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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  • Jdl

    @ Jordan: Huggins is 33-32 over past two seasons....smacks of mediocrity to me. Further, paying $3 million per year for this is outrageous.

  • Andy

    I think part of the problem this season was we had no emotional leaders or motivators. By this I mean we had now players that were willing to step up and become leaders. As far as Huggy goes he will rebuild the team. Dana needs some help from the players getting each other emotionally fired up. The players he had with the exception of a few were not very passionate about the game. We will probablly have a rough year but we will reabuild.

  • Runger82

    The sign of progress is preparation. At the start of the season, Holgorsen did not have his Defensive starting players yet. That is unacceptable, and not progress. When you find one problem, and fix it, that is progress. He found problems, fixed them, and more problems developed. I am not sure he knows how to detect problems during practice, so that he can address them, and get them fixed before game time. We should not have had this kind of football record with the horses we had on this team. If he can practice for progress, then we will be okay, if not, who knows. Alabama lost a close game, and they are a great team. Good teams lose games, fix problems, move on to greatness. I hope Holgorsen gets his Old Gold and Blue wardrobe and his head figured out in 2013.

  • david goldsburg

    I think what has not been looked at is that last year should have been the bad year with a new staff it instead happend this year wvu is going through a lot of changes and we the fans have to wait and let these changes happen. we will be back up and it will start now. we have the players on board and good young players coming in, dont blame the secondary to much start looking at the linebackers i would say that is the weakest group i have seen at wvu in years and if you dont have linebackers who can pass rush and brop back in pass coverage then teams will keep passing on us as for the d backs the 2 starters we had never were any good one has always been beaten the other was a starter because he had more time there if you become a starter as a senior then you dont have the talant to begin with,

  • Peter Pavlik

    With the grim outlook you are giving for next fall season for WVU, why dress the team at all?

    Why not just put the team and fans out of our foredooming misery and just “shot” us all.

    Well, Mr. Writer, WVU has a way of reaching down and coming up with “true grit”. With a state fan base, and a Mountaineers nation for us away from home, they are the pride of The State of West Virginia and always will be.

    The team knows all the adversity facing them. Next season just don’t count the team out.

    The Mountaineer’s have a way to make the naysayers eat crow a lot.

  • Ashton

    We shall see. Some people are too quick to jump to conclusions.. Especially, when they don't have a single clue what they are talking about. If anyone thinks Halgersen can't coach then they have no business talking about football. It's all relient on our defense. As long as holgersen is here we will have an above average offense. With developed players, we will have a great offense. It's going to come down to can they pinpoint the issue on defense an correct it. and can we stay disciplined on all sides of the ball. That's what screwed us this year and that's what will determine next season's success.

  • Quail Valley Bandit

    I think we have some very good receivers coming in this season-- problem is lack of time in the system before game time

    D’Vante Henry is expected to be the next Bruce Irvin.--- He is about 3 or 4 inches taller and about 15 pounds lighter. I think he will be a big impact in 2014 after he gains about 25lbs and adds strength. Hope I'm wrong about 2013.

    QB --- who knows --- could be a JUCO

    RB--- I think our running game will be the surprise of 2013

    Coaching: We need discipline. Two straight seasons and we have a midseason slip. I think that is all about discipline.

  • Don

    Yes the defense had it challenges this year, but the point everybody seems to not be talking about is the offense. Look at the pinstripe bowl. I think the D was actually doing a pretty good job, but the offense couldn't score. 14 pts. Really That's what I would expect from a Bill Stewart's offense. I think Dana has some real problems with his play book. Never throwing to a tight end? Never having any design roll outs for Geno or nake bootlegs. He probably call maybe 5 trick plays whole season. Also I question whether Dana has the ability to inspire/get his guys up for a game. Listen to Bill Stewarts address to the team when he had to come in and take over for Rich Rod against OK. Does Dana have that? I don't know but I do know with all the talent we had on offense we only scored 14 pts against the Orange men. I hope Dana gets creative on Offensive and expand his limited playbook.

