Thursday, February 2, 2023

Holgorsen on the Move Again?

Mike Leach left Washington State last week to become the new Head Coach at Mississippi State, leaving an opening at Washington State.  Dana Holgorsen, who was Leach's Offensive Coordinator at Texas Tech from 2005-2007, is now the current Head Coach at Houston. Holgorsen's Houston Cougars struggled in his first season, finishing 4-8 and 2-6 in the conference.  Although he expressed excitement about coaching in Houston, it is not a Power 5 school and he has no chance of winning a National Championship there. Washington State is currently searching for a new head coach and suddenly Leach protege Dana Holgorsen has become a name that is being mentioned as a possibility.  In fact, a plane was tracked leaving Pullman, Washington (where Washington State is located) yesterday, landed in Houston, Texas, stayed there for 2 hours, and then returned to Pullman later in the day.  To add to the mystery, the flight details were marked as "BLOCKED" to protect the privacy of the occupants on the plane. Why would a private plane fly from Pullman, Washington to Houston, Texas for two hours and return the same day unless Dana Holgorsen was somehow involved?  Holgorsen seems like an interesting choice, but he does run the very same Air Raid offense as Leach and would make for a seamless transition for Washington State. If Holgorsen were to leave Houston, he would owe the school $9.1 million in 2020, $7.1 million in 2021, $2.5 million in 2022 and $1 million in 2023.

Holgorsen’s Bizarre Response to Losing his Star Player

As if things couldn't get worse for Dana Holgorsen in his first season with the Houston Cougars, his star quarterback and Heisman-hopeful D'Eriq King announced that he is going to enter the Transfer Portal...again. Back in September, after playing four games for the Houston Cougars this past season, King announced that he would enter the Transfer Portal.  He quickly changed his mind and decided to simply redshirt and said he would return to Houston next season. However, King, who is one of the most talented dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, announced on Twitter during the National Championship Game, that he has decided to enter the Transfer Portal. Moments after his star quarterback announced that he would enter the Transfer Portal, Houston Head Coach Dana Holgorsen posted a cryptic, unusual Tweet, saying, "LFG!!!"  "LFG" is short for "Let's f***ing go!" Either Holgorsen has lost it completely or he's somehow excited that he lost his star quarterback and Houston's best player.  It's unclear where King will transfer to, but Oklahoma is likely a top destination after losing Jalen Hurts.  Oklahoma Head Coach Lincoln Riley recently said of King, "Like a lot of guys that are a little bit shorter, not much different than some of the guys we had here, occasionally it causes people to back off.  But there’s a lot of people now that would love to have him.  He is a fantastic player.” Another possible destination for King is the LSU Tigers.  The Tigers' starting quarterback Joe Burrow, a Senior, played in his final college game last night and will now be on his way to the NFL.  D'Eriq King would make a perfect replacement for Burrow for the National Champions in Baton Rouge. Houston, in Holgorsen's first season as the Head Coach, finished 5-7 overall and 2-6 in conference play.  Clayton Tune and Holgorsen's son Logan Holgorsen will now compete for the starting quarterback position next season.

