The Mountaineers will be young, but maybe now we will see strides
Well yesterday was certainly eventful wasn’t it? The first Group of 5 school played a College Football Playoff game, Betty White died (RIP), New Year’s Eve, Jim Harbaugh continued to finish short of the ultimate goal. Oh, yeah and two more players announced via Twitter that they were transferring from the program.
The first player to make his announcement was 2021’s leading receiver Winston Wright, who shocked many people and announced he would pursue playing time elsewhere, despite leading the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Next came the announcement of Jarret Doege, who announced he would also find a new home for 2022. Wright’s announcement was a shocker, Doege’s announcement was a relief to fans.
After the bowl game, Neal Brown pleaded his case that he thinks the team can be good next season.
That’s a big thing,” said Brown. “We got most of our football team coming back. I would say we have as much coming back on our football team as anybody in the country. So, we’re not all doom and gloom. Are we disappointed we didn’t win? You bet your ass we are….. we are close in a lot of areas. We are really, really close. We got to do some things better to get back to where we want to be.”
Well that statement “we have as much coming back on our football team as anybody in the country” took two major hits yesterday with the announcements of Winston Wright and Jarret Doege.
If what Brown said was true before, it absolutely is not true now. Currently, starting in 2022, West Virginia will be without its leading passer, leading rusher, and leading receiver from 2021. I’m not here to shit on players but when an offense finishes 8th in total yards, fourth in pass yards, tenth in rush yards, eighth in points scored in a ten-team conference, perhaps change is a good thing.
For the first time in the Neal Brown tenure, we are going to have a true open quarterback competition entering spring ball. Currently the roster includes redshirt freshman Garret Greene, freshman Will Crowder and new signee Nicco Marchiol. It is possible that the staff pulls in a transfer quarterback from the portal but unless Will Grier falls in their lap, the staff will enter 2022 with three quarterbacks who haven’t played much but the best one will win.
Everyone is going to point to incoming signee Nicco and beg for him to start. Being a highly ranked quarterback recruit will do that, especially since Marchiol is the highest ranked quarterback recruit since Geno Smith, but that doesn’t mean the job will just be handed to him. Incoming freshman have to learn the playbook, the calls, the cadence, the protections and have to adjust to the speed of the game. This should give us time to see how good Garret Greene and Will Crowder really are.
Leddie Brown was a bad man for the Mountaineers. He was consistent, he was powerful and he could catch out the backfield as well as pass block. He should be drafted this coming April. He wasn’t a gamebreaker and if we are being honest, often waited too long or was too indecisive at times when he needed to put a foot in the ground and get north. That seems strange to write about a guy who often got 2 or 3 yards when there were none behind a porous offensive line but it can be true. Watching Tony Mathis play, we’ve seen a quicker, more decisive runner in the backfield, one who has the ability to get a bigger chunk of yards and makes quick decisions.
Incoming is also Clemson transfer Lyn-J Dixon. A senior, Dixon has averaged over 6 yards per carry and understands the grind necessary to be competitive and complete. He’s looking for a fresh start and you have to believe he is going to put every effort into winning the starting job.
Speedster Winston Wright is gone. There are rumors circulating that other, older players may also leave, opening the door for some of these young, highly rated players we’ve heard so much about. One such player is Kaden Prather, who showed energy and desire in his limited opportunities but missed his first bowl game due to COVID protocols. The wide receiver room the past three years has not been great and one big reason why is that no one seems to have emerged as a true #1 receiver. In the past three years, 60+ catches for 600+ yards has been our leading receiver. Now we’re likely going to see several players transfer out and this is going to give younger players, ones who haven’t seen much of the field, a chance to truly see if they can make a difference. I think we’d all like to see more of Prather
The overall state of the program is dysfunctional at the moment but perhaps we are looking at a silver lining. The offensive roster, the part of the team that has struggled, will be nearly all Neal Brown players. Sam James is the only offensive player who actually played on the field during Dana Holgorsen’s tenure, once Leddie Brown officially moves on as expected. James, Ford-Wheaton, and O’Laughlin are the only ones left on the offense who were even recruited by Dana. This will be Brown’s roster.