There is no longer off-season in any sport than that of college football, yet somehow the most unbearable part is getting through the final weeks of summer training camp and into the actual season. This was doubly true for West Virginia Mountaineers fans heading into 2019.
It’s been two-hundred and forty-one long, grueling days since we last saw our Mountaineers on the field in any form of consequence, where we began closing the book on an eight-season long chapter in program history. In just six days time, a new era will dawn on West Virginia football, and along with it comes a long list of questions — ones that we’ll begin to be able to answer, but are still months away from knowing for certain.
As we travel along our journey to find those answers this season, we’re going to be taking a look at this West Virginia team through the lens of the stock market. Every Monday morning, I’ll be doing my best Jim Cramer impression and will be identifying which stocks I believe will give us our greatest return on investment and which ones we need to sell while their value is high.
Let’s take a look at how a couple stocks are trending as we kickoff week one of the 2019 season and the Neal Brown era.
Blue Chip Stock
Kennedy McKoy - I did one of these articles as a trial run after the Mountaineers’ opener against the Tennessee Volunteers last season, and listed McKoy as a stock to sell off after an 18-yard rushing performance in Charlotte. In that, I noted that due to Dana Holgorsen’s running back by committee approach, combined with the poor showing, things didn’t look good for McKoy as West Virginia’s feature back.
I was wrong.
McKoy finished the 2018 season with 1026 yards from scrimmage — 802 rushing, 224 receiving — and nine touchdowns, despite splitting time with Martell Pettaway and Leddie Brown.
As he begins his senior season on Saturday, I feel comfortable saying with a great amount of certainty that Kennedy McKoy will be West Virginia’s most valuable player in 2019. The Mountaineers will turn to their strongest position to generate momentum in the offense, and McKoy stands to pick up right where he left off in 2018.
Austin Kendall - Neal Brown named the Oklahoma Sooners transfer the starter for the 2019 last Tuesday, and pointed to his performance in the Mountaineers’ second closed scrimmage as the turning point for the quarterback. Surrounded by an outstanding stable of backs and a solid group of targets in the passing game, Kendall could find himself in the top half of Big 12 Conference quarterbacks by season end.
The Safeties - The position was ravaged by attrition in the off-season with the loss of starters Kenny Robinson and Derrek Pitts. Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning and defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae were tasked with plugging the holes, and will likely have to rely on young, unproven talent to jump in and play at a high level from the start. It’s high-risk, high-reward, but could end up being the difference maker in some games this season.
I’m not ready to sell off anything just yet, but there’s a couple stocks worth buying now while the price is low.
Buy: Taijh Alston - The apparent starter at the defensive end position in Vic Koenning’s 4-2-5 offense. The 6’4 252lbs JUCO transfer has ideal size for the position and quickly established himself as one of our better defensive players this spring. Simply put, he’s good at all of the things he needs to be good at to be an effective 5-technique - he uses his length and hands really well to keep blockers at bay and combines that with solid quickness to both close down weak-side cutback lanes against the run and get around the edge as a pass rusher. Taijh seems to be chomping at the bit to make the most out his second chance in Morgantown.
Buy: Neal Brown’s ability to generate excitement - It’s not really a secret that expectations are low for the Mountaineers in Year Zero of the Neal Brown era. Predictions have West Virginia winning anywhere from two to six games this season but, despite that fact, fan excitement seems to be the highest it’s been in over a decade.