The Perfect Replacement

As reported earlier, West Virginia's Wide Receiver Coach Xavier Dye left for the same position at the University of South Florida.  Head Coach Neal Brown was quick to thank Dye for his contributions to West Virginia and said the search for a replacement would begin immediately. “I want to thank Xavier Dye for his contributions to WV football over the last 10 months.  We wish him the best as he reunites with close friend and mentor Jeff Scott.  Our search has already begun as we seek to find a dynamic teacher to lead our talented young WR core.” Dye was an outstanding recruiter and fantastic coach for the Mountaineers, and him leaving the program would typically be a big loss for the football program.  However, there is a former West Virginia football player out there that would make the transition to a new wide receiver's coach seamless. Stedman Bailey.  Bailey, a former first team Big East selection, first team All-American in 2012, who finished his college career at West Virginia University with the gaudy 210 receptions, 3,218 yards and 41 touchdowns in three seasons, would make the absolute perfect replacement for Dye as the new wide receivers coach for the Mountaineers. Bailey set the Mountaineer single season record for receiving yardage (1,279 yards) and tied the school record for most touchdown receptions (12) in a single season.  His career receiving yards rank 13th in Division I football all-time.  Bailey went on to be drafted in the 3rd round by the then-St. Louis Rams. Bailey's NFL career was cut short after he was shot multiple times in the head while sitting in a car with his family.  Although the assailants were never apprehended, Bailey survived the attack and eventually attempted an NFL comeback.  Although this attempt came up short, Bailey is a survivor and the newly open wide receivers coach position is the perfect opportunity for him to get back into football. Born and raised in Miramar, Florida, Stedman Bailey would immediately re-open the Miramar to West Virginia pipeline that brought the Mountaineers Geno Smith, Ivan McCartney, Yodny Cajuste, as well as Bailey.  Bailey knows Florida football and at only 29 years of age would be relatable to young players. Not only is Bailey one of West Virginia's best wide receivers ever, he will also make an outstanding recruiter and representative of our university.  Although there are likely many great potential replacements out there (see: Clint Trickett, current tight ends coach at FAU and former WVU quarterback), Neal Brown should be on the phone with Stedman Bailey to make him the new Wide Receivers Coach at West Virginia University immediately.

Update on Stedman Bailey to West Virginia as the Wide Receivers Coach

If it were up to Stedman Bailey, the former record-breaking West Virginia wide receiver, 2020 will start with him returning to Morgantown as the wide receivers coach for the Mountaineers. I recently spoke with Bailey and he remains interested in the position.  Bailey said about his interest in coaching for the Mountaineers: "I'm expecting a call soon.  He (Coach Brown) has my number.  Stay tuned, I'm having my agent go ahead and do his professional job and make all necessary calls." Bailey went on to say, "If it's in God's will, it will happen, but there isn't much of an update right now.  It's the holiday season and I'm sure Coach Brown is taking this time away to capitalize on family time.  I'm pretty positive I'll at least get a chance to interview and from there we shall see." Although he doesn't have any formal coaching experience, Bailey is a former first team Big East selection, first team All-American in 2012, who finished his college career at West Virginia University with the gaudy 210 receptions, 3,218 yards and 41 touchdowns in three seasons, and he would make the absolute perfect replacement for Xavier Dye as the new wide receivers coach for the Mountaineers. Bailey set the Mountaineer single season record for receiving yardage (1,279 yards) and tied the school record for most touchdown receptions (12) in a single season.  His career receiving yards rank 13th in Division I football all-time.  Bailey went on to be drafted in the 3rd round by the then-St. Louis Rams. Bailey's NFL career was cut short after he was shot multiple times in the head while sitting in a car with his family.  Although the assailants were never apprehended, Bailey survived the attack and eventually attempted an NFL comeback.  Although this attempt came up short, Bailey is a survivor and the newly open wide receivers coach position is the perfect opportunity for him to get back into football. Born and raised in Miramar, Florida, Stedman Bailey would immediately re-open the Miramar to West Virginia pipeline that brought the Mountaineers Geno Smith, Ivan McCartney, Yodny Cajuste, as well as Bailey.  Bailey knows Florida football and at only 29 years of age would be relatable to young players. 2020 is going to be a big year for the West Virginia Mountaineers and it's my hope that Stedman Bailey will lead the young, talented wide receivers corps for years to come.

BREAKING: Tavon Austin Finds New NFL Home

(Photo by Justin K. Aller) According to Mike Garafolo of the NFL, former WVU standout receiver, Tavon Austin, has signed with the Green Bay Packers.   Austin spent the majority of his career with the Los Angeles Rams, and has also had brief stints with the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers.   The speedy receiver has yet to play this season, and was released from the 49ers in October due to injury.

