Saturday, March 25, 2023

Five BOLD Predictions for WVU Football in 2023

(Photo by WVU Athletics) Now that spring camp has begun, Mountaineer fans can officially put the putrid 2022 football season behind them. While expectations are relatively minimal for 2023, it is hard to imagine things getting much worse than last year. With so many questions surrounding the team, nobody is quite sure what to expect when the Gold & Blue takes the field in September. However, it is never too early to predict what will unfold in Morgantown this fall. Today we are going to make FIVE BOLD predictions for the Mountaineer Football team in 2023 - some of which may be more surprising than others. Without further ado…   WVU beats Pitt by double-digits - For the first time since 2011, the Backyard Brawl is set to return to Morgantown in 2023. After losing to the Panthers 38-31 last season, there’s no doubt that West Virginia will be looking for revenge come September 16th…and they’ll get it. Milan Puskar Stadium will be rocking, and the good guys will use that energy to put the hammer down on Pitt. Neal Brown notches his first MASSIVE win with the Mountaineers. C.J. Donaldson runs for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns - The Mountaineers will likely rely heavily on the ground game in 2023. With four capable running backs, any of them could take the starting position and run with it. For the sake of being reasonable, however, we expect that player to be C.J. Donaldson. He will sequel an outstanding freshman campaign with one of the best single-season performances by a running back in school history. It isn’t unfathomable for him to reach 1,500 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, and we think he will get it. Rodney Gallagher wins Big 12 Newcomer of the Year - Mountaineer fans are patiently awaiting the arrival of 247Sports four star prospect Rodney Gallagher. Since he announced his intentions to attend West Virginia University, the amount of buzz surrounding him has been astronomical. With the receivers room being mostly thin, the Pennsylvania should have an immediate impact. Expect Gallagher to have a breakout season and claim Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors. Nicco Marchiol starts all 12 regular season games - Neal Brown and his offensive coaching staff are currently overseeing a quarterback battle. Garrett Greene and Nicco Marchiol are set to duke it out on the gridiron for the privilege of being “the guy” for the Mountaineers. While I am personally a huge fan of Garrett Greene, this is a competition I see as Marchiol’s to lose. Being the most talented signal-caller on the roster, he will show the coaches why he was a highly sought after prospect. He will have some rust early, but he will win over Mountaineer fans by mid-year en route to starting all 12 regular season games. Mountaineers return to the postseason, post best record under Neal Brown - Here is the one that is likely to get people talking. Though everyone else is down on the Mountaineers, I simply can’t be. I see too much potential on offense, and Jordan Lesley is too good of a coordinator to post miserable defenses two years in a row. I predict West Virginia will go 8-4 in 2023, which will be the best record under Head Coach Neal Brown. His seat will officially be cooled off, and the Mountaineers will contend for the upper half of the Big 12 in 2024.  

Bryce Ford-Wheaton is One of the Best Draft Eligible Receivers in Years

(Photo by WVU Athletics)  Bryce Ford-Wheaton is quickly making a name for himself. Following a WVU career that saw him tally 143 catches for 1,867 yards and 15 touchdowns, Ford-Wheaton put on one of the best performances at the 2023 NFL Combine. According to Relative Athletic Score (RAS), Ford-Wheaton scored a 9.96 out of a possible 10 with his Combine stats. Here are the some of the numbers Ford-Wheaton put up in front of NFL scouts: 40-yard dash = 4.38 20-yard split = 2.58 10-yard split = 1.52 Vertical = 41   In three of the possible four categories, Ford-Wheaton graded out as “elite,” with his “Composite Agility” grading out as “good.”   This places him as the 13th-highest graded receiver since 1987 - out of a possible 2,875 players. Not a bad feat for a player that has been mostly overlooked throughout his career. Ford-Wheaton will wait to hear his name called at the 2023 NFL Draft scheduled for April 27th through April 29th.

