College Football Preview: The 2014 West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia Mountaineers 0-0
2014 College Football Preview
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Overview: The West Virginia Mountaineers experienced their worst season under head coach Dana Holgorsen, which was a 4-8 record and no bowl game for the first time since 2001. The Mountaineers lost six of their last seven games and had a scoring defense that ranked 100th in the country. What has to be frustrating to West Virginia fans is that four of those eight losses were decided by 10 or less points. Needless to say, West Virginia fans are expecting a lot more success this time around.
Offense: We’ll chalk last season’s offensive struggles to being a fluke, as West Virginia isn’t going to inept very often Holgorsen, an offensive guru, calling the shots. The Mountaineers have a two-headed monster at running back with Wendell Smallwood and Rushel Shell leading the way. The Mountaineers also return experienced receivers such as Mario Alford, Kevin White and Daikiel Shorts. The main concern for West Virginia is at quarterback, as Clint Trickett didn’t fulfill expectations and proved he’s injury prone, while Skyler Howard hasn’t faced the type of competition he’s going to face in the Big 12. Trickett was named the starter and for good reason, but he has to improve drastically if this offense is going to be nearly as good as West Virginia fans expect.
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Defense: West Virginia’s defense has nowhere to go but up after last season’s performance and it looks like that’s where it’s heading. Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski has the ability to be an all-conference player after leading the Mountaineers in tackles last season. Brandon Golson will have even more chances to build on last year’s four sacks in this 3-4 system under defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. Now that Daryl Worley and Karl Joseph have experience playing together and already showed their potential, West Virginia’s secondary should be head and shoulders better than what it was last season. West Virginia has more than enough talent to be respectable on this side of the ball and give the offense a chance to win some ball games. We couldn’t say the same thing last season, which is why the Mountaineers were sitting at home during bowl season.
Special Teams: Kicker Josh Lambert returns after making 17 of 23 of his field goal attempts. Punter Nick O'Toole returns after averaging a little over 44 yards per punt.
Outlook: I like the Mountaineers to be a heavy sleeper this season, and we’ll find out just how good they can be week one against Alabama. West Virginia is certain to turn things around offensively with the talent in place and the fact the coaching staff is known for producing video game numbers. West Virginia’s talent on defense is what makes my eyebrows peak up. Now I’m not saying this team is winning the Big 12 or anything, but they’ll be a lot better than what many folks are predicting. Look to back the Mountaineers a lot during the season.