West Virginia’s 2012 season is only four days lapsed since the punishing Pinstripe Bowl loss to Syracuse, yet it’s not too early to take a stab at three big questions facing the Mountaineers next season.

 

James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Rising junior Paul Millard figures to challenge Ford Childress for the WVU quarterback job in 2013.

WHO will play quarterback?
For three seasons, it has been Geno Smith’s job, and this past season he posted an incredible 42-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio while throwing for 4,201 yards.

Next year’s starting quarterback, whether it’s junior-to-be Paul Millard or redshirt freshman Ford Childress, will be working behind a retooled offensive line and throwing to a mostly-new receiving corps.

“I’m anxious to see (the competition),” Smith said minutes after last Saturday night’s Pinstripe Bowl loss. “Dana’s going to have those guys battling first thing in the morning, starting with breakfast. I’m anxious to see who comes out on top.

“I’m looking forward to seeing one of those guys prosper in this offense, because it’s done wonders for quarterbacks.”

Prognostication: At 6-foot-5, Childress is three inches taller than fellow Texan Millard, and because Childress enrolled early last January, the developmental gap is narrowed. Childress wins the starting job in a race that goes late into fall camp.

 

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia safety Darwin Cook’s inconsistent season included giving up this bowl touchdown to Syracuse tight end Beckett Wales.

WHAT must the defense to do improve?
In the aftermath of the Pinstripe Bowl loss, defensive coordinator Keith Patterson sounded understandably disenchanted. Not only puzzled by his unit’s sudden softness against the run, Patterson was especially chapped by experienced players attending to the wrong assignment on crucial plays.

“We get a pass interference on someone who’s supposed to be in the blitz, and (instead) he’s covering the guy man-to-man,” Patterson said. “That’s my responsibility to make sure we understand what our assignments and responsibilities are.”

Patterson’s post-bowl refrain — “We’ve got to build a new foundation defensively. We have to re-establish an identity.” — seemingly indicates an offseason program predicated on building defensive toughness.

“In the Big 12 you can’t just set and play one or two coverages, you can’t just set and play one or two fronts,” he said. “You have to be multiple, and yet you have to be simple enough to where you can execute.”

Prognostication: Miami transfer Vernon Davis takes over at one cornerback spot, junior-college incomer D’Vante Henry becomes the team’s top pass-rusher and Darwin Cook enjoys a bounce-back senior season at safety. That should at least get WVU back among the FBS top 100 in pass defense. Baby steps, you know?

 

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Next season, West Virginia must face Oklahoma and quarterback Blake Bell in Norman during Week 2.

WHERE will West Virginia find six wins to keep its bowl streak alive?
The Mountaineers have gone bowling for 11 consecutive seasons, a string that portends to be in jeopardy given the statistical fallout of losing eight offensive starters and four on defense:

— Along with Smith, West Virginia must replace its top three receivers (Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and J.D. Woods) and six of its top 10, when you throw in Travares Copeland, Ivan McCartney and Ryan Nehlen.

— The Mountaineers lose 312 of their 375 receptions (83 percent).

— West Virginia graduates 1,237 of its 2,219 rushing yards (55 percent).

— Gone are 55 of its 67 touchdowns and 435 of its 513 points.

— WVU loses 39 of its 85 tackles-for-loss and 13.5 of its 23 sacks.

Beyond the numbers, there’s an equally daunting factor: the odd-year schedule flip in which West Virginia must play five league road games and only four at home.

For the sake of foreshadowing argument, let’s take a stroll through next fall’s weekly lineup:

Aug. 31   Williams & Mary (win)
Sept. 7    at Oklahoma (loss)
Sept. 14  Georgia State (win)
Sept. 21  at Maryland (swing game)
Sept. 28  Oklahoma State (loss)
Oct. 5      at Baylor (swing game)
Oct. 19    Texas Tech (swing game)
Oct. 26    at Kansas State (loss)
Nov. 2     at TCU (loss)
Nov. 9     Texas (loss)
Nov. 16   at Kansas (swing game)
Nov. 29   Iowa State (swing game)

That’s two high-probability wins, five high-probability losses and five swing games.

Prognostication: Book your rooms for the Heart of Dallas Bowl (and play close attention to the cancellation policy).

