COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW: #22 WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS CAPSULE

HEAD COACH: Dana Holgorson (Seven Seasons)

RECORD AT OREGON: 53 – 37

CAREER RECORD: 53 – 37

2017 RECORD: 7 – 6, 5 – 4 Big 12

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Jake Spavital

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Tony Gibson

STADIUM: Milan Puskar Stadium (60,000)

 

FIVE – YEAR WINNING TREND

2013: 4 – 8

2014: 7 – 6

2015: 8 – 5

2016: 10 – 3

2017: 7 – 6

 

2018 SCHEDULE

September 1 Tennessee at Charlotte

September 8 Youngstown State

September 15 at North Carolina State

September 22 Kansas State

September 29 at Texas Tech

October 6 Kansas

October 13 at Iowa

October 25 Baylor

November 3 at Texas

November 10 TCU

November 17 at Oklahoma State

November 23 Oklahoma

 

2017 RESULTS

Virginia Tech 24 – 31

East Carolina 56 – 20

Delaware state 59 – 16

Kansas 56 – 34

TCU 24 – 31

Texas Tech 46 – 35

Baylor 38 – 36

Oklahoma State 39 – 50

Iowa State 20 – 16

Kansas State 28 – 23

Texas 14 – 28

Oklahoma 31 – 59

Utah 14 – 30

 

2017 STATS – OFFENSE

SCORING: 34.5

RUSHING: 150.3

PASSING: 309.3

TOTAL: 459.6

 

2017 STATS – DEFENSE

SCORING: 31.5

RUSHING: 204.2

PASSING: 241.4

TOTAL: 445.5

TURNOVER MARGIN: -7

 

RETURNING STARTERS OFFENSE: 7

WR Gary Jennings

WR David Sills

LT Yodny Cajuste

LG Josh Sills

C Matt Jones

RT Cody McKivitz

QB Will Grier

 

RETURNING STARTERS DEFENSE: 4

DE Reese Donahue

WLB David long

FS Kenny Robinson

DB Dravon Askew-Henry

 

2018 UNIT CONFERENCE RANKINGS

QB: 1

RB: 5

WR: 1

OL: 3

DL: 9

LB: 6

DB: 9

 

PRE—SEASON BIG 12 SELECTIONS

QB Will Grier (First-team)

WR David Sills (First Team)

OL Yodny Cajuste (First Team)

LB David Long (First Team)

RB Kennedy McCoy (Second Team)

WR Gary Jennings (Second Team)

OL Colton McKivitz (Second Team)

KR Marcus Simms (First Team)

DL Ezekiel Rose (Third Team)

S Dravon Askew-Henry (Third Team)

P Billy Kinney (Third Team)

 

2017 BIG 12 STANDINGS

Oklahoma 8 – 1

TCU 7 – 2

Oklahoma State 6 – 3

Texas 5 – 4

West Virginia 5 – 4

Kansas State 5 – 4

Iowa State 5 – 4

Texas Tech 3 – 6

Baylor 1 – 8

Kansas 0 – 9

 

RETURNING WEST VIRGINIA LEADERS

PASSING: Will Grier, 250 – 388 –3,490 – 34TD – 12INT

RUSHING: Kennedy McCoy, 125 – 596 – 7TD

RECEIVING: Gary Jennings, 97 –1,096 – 1TD

TACKLES: David Long, 76

SACKS: Ezekiel Rose, 4.5

INTERCEPTIONS: Kenny Robinson

 

2018 TOP RECRUITS

DE Dante Stills, Fairmont, West Virginia

S Kwantel Raines, Aliquippa, Pennsylvania

TE TJ Banks, Duquesne, Pennsylvania

CB Josh Norwood, Valdosta, Georgia

RB Leddie Brown, Newark, Delaware

OT Junior Uzebu, Alpharetta, Georgia

G Blaine Scott, West – Portsmouth, Ohio

QB Trey Lowe, Collierville, Tennessee

TE Mike O’Laughlin, Glen Ellyn, Illinois

WR Dillon Spalding, Lorton, Virginia

 