Son of WVU Legend Visits Morgantown Today

Chris Henry Jr., son of the late Chris Henry, announced via Twitter that he is set to visit Morgantown today. Henry Jr.’s father, who played wide receiver for the Mountaineers, passed away suddenly in 2009. He is considered one of the best receivers in the history of WVU Football, tallying 93 catches for 1,878 yards and 22 touchdowns in only two season. Many expect him to pick up right where his father left off and have a stellar collegiate career. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, Henry Jr. is one of the most sought after receivers in the 2026 recruiting class. Earlier in March, Henry Jr. shared his current offers, and the list seems pretty much endless. Henry Jr. has also received offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Notre Dame, and Tennessee among many others. No timetable has been shared on his expected decision date. Stay tuned to The Voice of Motown as we will bring you updates as they become available.

When Neal Brown Will Name a Starting Quarterback

(Photo by WVU Athletics)  Spring camp is now underway for the West Virginia University Mountaineers. Neal Brown, who is heading into his fifth season at the helm, will have his work cut out for him if he hopes to escape the hot seat. Despite a 22-25 record, Brown was given one last chance to redeem himself under Athletic Director Wren Baker. Easily Brown’s most important decision regarding the 2023 season will be his signal-caller. Redshirt junior Garrett Greene and redshirt freshman Nicco Marchiol are set to battle for the honors of QB1 following the departure of J.T. Daniels. Both quarterbacks saw action down the final stretch of the 2022 season when Daniels was benched during WVU’s 23-20 win over Oklahoma. Greene, who had been used sparingly up to that point, gave the team a much needed shot in the arm. His dual-threat ability was simply too much for the Sooners. With his shining moment coming in arguably one of WVU’s best outings since entering the Big 12, many believe he should be given the first opportunity to start. Marchiol, who was a highly-touted prospect out of high school, only saw action in two games last season. Outside of a game management job against Oklahoma State, his only other appearance was mop-up duty against Towson. Though the body of work isn’t there yet, his raw talent will give him a legitimate opportunity to emerge victorious in the competition. As for when Coach Brown expects a starter to emerge, he revealed that during his press conference on Monday. Should neither Greene or Marchiol clearly separate themselves during the spring, Brown will make the decision on his starting quarterback during fall camp. This is to be expected, however, as Brown has allowed every quarterback competition that he has overseen at WVU run into the fall. This will also be his first quarterback competition without a transfer since arriving in Morgantown in 2019. Stay tuned to The Voice of Motown for updates on WVU’s quarterback situation.

Sean Martin Is The Future of the Mountaineer Defense

Cover Photo: WVU Athletics During his first press conference of the spring, head coach Neal Brown was asked which players could fill the leadership void left by Dante Stills and what goes into determining if they are up to the task. After raving about how well Stills and Bryce Ford-Wheaton are handling themselves throughout the NFL Draft process, Brown immediately thought of one name as far as a player he feels can become a captain for the defense - Sean Martin. Martin, who is entering his junior season, finished the 2022 season as a clear starting member of the defensive line. He played in all 12 games, starting eight of them. Martin recorded at least 1.5 tackles for a loss in four of those games and had his best day with a couple sacks in the program’s first win over Oklahoma since joining the Big 12. But it’s not just about his work on the field for Brown when it comes to his belief that Martin will step up even more this year, possibly becoming the player everyone else looks to for guidance, much the way the team looked at Stills. “Sean Martin’s played a bunch of football. He’s as talented as anyone we have. And my expectation is his production is going to match his talent, maybe even exceed that this year. But he’s also one of the best people we have in our program,” said Brown of Martin. Those are some big words and high praise for the Bluefield High School product Coach Brown, entering his fifth season leading the Mountaineers, then expounded on what all goes into a leader. “Who are your leaders? Well, your leaders are your best players, your hardest workers and your best people,” he detailed. Once again, describing everything he feels Martin represents and brings to the team. “Sean Martin, he fits all three of those criteria,” said Brown. Brown then confirmed his thoughts on Martin. “He’s more comfortable. He’s more confident. Now he can feel like a leader of that group,” he added.

