I haven’t rushed off the edge since 10th grade. It is a little bit more fun right now, even if we are in camp.”
Jared Barber looks to expand on his experience from a year ago as the strong-side linebacker, while senior Doug Rigg has no qualms about what his role will be in the middle:
"My role really doesn't change,'' Rigg said in this article from the Charleston Gazette. "I'm the run-stopper guy.''
Doug Rigg action shot.
Brandon Golson is a promising prospect at the weak side linebacking spot after transferring from junior college Georgia Military College. Golson was a 4-star prospect out of high school and ranked 15th-best outside linebacker in the nation, so he's obviously talented. Some off-field trouble concerned some Mountaineer fans before he ever arrived in Morgantown, but he appears to have put that behind him.
As with seemingly every other unit for the Mountaineers this season, expect to see plenty of linebackers on the field that may not necessarily be starting the game.
Junior Jared Butler is technically regarded as a co-starter along with Doug Rigg at the Sam spot according to Coach Holgorsen. While it might seem like a bit of an indignity to one of the few seniors on the Mountaineer defense, Rigg is excited that there's more depth among the linebackers than there was last year.
“Coach Patterson said he wants two players deep at every (linebacker) spot,” Rigg said in this article from the DA. “That’s because of the plays we play and how hard we run them.
“Having a two-deep (defense) and routine breaks is going to help everybody. Some of those games last year, I thought I was going to die after.”
(You and me both, Doug.)
Promising veteran Shaq Petteway was lost for the season during fall workouts, but WVU still has a load of talent behind him with Nick Kwiatkoski, Dozie Ezemma, and converted safety Wes "Honky" Tonkery (thank you, Chris Berman) all looking to see some time at some point during games.
At least we know it can't get worse.
Last year's WVU secondary got torched so often that elite firefighting squads were called in from the midwest to douse the flames.
They got lit up like a giant Christmas tree.
They were burned so frequently that many of the players had language in their wills as to the appropriate disposal of their ashes.
In other words, they sucked. (See, this is why you come here. For this keen insight.)
But the offseason brings with it a sense of optimism, and so it is that there are rumblings that our secondary this year should be vastly improved. And while no one is expecting an Alabama or LSU-like effort from the defensive backs any time soon, just being able to keep the other team in front of them for most of the game would be a welcome improvement.
To that end, cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell comes in this year replacing Daron Roberts. One thing Mitchell wanted from his cornerbacks was some size.
"You're trying to minimize the distance between you and the next offender," Mitchell said in this article from the Daily Mail. "The taller, longer, rangier kids who have the same skill set as the smaller kids, which is great athletic ability, good lateral quickness, good top-end speed, why not have them at cornerback?"
Juniors Travis Bell and Ishmael Banks get the start at the two corner spots. Both are over 6 feet tall, filling Mitchell's desire for size. Bell is a converted safety who showed signs of life when given an opportunity at the corner position in the offseason, while Banks returns after getting some time at corner for WVU last season.
Bell received high-praise from fifth-year senior corner Broderick Jenkins, still recovering from a sore knee that required surgery last year:
“Aw, man, Travis is probably one of the perfect fits for it,” Jenkins said in this wvmetronews.com article. “Nice physical guy who can run. I see what they wanted in him to bring him over from safety. And having the knowledge of playing safety gives him a good edge.”
The star of the defense (and perhaps of the entire team) is sophomore Karl Joseph at free safety. Not many true sophomores have their jerseys selling in stores, but Joseph led the team in tackles last season and had a number of eye-popping hits that brought Mountaineer fans out of their seats.
(Expect to see a TON of #8 jerseys around Mountaineer Field this year, as the other main jersey sold by Nike in stores this offseason was Andrew Buie's #13. Not since my purchase of Pernell Williams' #30 jersey in 2005 have Mountaineer fans felt so foolish for dropping premium coin on a non-contributing player's jersey.)
This highlight reel should not be possible for a true freshman.
Senior and noted Orange Bowl mascot hater Darwin Cook gets the start again at bandit safety. Cook is the most experience player in the Mountaineer secondary, and will be leaned on to make sure that the d-backs and safeties are correctly aligned to face the quick-paced Big XII offensive attacks every week.
True freshman Daryl Worley will back up Banks as a corner, and like Travis Bell, Worley, at 6'2'', is a tall d-back that wasn't recruited as a cornerback either, playing linebacker and safety in high school. Brodrick Jenkins has been nursing a sore knee that required surgery last season, but it's doubtful he'll be available to contribute early. The Mountaineers are somewhat thin at cornerback depth, but have high hopes for the guys that will actually see the field.
Sophomore safety K.J. Dillon may see some time as a nickel back or backing up Cook, while freshman Jeremy Tyler has been providing a number of impressive moments during the offseason that make him an apt backup for Karl Joseph.
All jokes aside, it is very reasonable to expect improved play from the Mountaineer defense this year. Last year's unit was a dangerous mixture of inexperience, lack of talent, and lack of depth. All three of those areas are improved this year, so one can HOPE that the unit trotting on the field when the WVU offense gives up the ball can at least offer a reasonable resistance to opposing offenses.
In my experience as a Mountaineer fan, it seems like the team is never as good as our fans believe it is when we're good, and it's never as bad as our fans believe it is when we're bad.
Following the Texas game last year, WVU fans legitimately believed that the Mountaineers were going to the championship game, no matter what their eyes should have told them about the porous defense.
We've always got some serious homers with this program.
Now this year, it's all I can do to even discuss WVU with Mountaineer fans without a palpable sense of almost disgust coming over them.
"We're going to be terrible."
"I don't know what the hell they're doing out there."
I don't know why we have to go to such extremes.
All in all, the degree to which the Mountaineer defense improves should offset the amount that the Mountaineer offense will decline this season. And even that decline might not be as steep as many are predicting.
Find me a season where Dana Holgorsen's offense didn't do it's thang, regardless of who he plugs in at quarterback or receiver. And keep in mind the high praise of running back Charles Sims, who might realistically be playing in the NFL next year and who is easily the best running back Holgorsen has ever had at WVU.
We're never as good as everyone thinks we are when we're good. And we're never as bad as everyone thinks we are when we're bad.
I think it's very reasonable to suggest that this team can at least equal their record of 7-6 from last year, and I will predict that the team finishes 9-4, winning their lower-tier bowl game and winning the respect that they seem to have lost from many of the Mountaineer faithful.
See, that wasn't so hard, now was it?