1. I think this recruiting cycle was a major success
Securing the services of Brendan Ferns last week took this recruiting class from solid to special. The class already had some special incoming talents with Steven Smothers looking to do his Tavon Austin impression in Morgantown and Kyzir White deciding to keep the family connection alive at Morgantown, but Ferns comes to West Virginia as the 7th highest rated recruit ever to join the Mountaineers. Bob Hertzel took a look at all of the recruits and notes that out of the 22 highest ranked players to attend WVU, 9 are on the current squad. (safety Dravon Askew-Henry No. 6, Ferns No. 7, wide receiver Shelton Gibson No. 8, wide receiver Jovon Durante No. 10,
cornerback Tyrek Cole No. 11, running back Donte Thomas-Williams No. 12, Smothers and Kyzir White.) That is extremely impressive and the staff deserves kudos for securing that talent. [Note: Bob Hertzel included Tyrek Cole as an active roster but Cole was dismissed by the staff and withdrew from classes in September 2015. He was later arrested for battery and property damages]
I am also impressed that the staff recruited and secured three local West Virginia high schoolers in Reese Donahue, Dylan Tonkery and Maverick Wolfley. Donahue had a great quote that embodies the Mountaineer Spirit.
When I went to camps, players would look at me and say 'He is the number 1 rated recruit in West Virginia.' I had to make sure I represente my state well and remain humble - Reese Donahue, WVU Defensive Line.
2. I think this might be the year to really believe in the basketball team
Slightly over halfway through conference play, the men's basketball team sits alone at the top of the Big 12 Conference. They own impressive wins over #1 Kansas, #13 Iowa State [in Ames] and #15 Baylor already, this team is doing things that they typically do not do. WVU played some of its best basketball when it played #1 Kansas and #2 Oklahoma in succession, taking the Sooners to the wire, losing by 2 in Norman. The Mountaineers have gone into Ames, Iowa, a place where dreams and ranked teams go to die and upended the Cyclones. Then the Mountaineers took on Baylor, who in 2015 was a matchup nightmare, defeating the team three times, each by double digits. So the Mountaineers returned the favor to Baylor, cruising to an 11 point win that was not that close.
The team has 4 road games left (Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma State and Baylor) and four home games left (TCU, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Texas Tech). Since joining the Big 12, the conference champion has only need 13 or 14 conference wins to secure the league title. Three games should be wins by WVU meaning the 'Eers need to find a way to win either the home games against the Sooners and Iowa State, teams they took to the wire or beat on the road, or find some road success. If WVU can find 5 more conference wins, WVU can be the team to break Kansas' 12-year league title streak. I believe they can.
3. I think Jaysean Paige is my favorite meme
Jaysean has been a revelation coming off the bench. When WVU needs a shot in the arm, get the ball in the hands of number 5. Sparking memories of another number 5 in Blue and Gold, Paige can be found driving to the basket against zones, breaking the back of opponents with beautiful threes and giving Bob Huggins quality minutes off the bench.
4. I think the Rifle Team is doing amazing things
I want to be sure everybody sees what WVU's rifle team is up to. This is ridiculous. https://t.co/ioawvmcKTz— Mike Casazza (@mikecasazza) January 18, 2016
We often take the other sports (everything that isn't Football or Men's Basketball) for granted, but once again the Rifle Team is doing special things. Setting, then breaking, a NCAA record deserves to be mentioned. The team originally set the record against number 5 Alaska-Fairbanks with a score of 4724 and then demolished that record against number 15 Akron with a score of 4740.
Not only is the rifle team ranked number 1, having won 11 straight matches and 25 straight matches at home, but in early December, the team competed in the Olympic trials for the 2016 Winter Olympics.
5. I think this has been a banner year for WVU Sports
The football team won 8 games in the Big 12, including a thrilling bowl game. The men's basketball team is ranked and in first place in the conference. The women's soccer team won their fourth straight Big 12 Championship and made it to the Elite 8 in the tournament. The Rifle team is #1. So many sports are competing and performing well. And over the weekend, we got one more. The wrestling team defeated Pitt. I don't care the sport, I don't care the time, it is always good to beat Pitt. So what do you do when you upset your rival? You sing Country Roads.