While watching the Marshall Thundering Herd play the Eastern Kentucky Colonels in the opening weekend of college football, the announcer made a remark that made pause - the Thundering Herd had five senior offensive linemen. This made me wonder, should the Mountaineers ever try to stack their offense? By this I mean, should the Mountaineers start a group of players as freshmen and grow with them and take the lumps that come with freshman starters to try and have a group that in three years has years of starting experience together and has played together for multiple years.
If it works, the gains can be tremendous. Three- to four-year starters at major positions are how a team like the Mountaineers can make real noise in the world of college football playoffs. A starting quarterback who has played since he was a freshman or sophomore is how the Mountaineers put up 70 on Clemson in the Orange, put up 48 against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl and in general most great seasons can be traced to something like this. It also has the potential to give the fans real serious hype as you see the improvement year after year. Watching a good freshman, become a really good sophomore and junior only to become an amazing senior is a unique experience.
For the team, it can be extremely useful as you get used to playing with each other year after year that you know with just a look what to do when a cornerback slides down on his side and decides to play press-man when you have a go route called. Linemen know how to hand off and slide protections when teams line up wide on a stretch run play. Having a senior laden, experienced defense can be championship material as well. Especially when you play in a conference not known for defense but known for offense.
The downside can be excruciating however, starting with the most important position on the field. What happens if you gamble on a four year starter and he’s just bad? What if he is Paul Millard and not Pat White? Can a team afford to dedicate two or three years hoping a player gets better before pulling the plug? This is the same dilemma that NFL teams face all the time. Anointing a player could be great but it could also set you back years.
Another downside is the injury bug. Think back to Karl Joseph and how amazed you were with him as a freshman. Then as a sophomore and junior watching him become a heat seeking missle and how excited you were for his senior year only to learn he tore his ACL in a non-contract drill and would miss the season. What do you do when you’ve put all of your eggs into this basket only to see a key contributor lost for the season due to injury? Or what if the goal is to build a championship team and they fall short, much like West Virginia did in 2018 when everyone was all in. When it became apparent the team was no longer chasing it’s goal, the entire house of cards collapsed.
The hardest decision for coaches is weighing the potential long-term gains versus the impatience of fanbases and athletic directors. Do you, as a fan, want to suffer through a 3-9 season, then a 5-7 season, then a 7-5 season to maybe get a 10-3 or 11-2 season and then, if that works out, go back to 3-9 as you suffer through the growing pains of the next group? That can be a difficult decision, even if it means every four years you are competing for a conference championship and potentially more.
Would You Risk Stacking The Offense?
This poll is closed