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Comments

  • GARY WIANT

    SMITH WAS A GOOD QB---BUT NOT A HEISMAN QB--- HE HAD THE GREAT FORTUNE TO HAV NOT ONE BUT TWO GREAT//OUT STANDING RECEIVERS. THEY NOT SMITH KEPT HIS NUMBERS UP......... SMITH THREW TOO HIGH, TOO LOW, TOO FAR, TOO SHORT AND HIS RECEIVERS CAUGHT THEM ALL!

  • cutty77

    First of all Ford Childess is THE ONLY QB that might have a Chance.Paul Millard can't do the Job,i've seen him.Ain't going to happen.Then Next find some Kickers.Tyler cost us 3 games maybe 4.He's just not good under pressure AT ALL. Then work on the OL Line,and DL.Last but not least get some players that know how to play football.Football is very simple,its Blocking and Tackling.Happy New Year Everybody.

    • Shawn

      And Millard has a chance in Holgorsens system. He's turned some no names into big time QB's. Dont count him out just yet. I do agree that Ford is going to be the better of the two.

    • Needs fan

      Wow! You are going to dismiss a QB after only seeing him thrown into a game now and then? Keep an open mind. You might be surprised.

  • Shawn

    I feel the D will be much improved next year with a full offseason under Patterson. Theses kids needed a year of hard knocks to understand the game of college football. And as for our offensive problems, it all depends on the O-Line. I feel comfortable with either QB taking over and we have a good group of WR's and experienced running backs. But if the O-Line is a failure then so will be the season. Remember people this was our first year in the Big 12 and we it was a wake up call. The kids and some of the coaches will have a better understanding of the new league and I can see a winning season next year during a rebuilding year. We must understand that with the new coaches at WVU, they havent had the chance to recruit players that will allow them to reload every year like an Alabama, Texas or Oklahoma. There will be some adversity next year but I think we are building for the future. Just put this in your brain and let it roll around....Rich Rod went 3-8, 9-4, 8-5, and 8-4 in his first 4 seasons in a league that was nowhere as talented from top to bottom as the Big 12. It was until his 5th year he began turning it around. Give it time and be patient.

  • Scott

    You nailed it 100% Larry, but i cant go along with basketball comment because Huggins is a Mountaineer and he'll get it fixed, but your spot on otherwise . I see 3 wins tops, and no road wins. I also will be surprised if Dana is even here next year, but certainly not the following year. He's only here to have head coach listed on his applications. Only a home grown Mountaineer that understands this state and university is going to right this ship and it will take time.
    Whats bad to me is that the cupboard was full for Dana when he stepped in and he and his coaches sure let it slip away. Will he slip out of town now with an empty cupboard for the next guy? My feeling is yes he will.
    Did Bill Stewart get the last laugh?I think so, but he was such a gentleman and true blue WVU man that he probably is looking down feeling bad for everyone involved with this team
    Oliver Luck is the man who has created this debacle and he is not winning fan support for some other recent decisions , so he also is the one that deserves a lot of criticism.He made the decisions, now he has to get them made right

  • Jethro

    Huggins is still a great coach. Recruiting is very competitive .
    Holgerson is a one trick pony. Until that changes expect more of the same

  • kensgirl

    I don't have QUITE the anemic outlook on it that Larry has, but I DO know that in this lousy economy I have to pick and choose where to spend my money, and this season we will be choosing to finally let out season tickets go. They have continuously raised the price, until it's almost 250% more than when we first started getting them, and each year has been more of a strain to renew them. If we'd let them go last year I'm sure there would have been someone behind us in line who was VERY eager to pick them up, but I'm kinda doubting that will be the case this year. We can't afford the cost of the tickets AND the average of $200 each game day just for the expense of GOING to the games, if we're going to see a mediocre product on the field like THIS season produced. Sorry - but that's just the reality.

  • Larry

    You only have to look at the programs of Louisville and Clemson to see how far into the Abyss the WVU football program has fallen. The program is now sinking faster than the Titanic and the fans seem to be none the wiser.

    WVU has always been known for producing football teams who were known for their physical toughness… They were teams comprised mostly of rugged Blue Collar players who always seemed to excel far beyond their physical abilities. Scenes of opposing players being helped off the field and not returning were common. Those days are over.

    The emphasis now is on pretty boy offensive skill players to bolster the offensive stats. Not Defensive toughness. Is it possible to lose all 12 games next season? Yes. Next year’s team could possibly be that bad. What is going to change? Are the new incoming freshman going to turn the program around? No. Mountaineer football, as we all used to know it, is now officially dead.

