With the hiring and firing of coaches, plus the charade that is National Signing Day, behind us, the never-ending world of college football moves to its next stage – training camp! Yes, with spring been and gone, a new fervor settles over each school as the hope that comes with a new year settles in. The seniors are gone, but a new batch of starters are ready to step in and prove their worth. Or not, whatever the case may be. So read on and find out where each team stands.
2012 Record: 7-6, 4-5 Big Twelve
Offensive MVP: RB/WR Tavon Austin – Rushing 72-643-3, Receiving 114-1289-12, Kick Return 32-813-1, Punt Return 15-165-1.
Defensive MVP: LB Josh Francis – 57 Tackles, 15 for loss, 4.5 Sacks, 4 QBHs.
Want to define the Mountaineers 2012 season? How about a powerhouse offense let down by an outhouse defense? Yep, the season started brightly, with a 5-0 rip that saw them reach #4 in the polls. Then when the going got tough, the tough retired to Tijuana. The offense fought hard, but slept in on consecutive weeks against Texas Tech and Kansas State, which began the fall from grace. QB Geno Smith was a preseason Heisman hopeful, but his ship sailed with the rest of the team. Still, in a season that wasn’t Heisman worthy, he threw for 4205 yards and 42 TDs. Having possibly the best receiving trio in the country certainly didn’t hurt. Austin was quite simply the star of the show, and even managed a 344 yard rushing day against Oklahoma when he played a couple of games at RB. Stedman Bailey enjoyed the extra attention Austin received and quietly racked up a 114-1622-25 season, while third receiver JD Woods’ 61-637-4 would have led many teams. The running game was inconsistent, but Andrew Buie showed he could have a bright future here. The offensive line struggled at times, letting defenders hit Smith and causing breakdowns on offense.
The defense had talent, so it was something of a surprise how hard they fell. They had some problems against the run, but apart from the bowl game, they weren’t terrible. That honor was reserved for the pass defense, which allowed 312 yards per game and a ridiculous 38 TDs (not per game). The defensive line didn’t provide anything in the way of a pass rush, but were slightly better against the run with Will Clarke and Jorge Wright combining for 13 TFLs. Spur LB Terrance Garvin led the team in sacks with 6, and he and Francis made most of the plays on defense. Freshman Isaiah Bruce showed some ability on the strongside. Another freshman, FS Karl Joseph, stood out in the otherwise leaky secondary and gives some hope for the future.
The kicking and punting chores were in the hands of Tyler Bitancourt, but even excluding a howler against TCU (1/5 FGs), he was less than impressive. Austin was an outstanding return man and a threat to go the distance with every return, causing opponents to try every trick in the book to keep the ball away from him, not always successfully. The punt coverage was okay, but the kick coverage had its lapses.
What to Expect in 2013:
A role reversal, but the same results. Despite last season’s disaster, the defense actually looks like it could be on the upswing, but the same can’t be said about the offense with 7 starters gone. Essentially the entire passing attack is gone with Smith and the top three receivers no longer around. Quarterback is always the key in this offense, but no starter has been named as yet. Paul Millard was the backup last year, but redshirt freshman Ford Childress and incoming Chavas Rawlins will be given every opportunity to win the job. Replacing an outstanding trio of receivers may be even more difficult, but there is some talent in reserve. JUCO Kevin White looks to have one spot, with KJ Myers and Connor Arlia (a combined 9 receptions last season) joining him. Don’t be surprised if H-back Cody Clay has an increased role this season. The running back situation at least looks solid with Buie and Dustin Garrison back and bolstered by the arrival of top JUCO RB Dreamius Smith. The offensive line only returns LT Quinton Spain and (now) C Pat Eger. Sometime starter Curtis Feight takes over at RT. I believe this has the makings of a solid unit this season.
The defense loses only four starters, but unfortunately Francis and Garvin are two of them. Bruce will be back at SLB, and is poised to take a big step forward. Last year’s WLB, Doug Rigg, looks to have lost his job to reserve Nick Kwiatkoski. Former DL Dozie Ezemma and Wes Tonkery will round out the quartet. The defensive line has to get more of a push to help keep the LBs clean, but having Clarke and DT Shaq Rowell back will help. Kyle Rose earned some valuable experience last season and will replace Wright. The secondary should be better with a more experienced Joseph, but SS Darwin Cook needs to make more plays. Brodrick Jenkins wasn’t having a great season before his midseason injury last year, so his form will be closely watched in fall. Nana Kyeremeh is expected to replace Pat Miller at the other corner.
The special teams got cleaned out, but the biggest problem this season may be replacing Austin as a returner. They have guys who can do the job well enough, but Austin’s talent for making plays makes him a rare breed. Bitancourt shouldn’t be tough to replace – unless redshirt freshman Josh Lambert and experienced punter Mike Molinari really struggle.
The Big Twelve is taking a dip this season with some key changes across the board, and this should play into WVU’s hand as they reload. The big (read “huge”) concern is the replacement firepower in the passing game. The new guys are good, but they lack experience. Of course, HC Dana Holgorsen knows a thing or two about offense, so expect the Mountaineer offensive train to get rolling as the season progresses. The defense should be able to keep early games under control (I can’t believe I’m typing that), but a late offensive surge will see them to seven wins.
- The State of Play – Big East/American Athletic Conference Preview
- The State of Play – Big Ten: Illinois
- The State of Play – Big Ten: Indiana
- The State of Play: Big Ten: Iowa
- The State of Play – Big Ten: Michigan
- The State of Play – Big Ten: Michigan State
- The State of Play – Big Ten: Minnesota
- The State of Play – Big Ten: Nebraska
- The State of Play – Big Ten: Northwestern
- The State of Play – Big Ten: Ohio State
- The State of Play – Big Ten: Purdue
- The State of Play – Big Ten: Wisconsin
- The State of Play – Big Twelve: Oklahoma
- The State of Play – Big Twelve: Texas
- The State of Play – Big Twelve: Texas Christian
- The State of Play – Big Twelve: Texas Tech
- The State of Play – Big Twelve: West Virginia
- The State of Play – Conference USA: East Carolina
- The State of Play – Conference USA: Florida Atlantic
- The State of Play – Conference USA: Florida International
- The State of Play – Conference USA: Marshall
- The State of Play – Conference USA: Middle Tennessee State
- The State of Play – Conference USA: Rice
- The State of Play – Conference USA: Southern Mississippi
- The State of Play – Conference USA: Texas-El Paso
- The State of Play – Conference USA: Tulane
- The State of Play – Conference USA: Tulsa
- The State of Play – Independents: Army
- The State of Play – Independents: Idaho
- A State of Play – Independents: Navy
- The State of Play – Independents: Notre Dame
- The State of Play – Mid-American Conference: Akron
- The State of Play – Mid-American Conference: Bowling Green