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. https://twitter.com/DeriqKing_/status/1216933519471120395?s=20 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!" https://twitter.com/Holgorsendana/status/1216937747463753729?s=20 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.” https://twitter.com/NealBrown_WVU/status/1208440753153814528?s=20 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.

Draft Kings: “Neal Brown Looking for a New Job in 2024”

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia -- Draft Kings' Chinmay Vaidya released his "Hot Seat Week 2" list yesterday and unsurprisingly West Virginia head coach Neal Brown was front and center on the list. According to Vaidya, "Neal Brown has a permanent position in this column until he is gone." Brown, who is currently 23-26 overall and 14-21 in the Big 12 Conference in his 5th season with the Mountaineers, was on the hot seat all last season and remained there to begin this season. "Barring a scenario where West Virginia wins the Big 12, he is effectively gone at the end of the year," Vaidya said of Brown. "The Backyard Brawl is a chance to provide some relief but Brown is going to be looking for a new job in 2024." West Virginia plays Pitt this Saturday, September 16, and will play Texas Tech the following Saturday at home. These two games have been circled on the calendar as the two games that could potentially decide Neal Brown's future. If the Mountaineers lose one or both of the games, Brown could be in major trouble. If they win, he could buy himself more time on the West Virginia sideline.

West Virginia is Not at the Bottom of the Big 12

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia — Before the start of the season, Neal Brown said, “We are not the 14th best team in the league and we will not finish at the bottom of the standing.” Today, Brown reiterated what he said earlier, saying, “We were picked 14th in the conference. This is our first chance we get to prove the so-called experts wrong.” And so far, Neal Brown is right. Call it however you like; current standings do not lie. WVU is keeping league with the middle of the Big 12 Conference right now in the same conversations as 2022 National Championship hopefuls TCU and even defending Big 12 Champions Kansas State. Many can argue we have had a more challenging run than the others getting to the conference play, having to take on (7) Penn State in the season opener on the road in State College, and most recently playing in a heated rivalry game that draws national attention when it happens – The Backyard Brawl. WVU is 2-1 against Pennsylvania teams this year, and largely the same competitors in our conversation might not have been tested yet this year. Let’s look at the current Big 12 standings after Week 3, bearing in mind that when the records are tied this early, the alphabet determines the order. West Virginia could as easily be 7th in the conference as we are listed at 10th. So, let’s evaluate:                               CONF                           OVERALL TCU 1-0 W1 2-1 BYU 0-0 3-0 Kansas 0-0 3-0 Oklahoma 0-0 3-0 Texas 0-0 3-0 UCF 0-0 3-0 Cincinnati 0-0 2-1 Kansas State 0-0 2-1 Oklahoma State 0-0 2-1 West Virginia 0-0 2-1 Baylor 0-0 1-2 Iowa State 0-0 1-2 Texas Tech 0-0 1-2 Houston 0-1 L1 1-2   Let’s begin with TCU, who has had a bit of an unstable start in their schedule this year. They began with an unexpected loss to Colorado, now ranked, then beat up on an outmatched Nicholls State, to finally fairly decisively win the first official conference game of the year against Houston. BYU really hasn’t played anyone besides an unproven Arkansas who, realistically, is about mid-level SEC most years. They will be a wildcard moving forward but remain unbeaten, giving them #2 spot based on the alphabet. Next, you get Kansas. This has been something a long time in the making for this team to go 3-0 in out-of-conference play. Interested to see how the Jayhawks match up against some of the Big 12 competition when they open up against newcomer BYU. #16 Oklahoma has yet to lose and likely will remain unbeaten, traveling to play Cincinnati in the Big 12 home opener. This is one of the alarming matchups WVU has later in their schedule and one to circle as an important one for league standing at that point of the year. #3 Texas is off to the best start it had in several, several seasons. The hype train is real, and the Longhorns will be hard to stop. Do not expect Baylor, even at home, to give the Longhorns much pause in their path to the Big 12 title game. UCF follows up, and in this grouping, I would say realistically, it goes Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, UCF, and BYU for the unbeaten. Central Florida has a lot to prove and is arguably the most talented of the new four teams in the league. UCF will turn many heads if they manage to travel into Manhattan, KS, and walk out 1-0 in conference play. Cincinnati starts the grouping of 2-1 performers, including the Mountaineers. While the Bearcats also boast a win over the Pitt Panthers, they also turned around and lost overtime to Miami (OH) this past weekend. This rivalry game for the Victory Bell has been played 127 times, and the Miami Redhawks had not seen a win since 2005. It is hard to say what sort of team Cincinnati might be, but I’d be willing to wager a rolling Oklahoma can exploit some weaknesses in the conference opener. Kansas State isn’t looking like their old self this year, at least not yet. Beyond their rivalry game, which they lost to Missouri this past weekend, the Wildcats have gone up against SEMO and Troy, squads that stood no chance against Power 5 conference football. UCF will be a challenge and one that very well could send this team to the bottom of the standings (at least for a bit) after the first round of conference games. Oklahoma State is also a team we don’t know what to expect from one week to the next. None of what is on tape is very inspired football, the least of which is the drubbing they received this last weekend from South Alabama. Fortunately, they get a somehow worse team in the Big 12, Iowa State, to dip their toe into conference play. West Virginia rounds out the 2-1 teams, and an early impression is that this squad is much better as a whole unit than anything Brown has put together in years past. This is not the team likely to make a run for the Big 12 title, but it will not be the doormat initially projected at the beginning of the year. We open up against one of the worst possible week 1 conference foes, bringing Texas Tech to Morgantown. If the Mountaineers handle business this week and start 1-0 in the Big 12, look out conference. Baylor begins the bottom of the conference barrel with the 1-2 teams. They have had a hard start, losing to a low level FBS team in week one, taking a ranked team the distance and losing in week 2, and then finally getting their footing in the third matchup against poor Long Island University. Unfortunately, the road is tough when this week’s conference play begins. Texas University is coming to town, and they are ranked #3 in the country for a reason. Iowa State is really on a struggle bus right now, too. While they had a fairly competitive match, as they normally do when competing for the Cy-Hawk trophy with Iowa University, the rest has been pretty flat. That includes the game they won initially against Northern...

