WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS
Head Coach: Neal Brown (first year; 35-18 in 4 years at Troy)
Last Year: 8-4
New coach, new expectations. Is that good for West Virginia in 2019? Are the natives going to be restless? Will the wins come? Time will tell. With the exception of Oklahoma and Texas, the Big Twelve looks to be wide open and West Virginia could surprise and make it a better season thans some (like me) predict. Even with such a dismal prediction for this group in Morgantown, this Mountaineer might hunt when all is said and done.
Coming over from Troy, Neal Brown is a proven winning head coach. After a slow first year at the Alabama school, Brown quickly turned Troy into a very good mid-major, getting the Trojans to three ten wins seasons and upsets over LSU in 2017 and Nebraska in 2018. A close six point loss in 2016 to Clemson might have been the most significant loss in Troy history, playing the Tigers even for most of that game. Brown will fit in well and his teams will not shy away from the top teams of the league. He knows how to get a team ready. Give him a few seasons and West Virginia should be a much better winner with him than former head man Dana Holgorsen. Expectations will be high for him and this program. My feeling is that WV has made a great hire.
Offense: The offensive line and the quarterbacking are concerns. Two starters are back on the line but depth is not good. Injuries could put this group at the bottom of the league. Austin Kendall (Oklahoma) and Jack Allison (Miami Fla) have not impressed enough to be named the starter at quarterback as of the beginning of fall camp and that issue might not be resolved until the first game. The pass catchers and running back are good and the depth is excellent. The names are not important but the quality will allow all to play and show what they have. Again, it boils down to the o-line and what can they do for them in the run game and pass protection. This West Virginia team. losing their top five offensive players last year will not be as good and the shootouts of the past will expose them in loses. Grade: C
Defense: West Virginia will go only as far as the defense allows it to go. There are some nice stoppers here and progress has been made over the past couple of years. Hopefully the new defensive coaching staff can continue to improve this group and there is no reason for it not to. Vandarias Cowan (Alabama) transfers to Morgantown and will be one of the better linebackers in the Big Twelve. He is a special player and will made the linebacking group (along with returner JoVanni Stewart) a hard hitting and good, both up the middle on runs and covering the ends. Kenny Robinson Jr. (All Big Twelve) returns with all the other starters from last year in the secondary and the defensive line will also be good, even with a couple of graduations. The defensive is up to snuff and will be one of the better in the league. Do not sell this group short and even with a lower expectation, West Virginia will impress on this side of the ball. Grade: B
Special Teams: Brown will make sure that the kicking game will be good. It was one of the best at Troy. The return game and a better punter are pluses. Grade: B
Games that West Virginia will win: James Madison (H); Kansas (A)
Games that West Virginia will lose: Texas (H); Oklahoma (A)
Games that West Virginia could win- Pick’em: North Carolina State (H); Texas Tech (H); Kansas State (A)
Games that West Virginia will be a dog but could win: Missouri (A); Iowa State (H); Baylor (A); Oklahoma State (H); TCU (A)
Prediction: 5-7 and 3-6 in Big Twelve play