    Once the fans get used to mediocrity you are finished. Just look at WVU basketball. Now that Bob Huggins has brought the program down to mediocrity, the fans have become accustomed to it.

    We have entered into a new era of Mountaineer football with the hiring of an inexperienced rouge head coach who refuses to wear the sacred WVU Blue and Gold. How on earth could this possibly have happened? And what is even worse, the majority of the fans seem to be OK with it. They have chosen to give the “Man in Black” a free pass and look the other way.

    What will be next? Taking away the Musket from the Mountaineer Mascot?

    • Jordan

      Dana has been Head coach 2 years now, which last year he was thrown into it. We win the Orange Bowl last year, move into arguably the 2nd or 3rd best conference in the nation and lose our whole defensive staff and you are posting garbage like this after 2 years. Was i happy with the way we got pounded by Syracuse, no, was I happy watching us blow a prevent defense against TCU, no, was i happy to let Oklahoma crawl down the field and win the game, no....but changes have been made to fix it. Patterson is the right guy for the job, thats the first step. Recruiting is beyond going great for the defense, next step. Roberts is gone...3rd step. Developing and motivating now is the 4th step in the offseason.
      Next- Bob Huggins and mediocrity?? Are you serious? What in the world supports that argument...that we are 7-5 this year? Every year went to NCAA tournament under Huggins, 1 Final Four, 1 Big East Championship, and he has brought the program to mediocrity? I sure wouldnt want to see what the program looked like before Huggins if that is mediocrity. Lastly- if Holgerson wants to wear black- GET OVER IT!

      • Rod

        Jordan, the program is larger than the coach and if a coach ignores the school colors and expects WVU to change to his colors then there is no committment or respect for WVU by the head coach. That said, our losses this season were preventable with "good" coaches. He did absolutely nothing to strengthen the defense until the end of the season....then too little. His ego is repulsive and I hope he violates a morals clause (if there is one) and we dump him. He is still protecting his buddy by "demoting" him...wonder if he took a pay cut? I thing AD Luck is great, unless he doesn't fix the coaching problems next year if we continue to get our mouth pieces handed to us.

        • Jeff

          AD Luck as you call him is..............bluntly put....... the MORON that brought in this group............


          duh

          • Shadow

            Has anyone heard from AD Luck recently?

      • Bernie

        Jordan, you have some very good points!!!

      • Chuck (not that one)

        @Jordan Well said sir, however logic and foundations in reality have little place in the comment section of wvmetronews articles.

    • MTeer

      Wooo, Man, back off the edge. Everything isn't as nearly as bad as you think. You are right, we have lost some toughness on 'D'. But I have confidence we can regain some of that muscle. Let's give Patterson a chance to implement his plan for next season. Hopefully, our strength coach can devise a work out plan that can bring some toughness back. No need to worry, we will some games next year. How many, that's to be determined.

    • Shawn

      I agree with you that the traditions are starting to fade and its a shame. But i do blame some of the fans for not supporting like they did a few years back. Now i do understand the economy takes a toll and i'm definitely one of those who cant spend the money to travel but by no means will i sit around and trash WVU (i'm not saying you are). I just told my wife the other day that i miss the all blue uniforms and i think its one of the best out there. Holgs lets the players decided on the uni's so we cant really blame the coaches for that decision.

    • Jim Smith

      Glad 2 see someone else has a problem with Holgerson wearing black instead of the gold and blue...and get rid of the grey uniforms!!!

    • Doug

      Larry Bill Stewart is gone. I personally think he was a great man, but not a good coach. Stew had a losing record before he was given the job at WVU. Yes he had a winning record. He also had Pat White and Noel Devine. I think Dana is a great offensive coach. Head Coach, I don't know yet. I want to see what he can do with the players he recruits. One things for sure. I think he needs to go out and get a real DC. He needs someone that know defense so he can focus on the offense. He can't do both. Time will tell. But not much more time.

    • Ryan

      @larry, you are by far the most negative person ive ever seen critique the eers. You are like the tea party of ncaa football, an extremist of negativity. Good God man relax and give holgy and huggy a chance. Just to refresh your memory, last year football won big east and bcs bowl and just 2 seasons ago we went to the final 4. Chill out bro its not nearly as bad as you think it is.

  • George

    If WVU wins 50% or less of its games in 2013, I look for fans to not show up at games and to call for a New Head Coach. Yes, Dana Holgorsen's job is on the line in 2013.