Analyst: “West Virginia is a 9 Win Team”

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia -- Well ask and you shall receive: the story isn’t how WVU is going to go 1-11 anymore this year. That honor has been passed to teams like the Baylor Bears. Instead, steam is starting to roll in the biggest sports coverage brands like ESPN, changing up many of the projected matchups to favor the Mountaineers, including Houston, Oklahoma State, BYU, and Baylor. We are still underdogs to TCU, UCF, Oklahoma, and Cincinnati. So even if we only win the games we are now projected to, that’s a 7-5 record. Much better than 1-11, right? While outlets like ESPN are never going to say that they pegged this one wrong or acknowledge anything more than the stumbling of the Big 12 opponents, other increasingly popular news programs like Locked On the Big 12 has had a lot of exciting chatter about the WVU program the past couple of days. Their YouTube channel, albeit not the most popular form of their news brand, has a clip dedicated exclusively to the WVU fanbase: https://youtu.be/yk7fUtYq5nA?si=Qm7w3gt1F57YlQH- In it, the host talks about the recent success of the defense and how it is no longer crazy to think the Mountaineers could end up as a 9-win team or wreak havoc and be knocking on the door of the championship in Arlington if you catch Oklahoma lacking. Either way, very different conversation than the country was having when the season began. photo credit: WVU Athletics

5 Thoughts Following WVU’s Huge Win Over the Horned Frogs

WVU is trending in the right direction following yet another huge win.  Morgantown, WV - When Neal Brown visited Arlington, Texas for Big 12 Media Days, he was adamant that his team would not finish last in the Big 12, as projected by the media. Following a massive 24-21 win over TCU on Saturday, many would venture to say that he was correct in his prediction. It was ugly, rough, and often unpredictable, but what WVU was able to do on Saturday night in Fort Worth should have Mountaineer Nation excited for what is to come. There is something different about this team, and they now have the opportunity to become something special as we turn the calendar to October. Continuing our series of five thoughts, today's entry may just be our most positive yet. After all, it is hard not to be buzzing after just taking down the reigning national runner-up.   Garrett Greene is much farther ahead of Nicco Marchiol than many realize And that's really to no fault of Marchiol. Garrett Greene has now been with the Mountaineers for four years, and has seen the most game action out of the two. Experience is on his side, and that was evident on Saturday night. Marchiol will get there, but this is Greene's team for the time-being. This defense rallies After seeing two teammates go down to injury, the Mountaineer defense could have easily folded. Instead, they cranked up the intensity and shut out the Frogs in the second half. I am not sure what Jordan Lesley did to change the fortunes of this unit in 2023, but it sure as hell worked. West Virginia has some fighters on the defensive side of the ball. That will be huge as we get deeper into Big 12 play. Michael Hayes is a worthy successor to Casey Legg As usual, I am going to give the special teams some love. While I have been high on the Oliver Straw ladder (and I still am), I'm going to give the placekicker some attention this week. Holy sh*t...does Michael Hayes have a leg! The junior connected on a 49-yard field goal in the fourth quarter which proved to be the difference. However, he also connected on a 53-yard field goal to end the first half that was ultimately called back due to a questionable false start penalty. Hayes would then proceed to almost hit a 58-yard field goal, but left it wide. I was a little worried about placekicking after the departure of Casey Legg, but this dude seems to have what it takes. This team can play and beat anybody  There is not a game remaining on the schedule that the Mountaineers cannot win. Will they win out? It remains to be seen, but with their style of play that I like to call "bully ball," they will at least have a fighting chance in every fourth quarter. Neal Brown is the early favorite for Big 12 Coach of the Year It is hard to argue against this one. After being picked as the worst team in the Big 12, Neal Brown's team has taken down two of the conference's darlings coming into 2023. If he can pull off some more stunners, there is no doubt in my mind that he will be voted as the Big 12's best coach in 2023. (Photo by WVU Athletics)