2018 PROJECTED RECORD: 8 – 4, 6 – 3 Big 12

 

2018 BOWL PROJECTION: Camping World Bowl

 

2018 PRE—SEASON BIG 12 PREDICTIONS

  1. Oklahoma
  2. West Virginia
  3. Texas
  4. Kansas State
  5. TCU
  6. Iowa State
  7. Oklahoma State
  8. Texas Tech
  9. Baylor
  10. Kansas

 

2018 CONFERENCE RECRUITING RANKINGS

  1. Texas
  2. Oklahoma
  3. TCU
  4. Baylor
  5. Oklahoma State
  6. West Virginia
  7. Iowa State
  8. Kansas
  9. Kansas State
  10. Texas Tech

 

FINAL PREDICTION

West Virginia is excited about the 2018 college football season and for good reason. QB Will Grier is back and the injuries that hurt them in 2017 are in the past. Seven starters return on an offense that ranked 22nd in the country and scoring and 13th in passing. The Mountaineers may have the best wide receivers in the country. If the defense can improve in any category, West Virginia will be tough to beat. If not, the Mountaineers may have to score 50 points per game to cover the defense.

 

COACH DAN HOLGORSEN AT MEDIA DAY

THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined by Head Coach Dana Holgorsen. Coach, your thoughts about the upcoming season?

DANA HOLGORSEN: Day two, year eight for me. It’s good to be here, good to be back. It’s an amazing place every time I come back here. We’ve been here about four times. What an unbelievable place. They were gracious enough to let us practice in here when we were getting ready for the bowl game, so it’s a great practice situation obviously but do a great job of hosting this event as well. I can see why Tavon Austin is excited right now. He’s a Cowboy now. He’s excited. Got traded over here and came here and took him two minutes to figure out this was a pretty awesome place. He’s excited to be here. Our guys are excited to be here. It’s getting close. We’ve still got a little bit of vacation left, so we’re not going to start practicing here tomorrow. But got two and a half weeks. They let us practice August 2nd. So that’s when we will get started. I’ll take questions.

Q. Coach, with all your offensive weapons and the returners coming back, how are you guys handling the preseason expectations of patience and hype?
DANA HOLGORSEN: Well, we welcome expectations. Heck, you want ’em to talk about you. We want you guys to talk about us. I think we got a good group coming back. Had a decent year last year, did some good things offensively. But there are a whole lot of things that I feel like we can do better and our guys think they can do better. We want improvement. Handling the expectations aspect of it, that’s what you want. I know I’m going to get a lot of how you handling the pressure of being picked second or whatever is it is. I don’t care where you’re picked, doesn’t matter, there’s pressure everywhere. Pressure to live up to the expectations or pressure to create expectations, and I think our guys are old. I think our coaching staff has tremendous continuity, been around, working together for a long time. That helps manage things, then got old players which is going to help manage things as well.

Q. I know it’s a long ways down the road and you play Oklahoma at the end of the year. Like you said, you have high expectations, everybody is expecting you and Oklahoma to be at the top in the Big 12. Having said that, if that’s how it plays out, you guys have to play back-to-back, how do you handle that, playing back-to-back, that quickly in consecutive weeks?
DANA HOLGORSEN: Don’t know, never done it, and not going to think about it. We got to play Tennessee. That’s our first game. That’s our focus. Obviously we’ve been in this league for six, seven years now, so there’s familiarity with every opponent in the league. The back-to-back thing, I don’t know. I’m sure it’s happened before. We get to a point to where that’s something we will have to deal with, we will research it and deal with it the best way possible.

Q. Do you feel that it’s becoming a better strategy to find top-end talent through transfers rather than recruiting high school players?
DANA HOLGORSEN: That’s a good question. We changed our recruiting strategy probably four years ago. Kind of had to figure that outgoing into the Big 12. Didn’t quite know how to do it coming from the Big East. But we felt like we needed a change and I didn’t feel like our talent level across the board. We had high-end talent early, but across the board depthwise it was not where it needed to be in order to compete in the Big 12. This is an unbelievable conference. It’s extremely deep. You gotta play nine games in a row. You’re going to have guys go down, you’re going to play a lot of people and if you’re weak at any spot then these great teams in the Big 12, especially offensively, they’re going to capitalize on that.

