Mountaineers: ‘Three’ is a significant number this season
This will be West Virginia’s third season in the Big 12 Conference. Third season and third time the pundits have seen the Mountaineers as only a small problem for the Texas Christian’s, Baylor’s and Oklahoma’s of the conference world.
After being able to dog the heels of the conference’s best with receivers Kevin White and Mario Alford, it’s going to be a season with three mostly unknown and untested starters at the pass-catching positions. Daikiel Shorts, Shelton Gibson and Jovon Durante have yet to prove themselves as worthy of much attention from opponents.
The elite of the league like to throw the football from fast-paced spread offenses. But even those teams have to find a few yards along the ground in order to continuously score.
West Virginia employs a three-man defensive front.
If Christian Brown, Kyle Rose and Noble Nwachukwa can’t maintain some control over what is coming at them, then the Mountaineers are going to be relegated to the mid-pack position in the standings where most predictions find them before any games are ever played.
The first opponent is Georgia Southern, a team bent on running its option offense that now features backs that totaled about 3,000 yards along the ground last season.
The Eagles were the Sun Belt champions in 2014. But they were ineligible for any bowl game.
With Skyler Howard, he being a two-game starter at the tailend of last season, guiding the Mountaineer fortunes to begin with, Coach Dana Holgorsen just might look at tight end Cody Clay and his five interior linemen — Marquis Lucas, Kyle Bosch, Tyler Orlosky, Adam Pankey and Yodny Cajuste — and say to himself, “Let’s see if we can outrush this team. We are going to need a reliable ground offense in conference games. Let’s take it to Georgia Southern.”
There seem to be even battles at a number of positions all over the map in the Mountaineer camp. That could mean the inevitable injuries that come in modern-day football won’t cripple West Virginia at any position this year. Although Howard is the clear leader at quarterback, his ability to remain standing isn’t a clutch-your-heart situation if he goes down with an injury.
Georgia Southern should bring some talented players with them from Statesboro. But will they have any quality depth at all?
No team in the Big 12 will take much notice of the outcome even if the Mountaineers show some progress.
But the Eagles are not overly ripe for a plucking. And West Virginia should have to work without too many mistakes to win.
Anyway, it’s football season and Morgantown will be alive with pre-game and post-game tailgating no matter what the teams do on the heated surface of Puskar Stadium.