Going into the 2019 College Football season, Mountaineer fans knew that their program was in for a rebuild. Replacing a head coach and loads of NFL talent on offense is never easy, especially when it is done at the same time. First year Head Coach Neal Brown was able to navigate the Mountaineers through a daunting schedule and finish the season with a respectable 5-7 record. While there were many things on the field that fans can voice their displeasure about, the fact remains that the future is shining bright for the Mountaineers. Inexperienced players now have experience, Coach Brown’s system has now been in place for a whole season, and the team appears to have found their quarterback. Factor it all in with a 2020 schedule that includes seven home contests and only four true road games, the Old Gold and Blue could be in business for a significant “climb” sooner than expected.
One of the most crucial parts of how much success a team endures over the course of a season is based on how their schedule is stacked up. For the Mountaineers, the luck of the draw could be in their favor next fall. Opening the season against a program with the prestige of Florida State is never easy, but West Virginia just may catch them at the perfect time. The Seminoles will be at the beginning of their own rebuild with Mike Norvell entering his first season in Tallahassee. Follow that with three straight home games against FCS foe Eastern Kentucky, rival Maryland, and Big 12 opponent Kansas State, West Virginia could potentially exit September at 4-0. Looming for WVU in October will be two road contests against Texas Tech and Texas, and two road contests against TCU and Kansas. All of which are winnable games. The good guys will close out the season in November with two more road games against Oklahoma State and Iowa State, and two more home games against Oklahoma and Baylor. This sets up well for the Mountaineers as they will get the top two teams in the Big 12 in Morgantown. While it is much easier said than done, this schedule will provide more opportunity for second year Head Coach Neal Brown than did the 2019 schedule.
Inexperience on defense is something that no program ever wants to deal with. West Virginia dealt with it in loads throughout the 2019 season. Defensive Coordinator Vic Koenning was forced to play more true freshmen than any coach in college football would want to. Though it came with its growing pains, this could be another crucial setup for the 2020 season. Players like Kerry Martin Jr. and Tykee Smith, who anchored the secondary for the Mountaineers as true freshmen last season, now have experience playing “big time” college football. Both made critical plays for the team throughout the season and will in all likelihood continue to do so throughout the rest of their college careers. Along with Smith and Martin, players like Josh Chandler, Noah Guzman and Sean Mahone all received valuable playing time that they can build on in the future. Game experience is crucial in the development of a player, and the Mountaineer defense now has plenty of it to “climb” on ‘moving into the 2020 season.