2014 West Virginia Mountaineers Team Preview
West Virginia Mountaineers
Head Coach: Dana Holgorsen
2013 record: 4-8 overall, 2-7 Big 12
2013 Bowl result: None
2014 returning starters: 6 offense, 7 defense
Odds to win 2015 College Football Championship game: 300/1
Odds to win 2014 Big 12 title: 66/1
Regular season wins: under 4.5 -125 / over 4.5 -105
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It hasn’t been a very smooth transition so far for the West Virginia Mountaineers in their two years in the Big 12 after many years in the Big East. Last year, the Mountaineers had a forgettable 4-8 season. The lone highlight was a 30-21 upset at home over Oklahoma State.
Now, the Mountaineers return 13 starters. There has to be some improvement or coach Dana Holgorsen could be out of a job. Although the West Virginia Athletic director has given Holgorsen a vote of confidence regardless of what the Mountaineers do this season.
Last season, the West Virginia offense averaged 411 yards and 26.3 points per game. That might work in some conferences, but not in the Big 12 where most teams routinely average over 30 points a game. The big problems were on third downs and in the red zone, where the Mountaineers ranked near the bottom nationally in both categories.
Former Florida State quarterback was named the starter for West Virginia. He was instrumental in the upset win over Oklahoma State, but injured his shoulder in that game and struggled for the rest of the season. He missed spring practice with the injury but has been cleared for fall camp. If Trickett isn’t healthy, then JUCO transfer Skyler Howard or four star recruit William Crest could step in. Trickett completed 52.8% of his passes for 1,605 yards with 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He split the snaps with Paul Millard and Ford Childress last season. Millard is still with the program and threw for 1,119 yards with 6 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.
The Mountaineers must replace leading rusher Charles Sims who is now with Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Still, West Virginia returns talented running backs Dreamius Smith (103 carries, 494 yards and 5 touchdowns) and Wendell Smallwood (39 carries, 221 yards, and a touchdown, along with 11 catches.) Smallwood’s status is up in the air after an arrest for witness intimidation. Pitt transfer Rushel Shell will also get a lot of carries.
The top four receivers are back for the Mountaineers. Mario Alford had 27 catches, 552 yards and 2 touchdowns. Kevin White had 35 catches, 507 yards and 5 touchdowns. Daikel Shorts had 45 catches, 495 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ronald Carswell had 20 catches, 413 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Guards Quinton Spain and Mark Glowinski anchor the offensive line.
West Virginia was terrible on defense in 2013 allowing 473 yards and 33 points per game last season. Seven starters return from that unit, but they must play much better or this will be another long season in Morgantown. New defensive coordinator Tony Gibson installed a 3-4 system.
The defensive line has a solid six man rotation led by sophomore Christian Brown who can play on both the inside or outside.
Linebacker Brandon Golson will be a star and can also play at defensive end if needed.
The biggest improvement might be in the secondary where West Virginia added a lot of athleticism. Cornerback Daryl Worley and safety Karl Joseph will anchor the secondary alongside a deep group of newcomers.
Kicker Josh Lambert made 17 of 23 field goals last season, and looked very good in spring practice. Punter Nick O’Toole also returns after averaging 44 yards per punt last season. Alford will handle kick and punt returns. West Virginia must improve their kick coverage as they were among the worst in the country last year.
West Virginia opens with a brutal stretch that includes Alabama in Atlanta, at Maryland and home against Oklahoma. Even a home game against Towson is no picnic as the Tigers were the FCS runner-ups last season. The Mountaineers have other home conference games against Kansas, Baylor, TCU, and Kansas State. WVU travels to Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Texas and Iowa State. I don’t see more than 5 wins for this team, especially with such a difficult schedule.
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