  • ALovitz

    While I'm disappointed that our FB season went as it did, I don't think all is lost in 2013. I guess I've been following WVU FB for too many years to let one "transition" year of very average performance, turn me into a negative southsayer. Back in the day of Don Nehlen, who in his first 10 years at the helm, went 6-6, 9-3, 9-3, 9-3, 8-4, 7-3-1, 4-7, 6-6, 11-1, and 8-3-1. Hardly a dynasty. Prior to Nehlen, Frank Cignetti went 17-27 in 4 seasons; with Bobby Bowden going 42-26 in 6 seasons. My point being that as good a coach as these guys were, it took time for them to build themselves a team made of of players that "fit" their offensive and defensive units. Holgerson has the same situation. The players he inherited, luckily were good athletes; with Geno, Tavon, Stedman, Bruce Irvin, Shawne Austin, Tyler Urban, and Julian Miller, to name a few. Unfortunately, these gents are all gone now. Last year was the 1st time Dana had to recruit players that fit his style of FB. Keep in mind that one year of recruiting doesn't a FB team make. This year, will be his second full year in recruiting. If my calculations are correct, it will take him one more year to get a team together with his mark on it. 2011 and 2012 teams were made up of Stew's recruits. Now, if WVU can't be competitive in the Big 12 by 2014 (I know, what about 2013? - another transition year), then Ollie needs to be finding another head coach. In the mean time, I think it fair to say WVU fans need to give Dana a fair chance this coming year. We're rebuilding, and that's a fact. At the same time, I think Dana is a good coach and he and Ollie will get the right coaching staff on board. 2014 will be our "coming out" year.

    • Jim Smith

      Are you Jon's brother? Those coaches had the misfortune of being in an era when scholarships weren't limited to 85, like they are now...So the Penn States of the world could get all the blue-chip recruits, and a West Virginia had to fight for the scraps...

  • Jim

    Hey everybody....calm down. Sure there were some lapses this year. Most of it if not all was the defensive short comings. Playing that many freshmen would have been a challenge in the Big East. Too much pressure on the offense as the season progressed. Also, we need to give the coaching staff at least two full seasons of recruiting...they have only had one in reality. In an extremely competitive recruiting environment, atheletes aren't going to sign on to a program "that used to be" they will sign on based on the strengths of who is rfecruting them and what the program has to offer....WVU/Morgantown has that element.
    Keep in perspective folks and everything will be just fine.
    As for Huggs....everything will be fine.

  • John

    Scott, Cupboard was full when Dana took over? Are you paying attention? Stews recruiting classes were among the worst this school has ever had in the last 25 years! He filled in mediocre classes by giving walk ons and lower div 1 prospects scholarships.
    That's why there's no depth. That's why true freshman were playing. Stew try to sabotage Luck and Holgorsen. Having met Stew one time he wasn't as nice a guy as everyone makes him out to be. Ask anyone who knows anything about WVU Football about this years 2013 recruiting class. It is BY FAR the best recruiting class this school has had in 25 years. So please take your Stew Koolaid somewhere else, I'm not saying Holgs is the greatest, but he is qualified for the job, Stewart was not qualified, and he was given the job by a drunk and incompetent Ed Pastilong.

  • Shawn G

    Yep... This is the same fans that ran Bobby B out of town.. By the way we r getting a new design for the uniforms this year.

  • cutty77

    Who cares about The Heisman.I'm said many Years ago,that a player from WVU will never win The Heisman.Go To NCAA final stats,and look up Geno Stats.He is Still Number one.He will be The First QB taken in the NFL draft.Our old defense staff 2 years ago wouldn't play Bruce Irwin very much.Guess what has was the 6th plaayer picked in The Draft,and lead the NFL in Sacks for Rookies.It will a long time before WVU has the Offense Power that had this year.Tavon, and,Stedman,are the real deal.We just HAD A CHOKING FIELD GOAL KICKER.Maybe the worest of all time at WVU.

  • habibhaddad

    If you want a full stadium for football, jettison the online ticket validation system and let any student with a valid ID into the stadium much like was done at old Mountaineer Field. The students will be lined up to attend. Fill that puppy up. I do not share the apocalptic views of our friends on this thread. Next year is a make or break year for this coaching staff and we can only hope they have learned a lesson or two about motivation and manning up when needed. One only need look at the way Kansas State entered our stadium before laying a beatdown on our Mountaineers. That, my friend, is discipline. I hope DH and KP watch and rewatch that piece of film.

  • Mark

    If you look at the 2013 schedule it really comes down to Maryland. If we can beat Maryland we have a good chance to go bowling. A win over the Terps makes us 3-0 OOC. If we can beat Kansas on the road and Iowa State at home we only need to win one of Ok state/ TTU/K state/Baylor to get to 6 wins. It seems that whether we are independent, in the Big East or in the Big XII our bowling fate is always determined by this game.