Neal Brown: “We May See Him This Week”

Morgantown, West Virginia - Moments ago during Neal Brown's weekly press conference, he said the following about freshman quarterback Garrett Greene: "We love how he competes and he has a lot of energy.  He's the leader in the newcomer developmental group." Brown went on to say, "We may see him on Saturday, we may not, but he's a guy that has a bright future here." The Mountaineers are currently 5-4 and have struggled offensively, particularly in recent weeks, and Greene would be a perfect spark to get the offense going in the right direction.  And at 5-4, what does West Virginia have to lose?

Neal Brown Has to Win the Bowl Game

It won't be long until the Mountaineers find out their bowl destination for the 2020 season. After finishing 5-4 in the regular season, Neal Brown and his squad have a lot to build on moving into the future. The offense will return virtually everyone in 2021, and the defense has the pieces to continue their dominance. However, if Brown wants to ensure that his program has the proper momentum going into his third season on the job, then he must produce this postseason. He must lead the Mountaineers to a bowl win at the end of this month.   We have seen before just how momentum from a bowl win can impact the team the following season. When West Virginia won the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl over Arizona State in 2016, 43-42, the Mountaineers would have their best season in the Big 12 the following season. They would roar onto the scene and finish the year at 10-3. Only the ninth time in the program's history that they have finished with ten wins or more. We could very well see the same jump next season if West Virginia can pull of the postseason win this year.   For a team as young as West Virginia, a bowl win could go a long way. Being able to win on any kind of stage similar to a bowl game can be used as a good recruiting tool. Players come play College Football to experience moments like that. Though West Virginia's bowl game will not carry any kind of significance necessarily, it gives hope that in the future these games will with a win. Players and big time recruits are what West Virginia need right now, and the national audience for the bowl game can help with landing some of them in Morgantown.   Not only will recruits be riding on the bowl game this season, but fans will too. Though they are not always the most rational group, some Mountaineer fans are growing restless with the "Trust the Climb" era. This is mostly due to a rebuild that is taking longer than they had hoped. Winning the bowl game would not only appease fans, but it would show them what Neal Brown is capable of doing in the postseason. Having lost five of our last six bowl games, WVU fans are starving for a bowl game record similar to Brown's 3-0 that he compiled while at Troy.   Call it "pointless" all you want, but this year's bowl game will determine just the trajectory the Mountaineers are on. Win, and you appease the fans, attract recruits, and have something to build off of for the future. Lose, and you close the 2020 season with the sour taste of two straight losses in your mouth, and kill any momentum for next year. Neal Brown has to win the bowl game in 2020, the perception of the program for the future depends on it.

UPDATE: WVU’s Liberty Bowl Opponent Announced

Moments ago, WVU’s opponent for the Liberty Bowl was announced, and they will be going against the Tennessee Volunteers out of the SEC.   Tennessee finished the regular season at 3-7, losing their finale to Texas A&M, 34-13.