So getting good, local northeast high school kids has been very successful for us. Something I had to get to used to and did for a couple of years. Then going out there and filling holes with transfers. You know, there’s a lot of different transfers out there and this is a hot topic across the country as we all know. What we’ve been successful with is finding junior college kids, finding four-year guys that need to sit a year, and then finding grad students as well. That can come in and play right way. We’ve had success with all three and will continue to do so.

Q. Depth has been a bit of a concern for the Mountaineers and managing that across the whole season. What are you doing to address that beyond your starters?
DANA HOLGORSEN: That’s a great shirt, man. You look like you should be on a beach, down south somewhere. I just talked about it honestly. The depth has been better and better every year, I think. It’s year-to-year, but I think we have a recruiting strategy to be able to fill holes. We’ve recruited better. We worked with our freshmen and junior college kids all summer. In June we worked with them and those guys look different than the guys we’ve brought in. So depth from a younger player point of view is going to be good, but then just filling in with as many older guys through transfers as we can. I do think depthwise is the only way you can win this league. You’re going to have guys go down and you’ve got to fill those spots with guys that can play at a very high level and that’s what needs to happen in order to be successful in this league.

Q. This year you open up against Tennessee. Over the last few years you’ve had marquis opponents right out of the gate. Is that something you prefer scheduling-wise? Does that help motivate the team during the offseason? Tell us a little bit about the thought behind that?
DANA HOLGORSEN: We’re going to play power five schools. I know Commissioner Bowlsby sat up here and gave you the stats on the number of power five schools that everybody plays. We are very proud of that. At WV we play 11 power five schools, NC State and Tennessee, along with the nine Big 12 opponents. I wish everybody would do that. It’s not quite fair that we have to play that schedule and then you have schools in other respective conferences that play nine. They play nine power five schools. It’s uneven, but we’re going to keep doing it. It’s fair to our fan base to be able to play local schools that they remember great games in the past. Tennessee, never played them, but they’re our neighbor and we’re going to play that game in Charlotte which is our number one alumni base in the United States.

So it’s going to be exciting for everybody. Our players are excited. Our fan base is excited about it. We got Pitt and the old backyard brawl is going to be coming on the schedule. Penn State is going to be coming on the schedule. Maryland, we’re going to play ten or eleven power 5 schools every year. I wish the other teams would do that as well. It’s good for the fan base, good for TV. It’s good for everything.

Q. Dana, I wanted to ask you about your transfers. You do take several DI transfers like Will Grier. How much do you vet those guys extra than you would a kid coming out of high school, and when do you know Will was a good fit for you all and how did you know that?
DANA HOLGORSEN: We research it, definitely, with not only four-year guys but grad transfers and junior college transfers as well. It’s a little trickier with high school guys. You don’t have as much information on those guys. The thing with transfers is you gotta figure out why they’re transferring. You got some new proposal out there and I don’t know how I feel about it yet. Guys at some point are always going to want to transfer, but why are you transferring? I don’t want to hear because they’re not giving me a chance. I don’t want to hear that. That’s garbage. Every coach out there gives every player a chance. They recruit ’em. They’re going to give them a chance. I gotta figure out why they’re transferring and coaching changes affect that which it did Will. He needed a fresh start. I got to know his family and got to know Will and knew it was going to be a fantastic fit for us. He’s from Charlotte, five hours down the road. He’s got a supportive family. They’re able to come see him play a whole bunch. We had a need at that position. He came in and paid his time. This whole transfer and be eligible right away, the only way I think that should be a reality ever in life is if you graduate. If you graduate at a specific school, then I think you should be able to have options. If you don’t, then I think you need to pay a price which is sit a year. We got three more guys coming eligible this year that all transferred from specific power five schools, T.J. Simmons, Jovani Haskins and Jack Allison, they came in, sat a year and paid the price and now they’re going to play for us next year.

