We've finally made it. It's football season once again. We, both the university as a whole (including the athletic teams) and the fans, have a year of experience being in this Big 12 conference of ours under our belts. While we're still getting used to seeing these new teams EVERY WEEK now, we have grown accustomed to talking about them and being in a conference with them. You could say that we're still in our honeymoon phase somewhat, but the comfortability factor is setting in.
Just as fans need that adjustment period, so too did our football team, I believe. There was a definite step up in competition and facing that each week was something that had to be experienced in order to acclimate to it. It didn't help matters that WVU was painfully thin on the depth chart at virtually every position. Three All-American talents on offense can't be expected to carry a team against teams in a league as talented and deep as the Big 12 was, and is.
Now we turn the page to a new era in Mountaineer football. There are no projected All Americans on this team. In fact, there are still many question marks that still need answered and we're only a few hours from game time. The most talked about question is the starting quarterback, and even if the starter tomorrow will end up being the best long term answer. Coach Holgorsen even said tomorrow is a continuation of the evaluation of Clint Trickett and Paul Millard.
At other positions, players have stepped up and earned their starting status (at least for this week). The entirety of the center of the offensive line had to be replaced. Receivers have the challenge of trying to continue the standard set by Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that these guys have had to get used to new coaches as well.
The running backs have seen an influx of talent unlike we've seen in recent years. Might we get back to having our standard 1000 yard rusher? In Charles Sims, it looks likely, but there are three others who will garner playing time as well.
Then there's the defense...the much maligned defense. Keith Patterson has spent the entire offseason reworking and retooling the defense to make it a more instinctual scheme to run, letting players react instead of thinking too much first.
Depth across the board has increased and the talent is markedly taller in stature as well. The defensive backs have new coaches that look to turn around the fortunes from a season ago. Brian Mitchell, especially, is a proven cornerbacks coach who has a proven track record with cornerbacks who were successful.
Yes, there are questions...lots of 'em. But with them comes opportunities and establish its own identity; not as a bunch of guys who look to three special players to carry them but as a complete team effort.
Ok, I guess I need to talk about this week's opponent a bit. William & Mary is an FCS team that, despite a rough season (2-9) last year, is a program that over the last few years has managed to scare the bejeezus out of several FBS teams and even beat Virginia. They're led by a coach who's helmed the program for the last 34 years in Jimmy Laycock (go ahead and laugh, I know you want to).
At a glance, this game should be nothing more than a tune up and evaluation for Oklahoma next week. But the landscape is littered with examples of where this should have been the case and the FCS team knocks off the Big Bad FBS team. The talent differential should be apparent on the field tomorrow and WVU should easily walk away with the win. But what also needs to happen is getting the two-deep (maybe even some of the 3rd) personnel enough reps to figure out if they can handle the game situations long term, going forward through the season.
Prediction: WVU 49, Tribe 17