Garrett Greene and Nicco Marchiol Discuss Relationship

Nicco Marchiol and Garrett Greene are set to duke it out on the gridiron for the honor of being West Virginia’s starting quarterback this fall. While many would expect the two sides to remain strictly competitive, both signal-callers revealed that their relationship is as strong as ever. Marchiol and Greene spoke about their relationship today with Country Roads Trust. Greene states that despite their competitive nature on the field, the two are best friends and will remain that way “for the rest of his life.” He also commends both his and Marchiol’s ability to separate their relationship both on and off the field. Marchiol, who will be a redshirt freshman in 2023, praises the competition. Not only does he believe that it will make them better as players, but states it will be great for the program as a whole. Unless one of the quarterbacks clearly pulls away from the other in the competition, Head Coach Neal Brown does not to expect to name a starter until the fall. No matter what happens, WVU will have a solid starting quarterback moving forward.

Neal Brown Announces Roster Change

(Photo by WVU Athletics) Spring camp has finally arrived for the West Virginia University Mountaineers. Head Coach Neal Brown spoke to the media on Monday afternoon to share updates on the program as they begin preparations for the 2023 season. One of the talking points for Brown was changes to the roster. With the receivers room set to be thin due to the departures of Sam James, Kaden Prather, and Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Brown deemed it appropriate that their be changes made to add depth to the position. According to Brown, safety Davis Mallinger will be making the transition to receiver this spring, despite being out for the majority of camp due to injury. Mallinger saw his first extended playing time in 2022, appearing in eight games while tallying 26 tackles and 2 sacks. The Florida native also played receiver in high school, so he will not be making the move lacking experience entirely. Though he has not appeared at receiver in a college game, the process will likely be a lot smoother than many will expect. Stay tuned to The Voice of Motown throughout spring camp for updates.

Neal Brown Has to Be Honest with Fans This Spring

(Photo by WVU Athletics) Heading into his fifth season in Morgantown, it’s no secret that Neal Brown’s seat is scorching hot. The former Troy head coach has accumulated a record of 22-25 during his time with the Mountaineers. Fans all across the Mountain State have been calling for his job, and rightfully so. Though things have quickly come undone, he will have the opportunity to turn things around. If Brown would like to get this thing started off on the right track, he must begin to swing the narrative now as the Mountaineers approach spring camp. One characteristic of Brown that has become apparent is his optimism. Even last season when the team was in the midst of a near collapse, he still remained as positive as he could be. During the offseason, his “coach’s talk” will either have you ready to run through a wall or roll your eyes. Once he steps up to the podium this April, it would be a shock if he  portrays brute honesty about the 2023 team. However, if Brown wants to keep the small amount of fans still in his corner there, that may just be the approach he has to take. This does not mean he has to be negative, but if there is an area that the team is clearly lacking in then let the fans know. Don’t spend the majority of your time telling fans things are fine when they clearly aren’t. Should Brown continue to exaggerate the skill of the Mountaineers, what credibility he has has left in West Virginia will be gone. Fans, alumni, donors, and even casual spectators will likely at that point be ready to move on - if they haven’t reached that point already. No, coming out and saying that the team isn’t in a stable place to compete will not save his job. Nothing but a winning season will do that. Being straightforward will instead set the expectations of the fans going into 2023. It will alleviate some disappointment and lessen the blow of what could possibly be the worst season in over two decades. Mountaineer Nation, who is one of the most loyal fanbases in collegiate sports, deserves that much. West Virginia begins spring camp on Tuesday. The five week camp will conclude on April 22nd with the Gold-Blue Spring Game. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m., and fans can purchase their tickets on  

Dana Holgorsen Says He’s Not on the Hot Seat

Morgantown, West Virginia - Former West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen is back in the news after making a very interesting quote about his job status. Holgorsen, who was the head coach of the Mountaineers from 2011-2018, left West Virginia for Houston. Since taking over at Houston, Holgorsen is 27-20 overall. However, despite the ho-hum results on the field, Holgorsen believes his job is very safe. Holgorsen had the following to say to The Athletic in a recent interview: "We won 20 games in two years. We won bowl games in back-to-back years. I have five years on my contract with a f*cking impossible buyout … So there ain’t no f*cking hot seat in my mind. There just ain’t." Holgorsen signed an extension in 2022 that is reportedly worth roughly an additional $18.2 million over four years to his original deal. His specific buyout details aren't available, but it's likely that his whole deal is guaranteed. Houston joins the Big 12 Conference for the upcoming football season and the Mountaineers will get their first crack at Holgorsen on October 12 when West Virginia travels to Houston to play the Holgorsen-led Cougars.