Spring Valley University

Morgantown, West Virginia - Spring Valley High School is located in an unincorporated portion of Wayne County, West Virginia with a postal address in the nearby city of Huntington. Spring Valley to Morgantown is quickly becoming the move.  With the #1 player in the state of West Virginia, Corbin Page, committing to the Mountaineers, West Virginia University now has four players from the small high school outside of Huntington committed. Graeson Malashevich, a redshirt freshman wide receiver for the Mountaineers, started the trend of Spring Valley High players making WVU their new home.  Malashevich was the Gatorade West Virginia Player of the Year while leading Spring Valley to a 13-1 record and an appearance in the state championship game.  After redshirting in his first season, Malashevich saw limited time at wide receiver this season, finishing with 1 reception for 30 yards, and he's also the starting holder and backup punt returner behind Alec Sinkfield. Wyatt Milum was the next Spring Valley player to chose West Virginia University as his new home.  Milum, a four star recruit, was the winner of the Stydahar Award, given to the best interior lineman in the state.  Milum, who did not allow a single sack in his entire high school career, was also first team all-state selection in his junior and senior years, and was invited to the US Army All American game. Following Milum's commitment, former four star recruit, Doug Nester, decided to transfer from Virginia Tech and committed to the Mountaineers.  Nester, a two-year starter at Virginia Tech, was a three-time WVSWA all-state selection at Spring Valley while leading his school to the Class AAA state championship and also won the Stydahar Award in his senior season. A day after Nester committed to the Mountaineers, Corbin Page, the top rated recruit in the state of West Virginia in the 2022 class, committed to play his college career at West Virginia University.  Page earned second team all state honors this past year in an abbreviated season and is widely considered the #1 high school prospect in the state.  Although Page plays tight end at Spring Valley, he could potentially join Milum and Nester on the offensive line if his body continues to develop. West Virginia starting quarterback Jarret Doege weighed in on social media, referring to WVU as "Spring Valley U." That's four players from Spring Valley High School with huge potential at West Virginia University.  The pipeline from Huntington to Morgantown has become a very real thing!

What I Think Will Happen at WVU This Offseason

(Photo by Ben Queen - USA Today)    The 2020 season is officially over. West Virginia finished with a 6-4 record in what was a difficult year for all due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though it is still nine months away, it is never too early to begin looking ahead to the 2021 season. However, before we get there, I have some thoughts on what exactly will take place this offseason at WVU leading up to the season opener on September 4th at Maryland. Here are some storylines that I believe will transpire before the Mountaineers begin next season. Neal Brown commits to Jarret Doege before spring ball: This is the storyline that will likely ruffle the feathers of some fans. Though he was benched in the team’s 24-21 win over Army in the Liberty Bowl, Doege was still solid throughout much of 2020. He finished the season with 2,587 yards and 14 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions. With the departure of Austin Kendall, he will have the most experience on the roster, which will give him a foot up on Garrett Greene and Will Crowder. Don’t be surprised when this news comes, but Doege will still be under center come September 4th, and the announcement will come sooner rather than later. Addae and Lesley become permanent co-defensive coordinators: It was unclear through 2020 who the true leader of WVU’s defense was. Jordan Lesley and Jahmile Addae were said to share responsibilities, but beyond that, who called plays was a mystery. Nonetheless, the Mountaineer defense was incredible all season, and for this, Addae and Lesley should and likely will become the permanent co-defensive coordinators. The two of them together have laid an outstanding foundation that can be built upon moving forward. Brown hires a big name assistant coach: Let me clarify what I mean by “big name” - no, this does not mean a name that is known nationwide, but rather in West Virginia. Clint Trickett, Doc Holliday, and Rich Rodriguez (yes, I know) are all looking for work, and I just can’t see Neal Brown passing up the opportunity to bring one aboard. They all have ties to WVU, and would be incredible recruiting tools for the program. A new kicker emerges: Evan Staley, Casey Legg, and Tyler Sumpter all shared time as WVU’s kicker this season. Between them, the three finished a combined 14 for 20 on attempts with a long of 45. They also connected on all 29 extra point attempts. However, none of them really did enough to get a strong hold on the position going into 2021 (Sumpter has yet to announce if he will return). Youngsters Danny King and Kolton McGhee have a solid background in kicking, and I fully expect one of them to emerge in the 2021 kicking battle. This will likely be most unexpected storyline to come out of this offseason, but it could certainly help the team down the line. There will be a change on the offensive staff: Yes, the Mountaineer offense improved in 2020, but there was still something holding them back. I’m not predicting for any offensive coach in particular to be moving on this offseason, but I certainly expect there to be some shakeup. Wherever this change comes, expect Brown to hire a massive upgrade in their place.

