JT Daniels and Lee Kpogba will sweep the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year awards
You may have heard this take on the recently released inaugural episode of the West By Pod podcast, but the one thing that has kind of stuck out to me in my preseason deep diving is the limited number of marquee newcomers in the Big 12. Offensively there's Quinn Ewers at Texas, Dillon Gabriel at Oklahoma, Adrian Martinez at K-State... and JT Daniels at West Virginia. And that's about it. Ewers and Gabriel certainly have the weapons to put up big numbers and Martinez should fit in perfectly at Kansas State, but so too does Daniels in Morgantown. If he stays healthy and is the catalyst for us winning 8 or 9 (or 10!?!) games this year then he should be right in the mix for some postseason recognition.
The same is true for Kpogba on the other side of the ball. Looking around the league there are a handful of defensive transfers that figure to step into featured roles, but Kpogba is as well-positioned as any to elevate his defense. Jaxon Player at Baylor might be the best of the bunch, but he may also have the most difficult path to the award considering that last year's winner Siaki Ika is still on the roster and plays a similar position. Simply put, we saw Tony Fields step into the same position and win the Newcomer of the Year two years ago, and if Kpogba is as good as I’ve already decided he is in my head then there’s no reason that he can’t have a similar impact.
Asani Redwood will be our most productive freshman
Not Nicco Marchiol, and not Jacoby Spells. For those unfamiliar with Redwood, start familiarizing yourselves. He's a 6'3 260lb defensive end from Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, GA, which means he played in the biggest division in one of the best states in the country for high school football. As a senior last year he registered 39 TFLs and 17 sacks (both school records) en route to a 15-0 season and #3 national ranking, and the really crazy part about that is that it was only his second year of organized football.
There’s going to be plenty of competition for playing time up front, but this staff has never hesitated to play guys early and Redwood looks like one of those rare dudes who will be physically ready to go from day 1. Ahkeem Mesidor’s transfer has left the line in need of a little explosiveness - why not try to replace it with the guy who Neal Brown says reminds him of Mesidor?
The Mountaineers will sweep Pitt and Tech...
...en route to a 4-0 start and a stockpile of goodwill for Real Deal Neal Brown. Let's start with Tech. The Hokies appear to be down bad. They weren’t particularly good last year and on paper they’re even worse this year. Last year’s playmakers are gone on both sides of the ball and the replacements are unimpressive and will be executing a new system under new head coach Brent Pry. I know it’s a road game in a hostile environment but I’d be shocked if we lose to these guys.
Pitt is by far the bigger hurdle. I have my suspicions about the quality of the 2021 Atlantic Coast Conference, but the fact remains that Pitt won 11 games last year and brings a healthy chunk of that team back. The problem for them is the departure of Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison, whose backyard explosiveness was central to their success and will be hard to replace. There's still quality on both sides of the ball, especially up front, but these guys are definitely beatable this year.
West Virginia will finally knock off Oklahoma
It's time, gang. We have to get these guys once before they tuck tail and run for the SEC, and this year’s the year. Just a ton of roster turnover from top to bottom. Coaching staff - gone. Caleb Williams and Spencer Rattler - gone. Kennedy Brooks - gone. Jadon Haselwood and Mario Williams - gone. Austin Stogner and Jeremiah Hall - gone. Nic Bonitto and Isaiah Thomas - gone. Delarrin Turner-Yell and Brian Asamoah - gone. They’ve lost more and have even more question marks than we do. And it’s at home, and we let them escape with one last year, and most importantly, we might have the better quarterback in the matchup for the first time since Geno Smith. It’s going to happen.