On the Heart of Dallas Bowl...
I wrote in my Heart of Dallas preview that I was excited to see what Chugs could do with a few weeks of first team reps, and what Spavs could come up with in those few weeks to put him in positions to succeed. By halftime I'd seen enough. Say what you want about the opponent, the injuries, whatever - I’m struggling to recall a worse performance on the national stage other than [redacted]. Like any good fan I dutifully suffered through the remaining 30 minutes, but really, watching each teams' opening series was enough to know it was about to be a long day for the Old Gold and Blue. The game has already been covered in detail by Smoking Musket, so I guess I'll just finish by saying that I expected nothing from this game, and I was still disappointed.
On the temperature of Dana's seat...
That being said, this is a stupid, stupid thing to even be talking about right now.
We’re one year removed from a 10-win season that featured a D3 walk-on running back playing quarterback. That alone should buy him more than a year, but consider also that prior to the injury to Will Grier we were sitting at 7-3, making it likely that we would’ve finished with 8 or 9 wins this year, too (while replacing more production than any Power 5 team in the country). I feel like we’re beating a dead horse at this point, but seriously, what do you people expect?
We’ve also just signed arguably the best recruiting class in school history. Why do you think that it is? The beautiful Morgantown weather, perhaps? The proximity to large metropolitan centers or sandy coastline? OR IS IT BECAUSE THEY LIKE THE STAFF AND WANT TO BE A PART OF WHAT THEY’RE BUILDING HERE! There are several stories floating around about recruits being sold on us in large part by the things they were hearing from friends already in the program. Just look at this quote from Chad Grier:
“I hope people realize you’d better be careful what you ask for, because they’ve really got something good there, whether you realize it or not,” Chad said.
The point here is that the people who matter (those inside the program and those who could potentially be) clearly like Dana and Co.
And on top of all that, Dana just signed a new contract. We can revisit next year in the event of a disaster, but barring that, the man’s not going anywhere.
On our 2018 Outlook...
Speaking of next year, on paper, next year is at long last, “The Year”. It’s the year we’ve been talking about for the better part of a decade, when the stars look like they may finally align and we have a real shot to make some kind of a run. We return arguably the best QB in the country, 3 of his top 4 receivers, 2 of our top 3 running backs, 3 starters along the offensive front, 5 of our top 6 defensive lineman, 2 of our top 3 linebackers, and a 3-year starter at safety. Even better, the rest of the Big 12 graduates a ton of talent. Gone is Baker Mayfield, gone are Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and Marcel Ateman, gone is Kenny Hill. I think if we can answer few questions, 2018 could be special:
- Who steps in at cornerback?
Hakeem Bailey showed signs down the stretch that he was starting to figure things out, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that he can build on that next year, but ideally we’d want at least 2 and hopefully 3 more guys to develop into serviceable options. Are those guys already on the roster, or are they possibly on the way in the form of Joshua Norwood and Keith Washington? Hopefully we know by spring.
- Who steps up on the interior of our offensive line?
We crucially return both tackles for next season, but Kyle Bosch and Grant Lingafelter are both graduating leaving two large holes at guard on either side of Matt Jones. We have plenty of big bodies to try there, but we need two to separate themselves and lock those spots down.
- Who from that 2016 linebacker class is going to break through?
Al Benton’s graduation leaves a fairly sizable gap in the middle of our defense. David Long figures to slide into the middle while Dylan Tonkery is likely to retain his spot on the strong side, but the starting job on the weak side is up for grabs. The smart money seems to be on Brendan Ferns if he can stay healthy, but in a perfect world, next year is the year when Zach Sandwisch, Adam Hensley, and Logan Thimons all start to take steps forward and leave their mark on the program. Hopefully the old “competition breeds success” cliche holds true.
On to Basketball...
Fans looking for something to take the taste of a disappointing month of football out of their mouths need look no further than what’s going on inside the Coliseum. The 7th-ranked Mountaineers have rebounded wonderfully following a season-opening loss to Texas A&M, and last night overcome a 7-point halftime deficit to a surprisingly game Oklahoma State team to start conference play 1-0 and stretch their overall record to 12-1. Following the game, Huggins provided one of the great quotes I’ve heard in my lifetime, and one that had me tearing up as I listened to it. He said,
"We're a microcosm of our state. We're just hard-working, grind it out, tough it out, be tougher than everybody else and be successful because we are tougher than everybody else. We're equipped to endure more than everyone else. It's West Virginia.... Everybody else plays for their school, their old alma mater. We play for an entire state."
It's our job as fans to prove him right. Let’s go.