I've been thinking about this for awhile, so I finally decided to take the plunge and try something a little different in this space. Given the great access we have to so much stuff now with Twitter - fantastic writing, wonderful stories and the like - I see interesting stuff every day that in some way, shape or form relates to Mountaineer football, the Big 12 or just the NCAA. Sometimes I see these things and think "I bet all those fine folks who follow along with us at the Musket would enjoy this." So normally I tweet them out, but I'd also like to do something a bit more.
Every couple days I'm going to pass along something I find interesting with my thoughts attached. Maybe you agree with me, maybe you don't, but I hope you at least read the article I'm including (the links are in the headings) - I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Don't confuse this with the Shotgun Throwdown. WVUIE97 busts his ass gathering the groceries for y'all every morning. I'm waaaaay too lazy for that and this is nowhere near the comprehensive look he gives you. I'm just making dessert; tossing an assorted collection of confectionery goodies your way in the hopes you find them entertaining and most importantly informative.
I don't have any set frequency for now - hell, I don't even have a real name for it (suggestions are welcome). But I'll compile it and write it, hopefully you'll read it, and we'll have some fun. And what better time to roll this out. It's Saturday....it's a week from kick.....the juices are starting to flow.....let's get this thing moving.
Over the last few weeks I've become a huge fan of the stuff they put out over at FootballStudyHall.com. Bill Connelly's team previews were must-reads for any team you want to know about (great for scouting opponents) and this article from earlier in the week posted by RedmondLonghorn is worth your time.
He gets into some pretty heady statistical analysis, so here's the dummy version - by using a collection of statistical data, Redmond attempted to quantify and rank "Coaching Effect." He took team quality (basing it on recruiting star rankings) and compared it to team performance and found the delta - basically who got the most out of the least talent. He then applied this formula to every season by every BCS auto-qualify league for each season between 2006-2012 and ranked them.
WVU figured prominently in the results.
The overall #1 team - the 2012 Kansas State Wildcats. So I guess if you're going to suffer your most embarrassing home loss in a generation, do it to a well coached team, right?
Overall #2? The 2007 West Virginia Mountaineers. Overall #10? The 2006 Mountaineers. In fact, WVU did pretty well here with only one team meriting a negative ranking in the "Coaching Effect" category - basically saying the coach had a net negative effect on the talent he had to work with - that was the 2012 team.
I'm just sharing this because I found it interesting (the only other school with two appearances in the top 10 was Alabama in their 2011 and 2012 title years) and thought provoking. I'm certainly not editorializing on former coaches but any sane person has to acknowledge one thing - when The Product got things rolling in Morgantown for that 05-06-07 stretch, it was a sight to behold. And now we can point to some objective analysis to support that.
I've come to terms with the fact that at some point, most likely in the not-too-distant future, Oliver Luck will depart WVU for a new challenge. When he does, I'll console myself with the thought of all he has done to drag this athletic program into the 21st century, but damn if I won't miss quotes like this:
"Here’s my theory," Luck said. "I’m big on cultural affinity. West Virginians are basically Scots/Irish that came over from Scotland, Ireland. Rough, hard-drinking type folks. They were pushed up into the mountains, because they weren’t civilized like the Quakers or the Puritans. Know what I mean? Seriously. So they get pushed up and down, constantly on the move, running from the law, in a sense.
"They moved all the way through Virginia, Northern Alabama, Georgia, through Tennessee, into Arkansas. Know where they stopped? They stopped right about here."
Luck was standing on a patch of red dirt in Moore’s Buck Thomas Park.
And why did the West Virginians stop in Oklahoma, and the middle of Kansas, and the middle of Texas? "Because you can’t move much farther west , without lots of irrigation," Luck said. "So they stopped here. So these are our people."
Vintage Luck. Equal parts thoughtful, intelligent, accessible and provocative. He's not afraid to pull disparate pieces of information together and lay out an easy to understand picture of how he sees the world. Where many people in his high profile position would tiptoe around a subject, nipping at the edges, Luck just comes right out and says it. I got to experience a touch of this myself a few months ago when emailing Luck for a piece I did in Jed Drennings The SignalCaller.com football preview magazine (you can read it here).
I was attempting to tie together the transition WVU went through in 1980 and what they're going through now. I wanted to get enough from him I could make a correlation that wouldn't seem an absurd reach. I was half convinced that my premise was just something I conjured up and wouldn't be enough to build a piece around.
Enter Oliver Luck.
When I asked him about opposition to building a new stadium in 1980, he responded with this:
"If an observer would go back to the mid 1970s one would see a program at a crossroads. One option was to update the Old Mountaineer Field and continue to play a number of our old colleagues in the Southern Conference (Richmond, Furman, VMI, etc.). Looking back, one could say that a likely path for Mountaineer Football could have been a mid-major in football playing in a stadium built by horse and buggy. Basically, we could have become like a Richmond, Appalachian State or Villanova." There was of course another, more ambitious alternative. "The other option was to build a state of the art stadium and coaches offices/weight room complex and raise the level of recruiting and coaching so that we could compete with the likes of Penn State and Pitt on an annual basis."
It didn't take much reading between the lines to see the correlation he was making between WVU's ambitions stadium project in 1980 and the jump to the Big 12 in 2012. He basically wrote my piece for me.
Many find him blunt and arrogant, but I find Luck's affinity for straight-talk refreshing in a time of PCness and fear to give offense. If more people were willing to speak plainly like Luck, maybe this world would be a bit easier to navigate.
With WVU fans are in the midst of the first bona fide fall camp QB battle in years, I thought this might be an interesting read for some of you. For my money Chris Brown at SmartFootball.com explains the complex Xs and Os of the game better than anyone. In this piece he attacks the quarterback position, giving the best description I've read in a while of the mental challenges and complex decision-tree realities of playing quarterback at a high level.
I was a guest on the WereAllEers radio show earlier today and when the conversation turned to quarterbacks and who I thought WVU would roll with, I chose Clint Trickett and gave a long answer that amounted to "experience, presence, mental comfort." I'd say that answer was in no small part due to having read this piece earlier in the day.
The amount of information a QB must take in and process to perform effectively is mind-boggling. And things like reading coverage and understanding what the defense plans to do has to be done with a glance in an instant. Take a minute. Stand up. Backpedal halfway across your living room. If you were an NFL or major college quarterback, in the time you did that you would be expected to have read the defense, understood which of the options available to you will be the best, anticipated which DB will be moving to where and - oh, yeah - set your feet to throw a football through a tire 40 feet away.
It's not amazing that there are so many who can play this position at a high level. It's amazing that ANYBODY can play this position at a high level.
I just think it speaks to the fact that having experience and the mindset that comes with it is an invaluable asset if you're going to play the most mentally demanding position in sports. You should really give this one a read - you'll be smarter having done so.
That's all I got. If you come across something you would like to share shoot it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Six days to go. Get fired up.