    My hope is that Holgorsen learned from his mistakes, and we see a much improved WVU football team across the board.

    • Anthony

      I do not think Dana is the coach everyone thinks he is!! I honestly do not think he is the meant for the MOUNTAINEERS!!

      • Mountaineer 62

        Amen! I really don't see much change from the offense run by Stew! And, many of the players were recruited under Stew. What seems different is the defense cannot stop the run, the pass, and special teams remain despicable. I saw three games this year, Wash., Morgantown, and NY. For NY I travelled from Md, paid $100 for ticket, $30 for parking, another $25 in tolls, and drank $9.50 beers. I watched in snow, sleet, and rain and was amazed the team was so ill-prepared. Reminded me of the Coach Rod's last Pitt game! I will remain a fan of Stewart; check his bowl record for non-believers. As a long-suffering alum, I probably share the concerns of many that we have been "sold a bill of good" by the Administration and the athletic department. The money may be better but WVU could be the worst team in the Big 12 next year.

  • STEVE DAVIS

    HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL. VERY OPTIMISTIC PROGNOSTICATION.....NOT BASED ON REALITY, BUT VERY OPTIMISTIC AND LOYAL. GOOD FOR YOU. AS FOR ME THOUGH....DON'T THINK I'LL MAKE RESERVATIONS JUST YET.

  • chad

    Allan, I think you're being a little generous with a couple of those "swing" games. I see Baylor and Texas Tech as losses and probably Iowa State as well. I wouldn't book any rooms anywhere anytime soon.

    • Allan Taylor

      @Chad: For the sake of my admittedly futile exercise, I tried to envision swing games as any one in which the spread would be 6 points or less.

  • Helen5844

    I watched the Fl. vs Louisville game. The fans did not show up for Florida. They did for Louisville. We have been doing the same thing. Remember, last year Florida was 7-6. The fans were upset. This year they lost one game and the fans were upset. Last year we won the Orange Bowl. The fans stayed away. This year we were right next door and the fans stayed away. We need our fans to step up.

    • Robert

      Agreed. But I need a bigger salary before I can get to a bowl game. Until then it's MPS for me.

      • Helen5844

        I live in Florida and I can not get to the games. That is not what I am talking about. Last year people said they would not go to the Orange Bowl because they did not speak Spanish. What a crock. They did not go this year because they said it was a toilet bowl. If they can't afford to go they can watch it on TV and root for the team.
        Our fans are too much for every thing is great or everything is horrible. No in between. Win, Loose or draw I am a Mountaineer. Only problem I have is it hurts too much when we lose, but I am glad when we get into a bowl game. Not every team did. I expected too much for the first year. I will do the same thing next year. GOOOOOO MOUNTAINEERS

    • Protechcpa

      WVU fans are not under contract, they do not get paid six figures to come and cheer and they are under no obligation to even show up, much less support the team. No program can guarantee ANY wins to the fan base. However, we all deserve a better showing than 2012. At a minimum, the team should show improvement as the season progresses, offering no less than hope for the future. This team grew worse. After watching our bowl game and seeing what Louisville did to Florida, I doubt our record would have been better had we remained in the Big East this year. When the fans seem to want it more than the team, look elsewhere for support.

  • tiger lily

    i see a 5-7 season and maybe worse

    • Todd

      Yes 5-7 is the best we can hope for. I say the defensive coordinator needs to go! Horrible just horrible.

  • Allan Jones

    You paint a bleak picture AT. The coaches definitely have challenges facing them for the 2013 season. I say it's still a rebuilding year and no bowl for us. Unless we get good OL and DL on this team, we will not be successful. We may be surprised to find that we have a pretty good core of WR's and the QB competition will be fun to follow, but I think Childress will be our QB.

  • ShinnstonGuy

    no arguments here

  • Chris S.

    Allan,
    Although your articles are generally informative and I respect the time and effort you put into them. I would recommended leaving your personal picks out of this article. I believe you successfully finished in last place during the weekly picks. Thus taking your opinion on wins and losses is something I will pass on. Please just stick to the facts and leave your emotions on the sidelines. I am sure you would have never picked a debacle at TT or a 5 game skid at the beginning of Jan 2012. I feel we will have an 8 win season next year thus on wins and losses will be a greater success than this year. Sometimes the glass is half full rather than half empty. Thanks

    • Allan Taylor

      @Chris S: Excellent point regarding the picks panel. (And here I had made so much progress in therapy the past four weeks!)