Q. About a year ago, Dana, you turned over the play calling duty to Jake. As a guy that spent his whole life calling plays the adjustment for you game day and reflection, looking back on it, do you like your new role?
DANA HOLGORSEN: Yeah, I became very interested in special teams. I had to do something. So my game day stuff — and I never once questioned anything that he was calling. We weren’t incredibly efficient last year offensively and that’s been the sole topic of discussion from January 1 until where we’re currently at. I think just watching the practices and how Jake and Will interact and they got as good of a relationship that exists from a play caller and a quarterback that I’ve every seen. I’m comfortable with where they’re at and year two is always going to become more efficient. I’m excited about watching that. My job is to manage people, whether it’s coaches, players, manage the game. Then special teams is kind of the glue between offense and defense. I spend as much time with the defense as I do the offense. I manage players, manage the game and special teams glues the two sides together.

Q. To follow up on the question about Will, you guys are promoting him for Heisman. He’s obviously preseason player of the year in the league. How do you think he’s going ton handle those expectations and a follow-up, general the characteristics he has that you think make him as successful as he is at quarterback?
DANA HOLGORSEN: I would never approve a campaign unless I felt like a player could handle it. That’s my job as far as managing players and Will is a very older, mature coach’s kid. I’ve made this comment several times. He’s ready for this, he’s prepared himself his whole life for us and you will see as you talk to him throughout the course of the day, I got no worries about him not understanding expectations and how to deal with expectations. He’s a very mature kid. He can handle this. He’s prepared. He’s played a lot of football. He played so much football in high school. He’s played a lot of college football. You can tell in spring practice that the game has slowed down for him, so he’s a cerebral kid and understands what’s out there and what he’s got to do. He knows that he’s got a lot of good players around him and he doesn’t have to go out there and be superman. He can manage the game himself and run the offense which he is more comfortable doing now than he was a year ago. From his personality and who he is as a person, he will be able to handle it just fine and his dad trained him to do that when he was about two. That job was already done by the time I got him.

Q. West Virginia is uniquely positioned with the sports gambling passed by the Supreme Court. I’m wondering if you have general thoughts on that and maybe more specifically how the school or the league should handle injury information?
DANA HOLGORSEN: It’s been discussed. Obviously because it’s such a high-profile situation across the country, it’s been discussed within our office and our administration office. We will talk to our players about it. We do every year. It used to be the number one thing that would get you banned from being able to play football. It was a clear-cut number one. It’s probably a clear-cut number two now based on what’s happened over the last few years, but it’s something we will address with them.

I don’t have any fears. If there was five different spots in West Virginia I don’t think any of our players are going to go do that. They’re the most recognizable figures in our state. If they’re dumb enough to do that, then they’re dumb never to do a whole bunch of stuff.

I don’t worry about that. With that said it’s something we’re going to have to discuss. The injury thing I got my own opinions on injuries. My opinion is always going to be if the guy is out long term, I’ll say it and if I don’t know, I’m not going to say it because you never know when kids will respond to injuries and when they’re going to come back. These guys are not pros. They’re amateurs. They’re still trying to figure out how to play through specific injuries. If a guy is out long term, I will say it. If he’s not, we won’t talk about it.

Q. Got a Bill Snyder question for you. He’s going to be 79 in October, had cancer last year. Surprise you at all he came back for another year and can you give me your favorite Bill Snyder story?
DANA HOLGORSEN: Nothing he does surprises me. I’ve watched him coach growing up as a kid. I’ve talked about this in length. He’s one of my heros and one of the guys that I’ve always looked up to and small kid in Iowa I was watching him on the sidelines and followed his career at Kansas State. He’s a Hall of Fame football coach and as resilient as resilient gets. It’s surprising he’s still doing it. I ain’t doing it when I’m 79. I will be lucky to be here when I’m 79. I admire him for everything he’s done, everything he’s accomplished, everything he’s brought to the sport of football, everything he’s brought to the coaching community. One of the most well respected guys in the history of our game and excited about being able to compete with him again. He’s always incredibly gracious before the game and incredibly gracious before the game and incredibly complimentary after the game, doesn’t matter if he wins or loses. He’s always the same guy. The letters are famous and nobody else in this profession does that.