MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Mason Rudolph had a Heisman campaign up and running before Oklahoma State’s spring game.
Baker Mayfield had the cops running in Fayetteville, though we all know that episode of inebriated scrambling won’t disrupt from his superstar status next season.
The Tom Herman honeymoon is all blue skies and hard-hats in Austin, where he’s demolishing the locker room and taking a sledgehammer to The Great Charlie Strong Mistake.
There’s even a simmering around Kansas State, where an intact offense fuels grand premonitions about a season that could be Bill Snyder’s last.
Does West Virginia belong among the Big 12’s buzzworthy teams?
“There’s a chance this team could have as much talent as any team we’ve had since I’ve been here,” coach Dana Holgorsen said this week.
Is that optimism legit, or merely springtime pomp?
Two key things I think we learned during the Mountaineers’ 15 spring practices:
1. West Virginia fully expects quarterback Will Grier to be eligible from Day One next fall.
If they had any concerns about the NCAA clearing the Florida transfer, coaches would have given Chris Chugunov more first-team reps and extolled Grier less.
“He will be our starting quarterback, no question,” Holgorsen told MetroNews. “We’ve just got to keep building the team around him offensively.”
The compliance staff must follow protocols for Grier’s reinstatement from a PED suspension, but all signs point to him being cleared in June.
And based upon Grier’s spring game performance, signs point to him being supremely productive come fall.
2. Holgorsen likes the nucleus of this team.
Among the 85 scholarship players, West Virginia must be able to count on at least 40 next season, and I get the sense Holgorsen feels comfortable with that primary group.
That’s why he cut short the end of Saturday’s game by nearly 4 minutes and allowed Geno Smith to play catch wth Shelton Gibson. With many key players shut down for spring, the staff had seen plenty from the mix-and-matched players who aren’t likely to contribute in 2017.
That defense was missing free safety Dravon Askew-Henry, Spur enforcer Kyzir White, Sam linebacker Xavier Preston, yet-to-arrive cornerback Cory Winfield and a couple of the top nose guards.
The offense, which Grier orchestrated smoothly, lacked blind-side protector Yodny Cajuste, versatile running back Kennedy McKoy and receivers Ka’Raun White and Marcus Simms
“Well, you get to a point where you just can’t get any better with what you currently have,” Holgorsen said. “I think we’re going to be a completely different team in late August than we are right now. You guys know my injury policy right now, but there’s 20 guys in the weightroom that were not able to participate. All those guys will be back, and the long-term guys — Ka’Raun, Dravon and Yodny really honestly could’ve played, but what’s the point?
“I know where we’re at, and I know we can’t get any better until we get three months down the road.”
West Virginia won 10 games last season and finished in the AP top 25 for the first time in its five Big 12 seasons. We’ll learn whether to believe in an encore once all the crucial parts are reassembled in August.