Last season, the West Virginia Mountaineers (10-3) finished in with a conference record of 7-2, which earned them third in the Big 12. In the regular season, they beat Independent BYU 35-32 early on, but they could not beat the two top teams in the Big 12, Oklahoma State or Oklahoma. Our 2017 West Virginia Mountaineers college football preview sees this team, which returns just three starters on defense and loses five of its six top tacklers, as slipping a few notches.
There’s good news for the Mountaineers as Florida transfer QB Will Grier has been cleared by the NCAA to play the entire season. Many other programs courted Grier, including Ohio State and Oregon. In six games at Florida in 2015, prior to his suspension, he was 6-0, completing 65.8% of his passes, tossing 10 TDs and three INTs, and throwing for 1,204 yards. Although the top two wideouts from last season are gone, seniors Ka’Raun White and Javon Durante come back with plenty of experience.
Senior RB Justin Crawford (163 ATT, 1,184 YDs, 4 TDs, 4.3 YPA) is a solid threat. The major question on this side of the ball is the offensive line. Two of their best from last season must be replaced, while LT Yodny Cajuste is coming back from an ACL tear. The Mountaineers averaged 31.2 PPG last season. That’s still a possibility in 2017.
Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson uses a 3-3-5 scheme, which last season limited teams to 24.0 PPG and 168.2 YPG rushing. He has to replace the three guys upfront who together made 141 tackles, made nine sacks and nine more TFL, and broke up five passes. The linebacking unit includes senior Al-Rasheed Benton who notched 80 tackles in 2016.
The secondary is questionable, especially at the corners where seniors Corey Winfield, who comes in as a transfer from Syracuse, and Elijah Battle must step up their games. The safety spots are better as FS Dravon Askew-Henry returns from an ACL injury. Also, you can expect to see Kyzir White, a former four-star junior college recruit, in the mix.
West Virginia was 103rd last season on kickoff coverage and they were 124th on punt bring backs. We do not expect much improvement in either area. Placekicker Mike Molina connected on just 68.2% of his field goals but did hit one from 50-plus, and he was 51 of 51 on extra points. Punter Billy Kinney averaged 41.7 YPP and netted 38.2 while placing just 17 of 59 within the 20.
2017 West Virginia Mountaineers College Football Preview: Final Word
How do we see this team doing in our 2017 West Virginia Mountaineers college football preview? Coach Dana Holgorsen starts his seventh year at the helm for the Mountaineers. He has a 46-31 overall record and a 2-3 bowl record. In 2013, this team was 4-8. Then the next year they went 7-6 and the following two years were 8-5 and 10-3 respectively. This year we don’t expect the Mountaineers to come close to double-digit wins, but they will have a winning record.
The West Virginia opener against Virginia Tech in Landover, MD on Sep 3 is huge. Also, their meeting at home with Texas Tech on Oct 14 should be a major challenge. Last year, the Mountaineers held the Red Raiders to just 17 points, beating them by 31. Can they do that again? Finally, West Virginia finishes their season at Oklahoma on Nov 24. This should be a knockdown, drag-out contest with lots of points scored. If West Virginia can win this one, they will totally spoil the Sooner’s season.
Top Three Takeaways
- Transfer QB Will Grier will play, but he has to stay out of trouble
- Defense will give up more PPG in 2017 than in 2016
- Faltering and mediocre special teams could lose close games