The 2017 football corpse has barely cooled and we are already gearing up for the 2018 season. According to 5dimes.eu, the West Virginia Mountaineers have opened as 7.5-point favorites over their season opening opponent, the Tennessee Volunteers. The line has already moved to -8 for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia figures to make 2018 the year we, as fans, have talked about since 2007, the proverbial “next year”. The Mountaineers will return Will Grier, the Florida Gators transfer who was leading the nation in passing touchdowns before a hand/finger injury against the Texas Longhorns derailed his promising junior season.
Grier’s favorite target, former USC committ, David Sills is also returning for his senior season. Sills was a Biletnikoff finalist this season after catching 18 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards.
Also returning is senior left tackle Yodny Cajuste who will help anchor an offensive line that replaced three starters this season. Four of the five starters will return on the line which paved the way for senior Justin Crawford to record another 1,000 yard rushing season.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Mountaineers will finally not be required to replace an entire starting unit. In 2016, Tony Gibson had to find three linebackers to replace his starting trio along with losing his secondary. Last year, the man for Van, WV needed to replace three starting defensive linemen and his secondary. 2018 looks to be much more promising with All-American freshman Lamonte McDougal to help anchor the nose of the 3-man front.
Pro Football Focus Second Team All American linebacker David Long will look to wreak havoc in the backfield of the Big 12 and senior Dravon Askew-Henry will hold down the secondary.
Tennessee, on the other hand, will be losing four starters in their secondary and three starters on their offensive line. The Volunteers are also expected to attempt to transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4 defense. If the line is any indication, the first game for new head coach Jeremy Pruitt won’t be pretty one.