MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In an ideal world, Isaiah Hardy would be starting on the West Virginia offensive line next season with another year of practice under his belt.
Alas, the world is not often ideal.
Hardy has hit his maximum of four games played this season. With just one additional snap, the senior’s eligibility will be gone next year. Heading into the season, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen envisioned Hardy being part of the Mountaineers’ future. As recently as last week, Holgorsen was still hoping such a thing was possible when Week 1 starting right guard Joe Brown was cleared to return from a neck injury.
Current events have dictated otherwise. While Brown was back in uniform against Iowa State, Holgorsen determined he wasn’t quite ready to start. Thus, Hardy has officially moved from guy the Mountaineers hoped to stash on their bench to starting right guard.
“He’s a starting lineman for us right now,” Holgorsen said of Hardy. “We don’t redshirt starting linemen. Joe Brown was available, but he’s pretty new to the program. When he’s not practicing at a high rate, we’re not going to play him. He needs to practice at a higher rate.”
With West Virginia in an open week before facing Baylor, there is at least a chance Brown will make up the necessary ground to keep the Hardy redshirt plan viable. But it’s not something anyone should be holding their breath over.
“He’s going to be healthier this week and have more opportunities to practice. So, that could change how we insert people into the game,” Holgorsen said. “But right now, Isaiah is one of our best five, and he’ll keep playing moving forward. It would’ve been nice to be able to [redshirt him], but we’re a little more worried about this year and putting our best lineup out there against Baylor than anything that happens after this year.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Hardy graded out as the second-best lineman for the Mountaineers against Iowa State behind right tackle Colton McKivitz.
Bright spots were hard to come by against Iowa State, but linebacker Shea Campbell provided one.
The redshirt sophomore from Morgantown High earned a late nod at middle linebacker when starter Dylan Tonkery was unable to go because of an injury from the Kansas game. Campbell, a former walk-on who played safety in high school, did not disappoint. Though the Cyclones clearly recognized that he was the new guy on the field, Campbell did a bang-up job of standing his ground with a game-high 12 tackles, including six solos and two tackles for loss.
The totals are even more impressive considering that Campbell has primarily practiced at outside linebacker.
“I thought he did an adequate job,” Holgorsen said. “I was happy with him, with how he practiced throughout the course of the week. Then, he went in there and made some good stops.”
Despite a 1-for-10 performance against Iowa State, West Virginia remains one of the best offenses in the nation on third down. The Mountaineers now rank 10th with a 50 percent conversion rate. They were fourth heading into the game. Iowa State, which went into the game with the No. 118 third-down defense, moved up to 94.
WVU quarterback Will Grier, who entered the game second in the country in passing yards per game, is down to seventh after being limited to 100 yards by the Cyclones. Grier is fourth in the country in quarterback rating (185.83) and third in touchdown passes (22).