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2021 West Virginia Football - OOC Report Card

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The completion of our out-of-conference slate brings the first checkpoint for discussing how things have looked so far

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

All I'm going to say here before we get into the report card is this: how many of you would've signed up for 2-1 through three games if given the opportunity in August? I can say without hesitation that I would have. Something to keep in mind for the pessismists.

Anyways, on to the grades. I'm going to try to be as objective as possible here and split the difference between grading these guys based on both how they stack up against their peers and how they're performing relative to our expectations. Let's roll.

QUARTERBACK - D-

What's the cutoff between D and F? 60? That's about where I'd rate QB1 through three games.

For me the most frustrating thing about the whole situation was all of the offseason hype. All we heard all summer were quotes about how Doege was "the most improved player on the team" and "the most prepared quarterback we've been around" and "wow he couldn't make that throw last year", and then he comes out and is worse pretty much across the board. Overall passing grade is down from 74.7 to 52.2, which ranks 89th out of the 94 quarterbacks with at least 75 dropbacks. Passing grade under pressure is down from 56.2 to 28.3, good for 75th out of 77 with at least 25 dropbacks under pressure. Completion percentage down from 63.5% to 58.9%. Big time throws down. Turnover worthy plays up. The list goes on.

The only reason this isn't a straight F for me is because there has been the odd good throw, but my goodness have the lows been catastrophic. In general my thoughts here seem in line with the consensus - the quality of play from QB1 has been the primary thing holding us back as an offense.

RUNNING BACK - B+

I wrote after LIU that Leddie had given us reason to expect more from him than what he'd shown through two games. The line definitely hadn't given him much to work with, but his forced missed tackle and yards after contact numbers weren't quite up to par with what you'd expect from an upper echelon running back. Then he went out and put up 166 and a TD on Virginia Tech. Order restored. The fumbles obviously need to be cleaned up, but overall Leddie has done nothing to relinquish his crown as our best offensive player.

WIDE RECEIVERS - B+

I don't want to say it's been a surprise because I think we all kinda knew this group was more talented than what they showed last year, but it's certainly been nice to see all the work they put in this offseason pay immediate dividends. Drops have been cut in half (drop rate down to 5.4% this year from 10.2% last year), guys have consistently been open, we look explosive after the catch, and overall this year's 72.3 PFF team grade (32nd best nationally) is a full 7 points higher than last year's 65.4 (44th worst). Rock solid performances all around.

TIGHT ENDS - C

I expect this group to trend upwards as Mike O'Laughlin gets his feet under him a bit more, but to this point they've been perfectly serviceable. They haven't made any splash plays, but they haven't done anything to hurt the team either.

OFFENSIVE LINE - B

This group isn't yet where we need them to be, but there are signs that they're trending in the right direction.

The interior trio of Frazier, Nester, and Gmiter have been particularly solid in pass protection with no sacks and just 8 pressures allowed as a group. Their run blocking hasn't graded out quite as well and has room for improvement, but we've still found the lion's share of our success on the ground when we run behind them up the middle.

The tackles have been predictably shakier (based on lack of experience), especially on the left side where the 8 pressures Brandon Yates has surrendered represent 40% of our team's total. However, Yates along with Moorer and Milum on the right did just play their best overall game against Virginia Tech, and as young pups you have to figure that they'll only continue to improve with more reps.

DEFENSIVE LINE - B+

The expected strength of our defense has been just that. Akheem Mesidor in particular has thrived following his move inside, registering the most tackles in the conference among defensive linemen and grading out as the 4th best pass rusher in the Big 12 per PFF. Dante Stills and Taijh Alston haven't popped quite as much as Mesidor (which is probably less than we'd hoped for in Stills' case) but have been stalwart contributors nonetheless, producing 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss between them.

The rotation guys seem to be coming along, as well. Sean Martin and Jalen Thornton have been decent when called upon so far this year, and Jordan Jefferson is actually grading out as one of the top defensive lineman in the conference when you remove snap count filters. There's obviously still room to grow, but for the most part I have to think the staff is happy with where these guys are at this point in the season.

LINEBACKERS - B

This year's off-ball linebacker group hasn't really had anybody step up and fill Tony Fields' shoes as a playmaker, but we do have a solid rotation with a nice mix of skill sets. Josh Chandler-Semedo is currently 5th in the Big 12 with 7.7 tackles per game and has generally been stout against the run, Lance Dixon has been integrated quicker than expected as a plus athlete who can make plays in space, and Exree Loe offers an extremely experienced third option who can rotate in and provide depth at either spot. The group has put in a workmanlike shift through three games and there's no reason not to expect that to continue.

Where I think we have room to pop a bit though is at Bandit where Jared Bartlett just had the breakout game of his young career. We unleashed him as a speed rusher off the edge against Virginia Tech and he responded with 3 crucial sacks and a forced fumble, and it sounds like Neal Brown is excited about what he can continue to provide in that role going forward. VanDarius Cowan hasn't quite performed up to expectations, but if Bartlett can continue to build on the foundation he laid last weekend and provide a consistent presence off the edge it would give us a 3-dimensional pass rush (along with Mesidor and Stills on the interior) to rival anyone in the conference outside of Oklahoma.

SECONDARY - B

There's a toughness about this year's secondary that I absolutely love. Alonzo Addae and Jackie Matthews are both top 10 in the Big 12 in TFL with Sean Mahone not far behind while Scottie Young and Daryl Porter are both averaging around 4 tackles per game, and overall not one dude in the rotation has shown any hesitation about coming up and laying into somebody.

Our pass coverage has a bit of room for improvement, but that was probably to be expected following the transfer of two All-Conference performers during the offseason. We have yet to intercept a pass and are knocking down less than 3 balls per game as a unit, but on the plus-side we haven't given up a BIG play since the two against Maryland in the opener. Opponent passer rating and yards per game are both trending in the right direction, as well, and I only expect the new starters to continue to improve as the season rolls on.

SPECIALISTS - B+

Aside from the muffed punt against Maryland and the big return against Tech our specialists have been generally very good. Casey Legg hasn't missed a place kick, Tyler Sumpter has been relatively consistent, and Winston Wright has been arguably the most dangerous kick returner in America. It's nice to feel good about the third phase after the chaos of the Holgorsen era.

COACHING - B

This one's a bit of a mixed bag. The staff has again done a good job of getting the younger guys ready to play and contribute, especially on the defensive side of the ball where the transfer portal created some unexpected holes for us to fill. I've also been impressed by our game scripts and preparation (45 first half points against our two P5 opponents).

However, there's also been some questionable game management and in-game adjustment stuff. The Garrett Greene situation continues to be a work-in-progress, but as a fan I can't help but feel that we're being overly consevative with him considering what we're getting from QB1. It also feels like we've forgotten that we have Leddie at some weird times (4th quarter vs Maryland, 1st and goal vs Tech). My instinct though is to give some benefit of the doubt again due to what we've gotten out of our starting quarterback. You have to play the cards you're dealt, and there's only so much you can do with 2-7 offsuit.