Now that we have had a few days to digest the New Year’s Day corned beef and cabbage, as well as the recently completed WVU football season, here are a few questions that run through my mind concerning Mountaineer football.
1. Has the Mountaineers fan base lost some confidence in coach Dana Holgorsen?
It appears so. This time last year Dana was a genius and could do no wrong after hanging 70 points on Clemson in the Orange Bowl. What a difference a year makes. This year, it appears that Mountaineers fans are concerned about his ability to lead the program. There seemed to be a disconnect with the players. Whether that concern is justified or not, time will tell. Heck, our state lost confidence in Bobby Bowden after the 1974 season and he only went on to become one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game.
2. Dana is a part of the Hal Mumme/Mike Leach coaching tree. Is that a good thing?
Well it isn’t like being a part of the Parcells, Belichick, Saban coaching tree. Those are tough-minded, defensive coaches who have won multiple Super Bowls and national titles. Mumme has been regarded as a “gimmick guy” who was fired at Kentucky, had some success at Southeastern Louisiana, then was fired again at New Mexico State. He is now coaching small college in Texas. Mumme also had NCAA issues at Kentucky. Leach made Texas Tech one of the more exciting programs in the country. But, he was eventually was fired in Lubbock. His first year at Washington State was fairly stormy also.
3. Philosophically, are the Mountaineers set up to be tough enough defensively to compete in the Big 12?
The knock you hear against teams coached by spread coaches are that they do not get enough “shock” or physical hitting and toughness in practice to have a tough enough defensive mindset to compete.West Virginia certainly got smacked in the mouth many times against Syracuse. It does not appear that the head coach spends much time with the defensive staff or personnel. Right or wrong, the perception is that there is a disconnect there.
4. Can the Mountaineers compete in the Big 12?
Based on this year, it is not going to be easy. Most of the media, myself included, thought this would be a big year for West Virgnia in their new home, so what do we know? We are learning, however, and it is clear that the Big 12 won’t necessarily come back to WVU, the Mountaineers will have to go up to the league. Without Geno, Tavon, Bailey and some veteran offensive linemen, it will be a challenge next season.
5. Do Mountaineer fans have the stomach to be mediocre in the Big 12?
I don’t know. Fans here are used to winning in football now. I’m also not sure they have the wallets to do it. WVU is trying to raise money by re-seating facilities and increasing contributions for seats. When fans give more they expect more wins, not less. When fans give more money, they also expect to give you their “two cents”. Right now, they are grumbling.
6. How is recruiting going?
It appears to be OK, but just OK. West Virginia has never made a living on “five-star, blue chip” recruits. Historically, under Don Nehlen, they competed by sound, fundamental football with overachieving players that developed within the program. Will players develop during their time in Morgantown? Time will tell.