West Virginia Mountaineers
Head Coach: Dana Holgorsen
2016 record: 10-3 overall, 7-2 Big 12
2016 Bowl result: Lost to Miami-(FL) 31-14 in the Russell Athletic Bowl
2017 returning starters: 6 offense, 3 defense
Odds to Win 2018 College Football Championship Game: 500/1
Odds to Win 2017 Big 12 Championship: 33/2
Odds to Reach 2017 Big 12 Championship Game: 9/2
Regular Season Wins: under 7 -120 / over 7 +100
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Last year, West Virginia began the season 6-0 and would only lose two games in the regular season to both Oklahoma teams in the Big 12 in blowout fashion. The Mountaineers would end the season with a disappointing 31-14 loss to former Big East rival Miami-(FL) in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
This could be a rebuilding year for coach Dana Holgorsen and the Mountaineers with only nine returning starters. Still, West Virginia is projected to to be a top 25 team. Here is a look at West Virginia on offense, defense, special teams and a look at the schedule and outlook.
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West Virginia averaged 486 yards per game and 31 points per game last year on offense. They had one of the most balanced attacks in the country averaging 257 passing and 228 rushing yards. Offensive coordinator Joe Wickline is now the offensive line coach and Jake Spavital was brought in as the new coordinator. Only six starters are back.
Quarterback Skyler Howard has graduated. He threw for over 3,300 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and he also rushed for 463 yards and 10 touchdowns. Former Florida quarterback Will Grier was ruled eligible by the NCAA after failing a test for performance enhancing drugs in 2015. At the time the Gators were 6-0 with Grier at the helm. Chris Chugunov is the back-up.
Running back Justin Crawford is back after rushing for 1,184 yards on 163 carries with 4 touchdowns. He also had 14 catches for 68 yards and a touchdowns. Rushel Shell has graduated after he had 113 carries for 514 yards and 5 touchdowns, plus 12 catches for 100 yards. Kennedy McCoy had 73 carries for 472 yards and 4 touchdowns, plus 9 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. He will get most of the back-up carries. Martell Pettway had 49 carries for 260 yards and a touchdown. Fullback Elijah Wellman is most used for blocking but he did have 14 carries last year.
The top two receivers are gone. Shelton Gibson had 43 catches for 951 yards and 8 touchdowns. He is now with the Philadelphia Eagles. Daikel Shorts had 63 catches for 894 yards and 5 touchdowns. He is now with the Buffalo Bills. Ka’Raun White is the top returning receiver with 48 catches for 583 yards and 5 touchdowns. Jovon Durante had 35 catches for 331 yards and 2 touchdowns. He has transferred to Florida Atlantic. Gary Jennings had 10 catches for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns. Junior college transfer Dominique Maiden looks to grab one of the starting spots. Marcus Simms is suspended for the season opener after a DUI arrest.
There are some questions on the offensive line. All-American center Tyler Orlovsky is gone and will be replaced by Matt Jones. Kyle Bosch moves from right guard to left guard. He was All-Big 12 last year. Grant Lingafeller takes over at right guard. Yodny Cajuste is the left tackle but is coming off ACL surgery. Colten McKivitz has star potential at right tackle.
West Virginia allowed 426 yards and 24 points per game. They struggled against the pass but what team in the Big 12 didn’t? Only three starters are back for coordinator Tony Gibson, so it could be a rebuilding year on defense.
Most of the front six must be replaced. Jaleel Fields will start at nose tackle. Sophomores Adam Schuler and Reese Donahue will start at the ends.
Middle linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton had 80 tackles last year and is back. David Long had 63 tackles last year. Xavier Preston will start at the other outside linebacker opposite Long.
Safety Dravon Askew-Henry is back from a torn ACL. Toyous Avery will start at the other safety. Mike Daniels and Elijah Battle will start at the corners. Kyzir White will be the extra corner or Spur as the Mountaineers call it. White had 58 tackles last year including 7 for loss and 3 sacks.
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Kicker Mike Molina made 15/22 field goals last year and is back. Punter Billy Kinney averaged just under 42 yards per punt last year. Look for Gary Jennings to return both kicks and punts.
Schedule and Outlook
West Virginia opens in Landover, Maryland against Virginia Tech. Home games against East Carolina and Delaware State come next. The Mountaineers open Big 12 play at Kansas and at TCU. A home game against Texas Tech is next before before a road game at Baylor. West Virginia hosts Oklahoma State and Iowa State. They travel to Kansas State, host Texas and close the season at Oklahoma.
The offense should be fine, but there are questions on defense. That isn’t a good thing in the offense first Big 12. The schedule is very tough as well. I can’t see more than 8 wins for this teams.
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