Keep an Eye on “Goose”

I’ll be the first to lay claim to who I think will be WVU’s quarterback in 2021. Jarret Doege will go into next year with the most experience on the team, and will be the safest bet to ensure a successful season in year three of the Neal Brown era. However, I am not naive to the fact that there are some talented young signal-callers in Morgantown now. Garrett Greene has been the focus of many fans, with some even believing he should be the gunslinger for the Mountaineers moving forward. While I am intrigued by where the Tallahassee, Florida native could take the Mountaineers, fans are forgetting about one piece to the puzzle that will be important in the quarterback room moving forward. Alabama native Will “Goose” Crowder is WVU’s 2021 quarterback recruit. He comes to Morgantown with a three-star rating by 247Sports, of which garnered him the attention to land 23 offers coming out of high school. He possesses many of the same attributes that Greene does, and his talent will certainly bring a level of intrigue to the Mountaineer locker room. Though he will be going into 2021 as the quarterback with the least amount of experience, Crowder is officially our “player to watch” going into spring practice. It is unlikely that he will secure the starting quarterback job prior to the season, but as 2020 proved, pretty much anything is possible. I expect Neal Brown to commit to Jarret Doege fairly early, but if Crowder can raise some eyebrows during the spring and fall camps, we may just begin to hear some interesting rumors coming out of Morgantown. Keep an eye on “Goose,” he may just “swoop” in when we least expect it.

WVU Will Be a Top 25 Team in 2021

(Photo by WVU Athletics)    That didn’t take long. After Neal Brown took over a Mountaineer Football team with a mostly bare cupboard in 2019, I personally believed it would take at least four seasons to fix. The fifth season would have been when the true excitement finally arrived in Morgantown. However, as he did at Troy, Brown has turned the fortunes of the Mountaineers around in a hurry. Going into 2021, it will be hard for many fans to contain their excitement. The Mountaineers are bringing back virtually everybody on the offensive side of the ball, and will only have to deal with two significant departures on defense. Both units were solid in 2020, particularly the defense who led all Power Five institutions in total defense. The schedule will also be favorable for West Virginia. Not only will they draw bitter-rival Virginia Tech in Morgantown, but Iowa State, Texas, and Oklahoma State will all have to make the long and winding trip down the Country Roads. This is where I believe WVU will find the most success, in the luck of the draw. With the plethora of returning talent, as well as a schedule that is laid out for success, it is hard to see WVU as anything other than a top 25 team in 2021. It has been a quick “climb,” but everything has seemingly been building to this opportunity for Neal Brown in Morgantown. He has the experience and leadership on his roster to be successful, and the competitive advantage is now there. If the offense can find their groove consistently in 2021, and should the defense keep up their intimidating ways, there is no reason to believe this team will not be competing for a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game by season’s end. While that would be ideal, we will stick with being a regular in the top 25 just to keep our expectations realistic. The 2021 season is shaping up to be a fun season in Morgantown, and we should all be eager for it to finally arrive.  

Darius Stills Invited to the NFL Combine

(Photo by Ben Queen - USA Today)    After being snubbed on an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, WVU defensive lineman Darius Stills has officially announced that he has been invited to the 2021 NFL Combine. The Fairmont native took to Twitter only minutes ago to share the great news. Stills, who became a household name for the Mountaineers, finished his senior season with 22 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 1 interception.    

