If you have been reading or listening to pre-season predictions, you would know that most analysts including myself, have WVU winning no more than 7 or 8 games this season. The reasons for this are the many areas WVU needs to improve upon from previous years.
When it came to punt returns last season, WVU ranked at the bottom. Many people blamed the lack of production on the punt returners. If this is so, then why did the coaches watch film of the top teams blocking schemes to improve punt returns? If punt returners don’t get the necessary blocking then they don’t have an opportunity to catch or run with the ball.
While the defense did improve last season at stopping the pass, they ranked near the bottom in stopping the run, causing and getting turn-overs, as well as sacks. Players like Karl Joseph, K.J. Dillon, Nick Kwaitkoski, and Davon Askew-Henry did manage to prove they can hit and hit hard.
The offense is basically being rebuilt this season. This doesn’t mean there aren’t returning players. What this does mean is that there is a lot of talent that could breakout this season on offense.
If you have listened to the player interviews when they are talking about the running game, you hear these names: Wendell Smallwood, Rushel Shell, Jacky Marcellus, and Donte Thomas-Williams (DTW). You don’t hear much about Jacky Marcellus or DTW from the press, but you sure hear these names from the players.
I have seen a few glimpses of Jovon Durante in the practice videos. One thing that stands out is his speed. I’ve also heard the offensive coaches speak positively of him. I have a feeling that instead of Shelton Gibson, Durante may be the fastest player Holgorsen has ever coached. Durante also has the twitch that Tavon Austin was famous for, and Coach Galloway has commented about it. It has also been said that Marcellus has a twitch in his steps.
Let’s look ahead for a moment. If Howard is as good as everyone says, the offensive line is one of the best we have seen in years, and DTW and Durante are as good as advertised, then WVU could win 9 or more games.
It wouldn’t take much over last year for WVU to accomplish this. Last season WVU beat Baylor at home after Baylor had a comeback win over TCU, and only lost to TCU by one in double overtime. WVU’s biggest Big 12 challenge in 2015 is Oklahoma. WVU has no beaten Oklahoma since joining the Big 12 nor have they ever won against Kansas State. Baylor will also be a big challenge. Every team in the Big 12 will provide WVU with a challenge.
Nothing is impossible, and WVU could be the biggest surprise of the year. There is no doubt that Holgorsen has assembled a group of players with some special talents and athleticism. The question is, can they communicate and can Holgorsen and his coaches develop them early enough to give WVU the opportunity to win 10 or more games in 2015?
I believe we’ll seen some the 2015 recruits on the field this season. DE Larry Jefferson could just be one of the new recruits that comes in as an impact player. He may just be the pass rusher they hope he is.
As it stands, I don’t see WVU winning more than 8 games, but if WVU shows any kind of improvement in the areas mentioned, then they could win 10 or more games. If WVU can beat Oklahoma in game 4 they will definitely be sending a message to the other Big 12 teams. A win over Oklahoma would be huge for the Mountaineers.
I look for WR Jacky Marcellus, RB Donte Thomas-Williams, and WR Jovon Durante to be impact players this season. I also look to TE/FBs: Cody Clay and Elijah Wellman to make more of an impact this season. Clay will get more passes thrown his way, and Wellman will get more carries.
I also expect punter Nick O’Toole to do some special things. Fans may get to see more of his athleticism. O’Toole has been known to run or pass the ball on trick plays. Will we see this? I don’t know, for we have never seen this since Holgorsen has been at WVU, but this these are some of the things that O’Toole has done in the past, and wants to do this season.
We could see Holgorsen insert a few wrinkles this season that we haven’t seen before. Could defenses cover both Shelton Gibson and Jovon Durante running fly routes? It would hard enough to stop one of these receivers, but having to stop two of them? Your guess is as good as mine. It is this type of talent and athleticism WVU has this season that could truly challenge opponents.