Well, kind of. In today's mailbag, Mandel fields a question on WVU's prospects in the Big East this season. I don't have a huge problem with what he says, really. I mean, I expect better, but until we prove it on the field, I can't argue too loudly. I do have a problem with one sentence, and one sentence only, though:
I saw an article last week that had West Virginia predicted to finish fifth in the Big East this year. I know they lost Pat White, but they also have a lot coming back, and some great recruits. Is fifth place really realistic for my Mountaineers?
-- Paul, Louisville
First of all, the Big East is so small, and so tightly bunched, the difference between being picked second and fifth isn't as significant as in other conferences. For instance, last season Cincinnati won the league at 6-1, while the next three teams (Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Rutgers) all finished 5-2. So it's not inconceivable the Mountaineers could finish fifth and still be right in the mix for the title until the end.
That said, most reasonable observers would expect West Virginia to take a step back this fall. There's simply no replacing a leader as uniquely talented as White. The good news is his replacement, Jarrett Brown, has seen significant playing time the past few years and certainly seems capable of running the offense. But he's still not White, and remember, this team managed to lose four games last year even with White.
It's going to be a big year for nice-guy coach Bill Stewart. He drew a load of criticism early last season when the Mountaineers dropped consecutive games to East Carolina and Colorado, but inspired some confidence with a comeback bowl win over North Carolina. Still, there remain plenty of doubters out there -- myself included -- curious to see how he fares post-Pat.
Did you catch the sentence? We'll find out after the jump.
OK, let's see how good you are. Here's the argument I can't, can't, can't agree with:
Still, there remain plenty of doubters out there -- myself included -- curious to see how he fares post-Pat.
If there is a football coach out there that is best designed to deal with WVU post-Pat White, it's Bill Stewart.
This is a coach that has tried to transform the Mountaineers' offense from "run, run, run, fake pass then run, run, run" to something that involves a lot more passing. Pat White did an admirable job in the role of a gun-slinger, but one year is a tough learning curve. Now, we have a quarterback more adept at the pass running the offense. No one is calling him Pat White. But things are different. Not for the worse, maybe even not for the better. But the offense is different. And losing Pat White, because things are different, doesn't prove as big a task as it might have been before.