College Football Preview: The 2015 West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia Mountaineers Preview
2014 Record: 7-6 (58th of 128) Lost Liberty Bowl 45-37 vs. Texas A&M
Odds to Win National Championship: +20000 See the Latest Odds
Overview: The West Virginia Mountaineers started off hot but fell apart towards the end of the season, finishing 7-6. West Virginia has reached a bowl game in three of Dana Holgorsen’s four seasons but would love to take that next step after setting the bar high with 10 wins his first year. Either way, WVU looks for its 13th winning season in the last 14 years.
Offense: West Virginia’s offense will look a little different without Clint Trickett, Kevin White and Mario Alford on the field. WVU’s new quarterback will likely be Skyler Howard, who completed 50.9 percent of his passes for eight touchdowns and zero picks in limited time in replacing an injured Trickett. West Virginia has something going in the backfield with Wendell Smallwood and a healthy Rushel Shell, a duo that combined for 1,500 rushing yards despite Shell missing time with injuries. Despite losing its top-two receivers, Jordan Thompson has combined for 71 receptions his last two seasons and Daikiel Shorts has been a consistent target his first two seasons. Although there’s new faces, Holgorsen is an offensive coach who will find ways to make things work on this side of the ball.
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Defense: West Virginia finished 68th in total defense and didn’t make enough plays to make up for the amount of yards allowed. Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson is feeling the pressure and is challenging his kids this season. The good news is that West Virginia has one of the top linebackers in the country in Nick Kwiatkoski who returned for his senior season. Karl Joseph is a hard hitting safety while Daryl Worley and KJ Dillon is a duo that combined for six interceptions. Noble Nwachukwu could have a breakout season on the defensive line and hopefully Kyle Rose’s off-the-field issues are resolved. West Virginia should have one of the better secondary’s in the Big 12 and is led by one of the top linebackers in all of college football. WVU should be a lot better on this side of the ball.
Special Teams: Josh Lambert returns at kicker after making 76.9 percent of 39 field goal attempts. Nick O'Toole returns at punter after averaging 41.8 yards on 57 punts.
Overall: West Virginia should have a more consistent season than last year but simply lost too much talent to be considered a real threat to the rest of the conference. Still, WVU shouldn’t be slept on and is still good for an upset or two. The Mountaineers won’t go down quietly and should make a bowl game for the 14th time since 2000.