1. I think this is the best offense Dana has had since 2012.
Think about it. For the first time since 2012 we have a quarterback who played the entire season with receivers who played the entire season with that quarterback. A few years of quarterback turnover and roster upheaval have left the Mountaineers without the most dynamic offense, despite being a top 30 offense last year. I know Skyler Howard has some accuracy issues he needs to resolve. I expect him to be better. I expect the receivers to catch more balls. All in all, this is the year the offense should be near the top in the Big 12.
Every quarterback who has gotten a second year with Dana's offense here at West Virginia has taken a dramatic improvement. Geno went from 32 touchdowns to 44 and increased his completion percentage 5%. Clint Trickett increased his completion percentage from 52.8 to 67.1. I fully expect Skyler Howard to make a similar jump this season.
2. I think the defense will be no worse than the 2014 version.
I know the team lost a lot of defensive players. That doesn't mean the players returning are completely green. Plenty of the backups saw significant game time. All three linebackers played every game last year. Tony Gibson did a great job rotating players in meaningful situations so the starters were fresh and the backups saw gametime. I expect that to pay dividends this season when we ask three new linebackers to become starters.
3. I think the team is going to miss Nick O'Toole.
Ole' Boomstache. The ability to flip the field when the offense didn't generate a first down and put kickoffs deep was a great "secret" weapon for the Mountaineers. Not only will Nick's exploits on the field be missed but his eccentric personality and unique fashion sense will also be missed.
4. I think Dravon Askew Henry will be the defensive leader.
Dravon showed me a lot last year, especially when the team lost Karl Joseph. Even more so, during the Maryland game, Dravon willingly got involved with a Maryland offensive lineman who he felt was disrespecting his teammates. Dravon has shown the fire, heart and determination that other players naturally flock to. It would not surprise me to see Dravon become the guy leading the team out and generally making plays to lift the team up.
5. I think Jovon Durante is on a cusp of greatness and flameout.
There is no doubt in my mind that Durante is the most talented wide receiver on the team. He has all the necessary skills: speed, height, hands. He will begin to develop the physicality necessary to win those jump ball scenarios. However, Jovon sulked, got suspended for violation of team rules and missed out on the Cactus Bowl. He then violated team rules and missed out on the Gold-Blue Game. We've seen high profile players come in and not dominate and not make the impact they expected, then sulk about it and eventually make poor choices which leads to them being dismissed from the team. I think Jovon is on that cusp and he needs to make the proper choices to get back to being the play maker we know he can be. Because the team with Jovon is much stronger than without.
6. I think the David Sills transfer was inevitable.
Dana Holgorsen and his staff have done a great job at attempting to get top level talent. David Sills was a top level guy. Top level guys want to play and want to play early. Before Will Grier decided to transfer to WVU, there was speculation that a quarterback would transfer from the program. Many assumed it would be William Crest after spending his freshman year as the backup to Clint Trickett before being injured and gaining a medical redshirt. Last year, Crest was used a a jack-of-all-trades player, playing some running back, some receiver, some H-back, etc. David Sills was used exclusively as a receiver and caught two touchdowns, including the game winner against Arizona State.
Once Grier decided to spend his final college years in Morgantown, losing a quarterback was almost a given. You just can't have that many talented players at a position where only one can play. Maybe Sills jumped the gun. David would have played this year as a receiver and could have competed next year with Grier for the starting quarterback position.
But what if he lost the battle? Now he's burned another year of eligibility playing receiver and he just lost the starting quarterback position to a player who has two years remaining. He's not going to get his shot at playing quarterback in college.
At that point, Sills could attempt to transfer to another FBS program, use his redshirt year as he sits out the one-year waiting period, and come back in 2018. Or he could go JUCO in 2017 and transfer in 2018 to FBS and show scouts what he can do with only one year of starting at the highest level. I think Sills has made the right decision to transfer and attempt to play the position he wants to.