Alrighty then, it’s time to continue on with my 2020 Top 50 College Football Programs Preview.
The Mountaineers slide into the top 50 list at #48. West Virginia is coming off a 5-7 season, missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 2013. I don’t see the Mountaineers having much more success this season, Their schedule starts off giving them three easy wins out of the first four games, giving them false hope. The next eight games though, they run into four top 23 teams and seven of those eight games are against top 40 teams.
West Virginia Mountaineers 2020 schedule (projected 4-8, 2-7 Big 12) – *BOLD is projected wins
Sept. 5 vs. Florida State (Atlanta)
Sept. 12 Eastern Kentucky
Sept. 19 Maryland
Sept. 26 Kansas State
Oct. 3 at Texas Tech
Oct. 10 TCU
Oct. 17 Texas
Oct. 24 Kansas
Nov. 7 Oklahoma
Nov. 14 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 21 Baylor
Nov. 27 at Iowa State
Oklahoma transfer, Jarret Doege, found himself replacing former starter Austin Kendall at the quarterback position in the fourth quarter of the loss to Texas Tech and never looked back. Doege won two of the next three for the Mountaineers to wrap up the season. Doege ended up with 818 yards, 7 TDs and 3 INTs in that three plus games.
The Mountaineers were one of the worst running teams in the nation, finishing ranked 128th in FBS (averaging 73.3 ypg). Leading rusher, junior Leddie Brown (367 yards and 1 TD), will return this season. With not much to brag about last season, the Mountaineers are hoping Brown, fourth-year junior Alec Sinkfield and redshirt freshman Tony Mathis will turn the run game around and help balance out the offense.
The receiving corps is the strength of the Mountaineer team. The receivers are led by third-year sophmore Sam James (69 catches, 677 yards and 2 TDs). Senior T.J. Simmons averaged 13 yards per catch and four TDs. Then the supporting cast of Sean Ryan (19 catches, 219 yards), Bryce Wheaton (12 catches, 201 yards and two TDs), Ali Jennings (19 catches, 192 yards and a TD) and Isiah Esdale (15 catches, 171 yards and 1 TD) are expected to have major roles in this rotating line-up.
With only five marked as returning starters, this defense has a tough road infront of themselves. DE Jeffrey Pooler (starter until week 3 injury), DT Dante Stills (playing half the teams snaps and finishing as one of the tackle-for-loss guys in the Big 12) and S Kerry Martin (started last handful of games) will help this defense look more like eight returning starters and a great foundation, instead of a young new defense.
They will be also adding Alabama transfer VanDarius Cowan to this defense. Which should help make this defense a top 50 defense, instead of that horrid 74th ranked squad they had last year.
The Mountaineers need to fix this area of their game and need to fix it now. Too many points were left on the field, that could have helped change the outcome of games. Evan Staley was 11-for-17 and wasn’t hitting much over 40 yards. Aussie P Josh Growden graduated, which leaves that position wide open.
Last year was labeled the “rebuild” year, but where I sit, this is going to take a few years for coach Neal Brown to figure out. Every year is going to have to be an improvement over the previous. One day West Virginia football will be competitive in the Big 12 again, just not this year or even the next couple.