Teams I Would Like to See on WVU’s Schedule

Though WVU's Football schedule is mostly filled for the better part of the next decade, a fan can dream, right?   Today, I want to share with you a list of teams that I would like to see on the Mountaineers' schedule at some point in the future.   The teams on my list are my personal opinion, but I would love to see yours. Please feel free to share your list on our social media pages.   Rutgers Scarlett Knights  I will start my list off with an odd one. Back in the Big East days, Rutgers was always one of my favorite teams to go against. Of course WVU's domination over the Scarlett Knights was a big reason for this, but mostly what I remember is how interesting it was to go up against Greg Schiano's style of play. Rutgers is now on the rise with Schiano in his second stint, and I feel this could make for an interesting home-and-home series somewhere down the line. This is not an opponent that will be on many people's list, but I can't imagine anyone being furious at the idea of the nostalgia of playing Rutgers again. Army Black Knights I don't know about everyone else, but I thought the Liberty Bowl was a lot of fun. Going against the triple-option is always entertaining and terrifying at the same time. Luckily for WVU, their defense was up to the challenge in their 24-21 win on New Year's Eve. This would be an outside of the box home-and-home for WVU. They seem to be straying away from non-Power 5 schools in the non-conference, but if they were to consider one, I think Army would be a terrific fit. Houston Cougars The only interest I would have in this game is if Dana Holgorsen is still at Houston. Things have not gone well for him since he left WVU as he currently sits with a 7-13 record. Many people will not like the idea of this matchup, and that's okay, it's your opinion. However, I would like to see the matchup just so both sides can prove just how far their programs have come, and to prove which side made the mistake in their move. Will this game ever happen, though? I highly doubt it. Tennessee Volunteers I honestly believe there could be a potential rivalry brewing here. West Virginia and Tennessee are two fan bases who obviously do not like each other at all, and it made for entertaining banter on social media in 2018. It is also a plus that Tennessee is in the SEC, so there is absolutely no argument against the Volunteers being too weak of an opponent to be included on the schedule. A home-and-home series here would be a terrific move for WVU. Marshall Thundering Herd Yes, I'm one of the people who wants the series back. You can complain about this matchup all you want, but you can't deny the excitement that surrounded the game yearly. This would just be the absolute perfect season-opening matchup, giving fans all summer to go back and forth. Of course Huntington isn't a desirable place to have a football game, but two at WVU and one at Marshall like the old days would be fun nonetheless.

The Next Great Quarterback at West Virginia University

Morgantown, West Virginia - Neal Brown knows that college football teams live and die on the arm of their starting quarterback.  Brown and his staff have zeroed on the player that they want to be the future leader of the West Virginia Mountaineers. Braden Davis, a 6'5 200 pound dual-threat quarterback from Middletown, Delaware, is precisely the player that could take the Mountaineers from a mid-tier Big 12 Conference team to a team that could compete for conference and national championships. Davis, a four star recruit and the #1 ranked prospect in the state of Delaware in the 2022 class, has received considerable attention from West Virginia University lately.  Davis recently posted a video of him opening his mailbox at home to find a whole stack of letters from Morgantown.  David included the hashtag "TakeMeHome22." According to national recruiting analyst Brian Dohn, Davis "has an excellent frame with length. Athletic with escapability. Does not panic under pressure. Good pocket awareness. Good arm strength that will improve with maturity. Shows very good touch on intermediate and deep balls. Throws catchable ball. Gets through progressions. Extends plays. Strong work ethic. Good foot speed and feet work in unison with arm. Has to tighten lengthy delivery. Drops elbow at times. Must continue to get stronger and add weight. Added strength will increase arm strength. Multi-year starter at high-major program with long-term NFL Draft potential." Landing a talent like Braden Davis won't be easy, however.  Davis has offers from every big-time program in the country, including Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Iowa, LSU, Michigan State, Oregon, Penn State, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech. However, it's obvious that Neal Brown and staff have made Davis a top priority.  While Brown has done an exceptional job at recruiting in-state and under-the-radar talent, it's nice to see him shooting for the stars and competing with the top teams in the nation for a player of Davis' talent. With a continued major push by Neal Brown and his staff, they could bring one of the best and brightest players in the 2022 class!  While West Virginia has struck out on big talents in the past, something feels very different about Davis.  The Mountaineers are a major a player here. And a commitment could come very soon.

Next Game: 2/4 vs Oklahoma 8:00pm on ESPN2