Kyzir White Signs with NFC West Squad

(Photo by WVU Athletics)  Kyzir White has quickly become one of the most reliable defenders in the NFL. Following a  four-year stint with the Los Angeles Chargers, White joined the Philadelphia Eagles for the 2022 season. In a run to Super Bowl 57, White tallied 110 tackles and 1.5 sacks. The talented former Mountaineer hit the free agency market this March. Spending no time to find a deal, White has officially signed with a team from the NFC West. According to Jordan Schultz of The Score, Kyzir White has signed a two-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals. The deal is worth $11 million. White played for the Mountaineers in 2016 and 2017 after transferring from Lackawanna Junior College. Tallying 152 tackles, 4 sacks, and 3 interceptions during his time in the Gold and Blue, White became a fan favorite for his hard-hitting and gritty style of play.

WVU Has Offered Very Familiar Prospect

The West Virginia University Football program is no stranger to welcoming a lineage. The Stills brothers and the White brothers are two families that come to mind when considering families that have played for the Mountaineers. Gary Stills, father of Darius and Dante, also suited up for West Virginia in the 90’s. The Mountaineers once again have a chance to land a prospect with a very familiar name. Chris Henry Jr., son of the late Chris Henry, has officially been offered by the Mountaineers, according to the Twitter of Adam “Pacman” Jones. Henry Jr., who plays wide receiver, has also been offered by Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State among many others. Like his father, the up-and-coming star plays the wide receiver position. Though he hasn’t been given an official rating by 247Sports, he has garnered attention from 20 schools in the form of scholarship offers. He will be a member of the 2026 class. No timetable has been set on his decision.

Former Mountaineer Signs with AFC East Team

(Photo by WVU Athletics) After spending his first four seasons in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, former Mountaineer David Long Jr. is now on the move. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Long has signed a two-year deal with the Miami Dolphins. The deal is worth $11 million. Long spent four seasons with the Mountaineers, redshirting in 2015 and declaring for the NFL Draft in 2018. Playing 33 games, the Ohio native tallied 246 tackles including 39.5 for a loss. He also added 12.5 sacks and 10 passes deflected. During his stint with the Titans, Long racked up 230 tackles and 4 interceptions.

Is Will Grier an All-Time Great at WVU?

(Photo by WVU Athletics)  It seems like yesterday that Will Grier was lighting up the scoreboards in Morgantown. The Florida transfer came to West Virginia with a lot of promise and left with his name all over the record books for the Mountaineers. Now that nearly five years have passed since he last suited up for the Old Gold & Blue, fans have had the time to process his career as a whole and assess where he stands in the history of Mountaineer Football. Including myself. It’s no secret that I absolutely HATED Grier’s decision to sit out the 2018 Camping World Bowl. If you would have asked me what I thought of Grier at the time of the news, I probably would have said that he didn’t even deserve to be considered a Mountaineer. I was THAT infuriated. However, as time has went on, I have simmered down on the topic. It took me a little while, but I finally realized just how insignificant the bowl game against Syracuse was. Grier had his eyes set on the NFL and wanted to protect his future for his family. That was a respectable decision and my reaction was purely out of fan emotion. With that being said, I figured it was time for me to give my two cents on Will Grier’s time at West Virginia University. Looking at it from a distance, Grier’s stats would obviously rank him among the best in Mountaineer Football history. Here is where the North Carolina native ranks against other signal-callers in the major statistical categories for the Mountaineers: Career passing yards (7,354) - 3rd Career passing touchdowns (71) - 2nd 300-yard passing games (19) - 1st Completions (516) - 5th  Longest pass (82 yards) - 7th  *Stats per* Those are numbers that virtually any quarterback would love to put up in college. Matched with Offensive Coordinator Jake Spavital, Grier lit up opposing defenses seemingly every weekend, and even found himself finishing 4th in the 2018 Heisman Trophy voting. With so many accolades, why is Grier still such a hot topic of conversation with fans? Shouldn’t he be a shoo-in as one of the best quarterbacks in Mountaineer Football history? Well, not exactly. Though Grier had the stats, he simply didn’t have the big moments that his counterparts did. You can argue his two-point conversion against Texas, sure. That will be a moment that will live in the memory of Mountaineer fans forever, but outside of being what was obviously an exciting play, it really wasn’t all that significant in the grand scheme of things. The Mountaineers did not win the Big 12 in 2018 nor did they even secure a spot in the title game. Had they at least competed for the crown, this would have been a moment of significance for the team. The lack of accomplishments will be what ultimately hinder Grier’s time with the Mountaineers. That feat is not entirely his fault, but unfortunately a team’s success will fall back on the quarterback almost every time. WVU’s record with Will Grier at starting quarterback: Overall: 15-7  Big 12 play: 11-6  Bowl games: 0-0 Rivals: 0-1 (Virginia Tech, 2017)  Highest Big 12 finish: 4th  Despite the video game-like numbers, Will Grier’s career in Morgantown was sadly not one that will ever be seen by me as an “all-time great.” It was fun and flashy, but the substance to be considered legendary simply isn’t there. Grier will ultimately remembered as a “what could have been” rather than a “what was.” As for where he ranks in company of quarterbacks at WVU? I’m not sure. That’s another article for another time. However, should I ever decide to write that article, you can expect there to be quite a few names above his.

WVU Lands Transfer Out of Navy

(Photo via WVU Recruiting)  Moments ago, WVU secured a linebacker out of the transfer portal in former Navy Midshipmen Tyler Cain. Cain will be a preferred walk-on for the Mountaineers. The Pennsylvania native was a member of the 2022 class, and stands at 6’3” while weighing 230 pounds. According to his HUDL, Cain runs a 4.6. 40-yard dash. He also maxes out at 255-pounds on bench press and 405 pounds on squats.

WVU Needs to Make FINAL Decision on Neal Brown Before Game Four in 2023

(Photo by WVU Athletics) The West Virginia University Mountaineers will kickoff their 2023 football season on September 2nd against Penn State. Despite being heavy underdogs against the Nittany Lions, there will be a lot of excitement surrounding this game as it will be the first time since 1992 that the two sides have squared off. It will also present a chance for WVU Head Coach Neal Brown to prove himself and silence his doubters that he has accumulated over the last four seasons in Morgantown.   Should he find a way to knock off the Nittany Lions, then the Mountaineers are likely looking towards a successful 2023 season. This would almost certainly cool his seat down. Even if they compete against Penn State, there should be some relief from the pressure he has been facing. However, should West Virginia find themselves getting blown out, then this could pose trouble for Brown's time at West Virginia University.   Though it will not be the deciding factor on his fate with the Mountaineers, a big loss should certainly be taken into consideration when making the decision. If Wren Baker wants to prove to Mountaineer Nation that he is taking winning seriously, the final decision on Neal Brown needs to come just two weeks later when West Virginia takes on Pitt.   With a loss to Penn State, the Mountaineers must defeat Pitt to avoid having a losing record in out-of-conference play. Heading into Big 12 play with a 1-2 record will not give fans much hope that West Virginia can even return to bowl contention in 2023. The best way to avoid Neal Brown having his fourth losing seasons in five years is to not give him the opportunity to do so. Should West Virginia lose to both Penn State and Pitt, two traditional rivals that Mountaineer Nation EXPECTS to contend with and even defeat, then it will be time to pull the plug starting at the top with Brown.   Nobody wants to head into October without a head coach, but this will give the Mountaineers an ample amount of time to find the right man for the job. With likely either Chad Scott or Jordan Lesley at the helm, either of those two could navigate West Virginia through the rough waters of conference play and help the team limp to the finish line - probably just as well as Neal Brown could at this point.   It would not be a decision that everyone will agree with or even necessarily like, but it is one that must be done early if West Virginia hopes to turn this sinking ship around. Losing is not acceptable, and it absolutely is not acceptable against rivals. Wren Baker and West Virginia University must make the final decision on Neal Brown prior to game four.