West Virginia Houston Gameday Predictions

The Voice of Morgantown's staff picks the winner of today's game against the West Virginia Mountaineers and Houston.   Houston, Texas  - The West Virginia Mountaineers (4-1, 2-0) travel to Houston, Texas to play the Houston Cougars (2-3, 0-2)  in a huge Big 12 Conference game.  Here's how our experts think the game will play out today: Wyatt Coffman, Graphic Designer, The Voice of Morgantown, 0-1  Houston has got their backs against the wall and they need this win desperately. However, they are a one-dimensional, up-tempo offense. I think WVU will strongly establish the run early with a revitalized running back room and our defense will step up big-time this week. Houston's defense struggles significantly and I think WVU will make light work on their defensive front on the ground and make signficant improvements in the passing game as well. In the end, despite Houston's best efforts, I think West Virginia grabs the huge win on the road against their former coach and propels themselves into national rankings and relevance not seen since 2018 as well as establishing themselves as real conference contender on the national stage.  WVU 31 Houston 21 Clark Johnson, Senior Writer, The Voice of Morgantown, 3-2 I'm nervous about this one. We seem to play better when I pick against us - so I'll do it again. Houston 31 WVU 27 Brad Smith, Publisher, The Voice of Morgantown, 3-2 I have a terrible feeling about this game. West Virginia will be without key starters - offensive lineman Wyatt Milum, safety Aubrey Burks, offensive lineman Tomas Rimac - and Dana Holgorsen wants this one badly. Not because it's against his former team but because he desperately needs a win. All things considered, I think it's going to be really tough for the Mountaineers to leave Houston with a win. Houston 28 WVU 21

WATCH: Pat McAfee Goes Shirtless on College Gameday

Pat McAfee continues to be the most entertaining part of ESPN’s College Gameday. Salt Lake City, Utah - Former WVU Kicker Pat McAfee continues to be a massive presence in sports media. Despite his tenure with ESPN’s College Gameday being somewhat of a controversial one, he is never afraid to do anything for shock value. His wacky antics struck again this morning as he removed his shirt during a segment in Salt Lake City, Utah. https://twitter.com/collegegameday/status/1718256573175464027?s=46&t=cXIQ4JQG-pp-P6qrRwLwjw Watch McAfee get a strong reaction from the crowd, and even many around the nation in the tweet above.  

West Virginia’s Top Defensive Player Will Make NFL Decision TODAY

When Darius Stills recently announced on Twitter that he was considering leaving West Virginia University to pursue a career in the National Football League, it came as a surprise to most West Virginia fans. https://twitter.com/DariusStills56/status/1201259550898376704?s=20 Stills, the junior defensive lineman, has long been in the shadow of his younger brother Dante.  Dante was the more physically gifted, the more highly-touted out of high school, the Stills brother who would one day likely play in the NFL. Darius Stills was not offered a scholarship by West Virginia until very late and this was only after he initially committed to Rutgers. Stills thought the offer would never come. According to his younger brother Dante, Darius has never been given the credit that he deserves.  "He's been overlooked his whole life for no reason.  I feel like he has something to prove and I feel like he will prove it." Darius Stills has transformed himself physically.  While Stills was a bit overweight as a Freshman out of high school, at 6'1 292, he is an ideal specimen at defensive line in the NFL.  As a physical comparison, Aaron Donald, the best defensive lineman in the NFL is 6'1 280.  While Stills has a long way to go to reach Aaron Donald status, he is right where he needs to be physically to have a chance to succeed in the NFL. Stills has worked harder than ever before to and he shown what a dominant force he can be.  During his three seasons with the Mountaineers, he has racked up 55 total tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 8 sacks. Darius Stills has been told that he couldn't do things his whole life and he has proved everyone wrong over and over and over again.  This decision won't be any different.  Fans and experts will say that he should wait, that he should play another year before and that he's not ready. He has heard this his whole life and although this is the biggest decision of his young life, it's really no different.  Darius Stills has represented our state well, but I think he forego his final season at West Virginia University and enter the draft today at 6PM. Although Stills may not be a high draft pick, he will make a team and he will once again prove everyone wrong as he goes on to have a successful career in the National Football League. Prediction:  Stills enters the draft.  

REPORT: Jimbo Fisher Expected to Be Fired By Texas A&M

West Virginia native Jimbo Fisher is expected to be fired at Texas A&M “as early as today,” according to reports.   College Station, TX - Despite coming off of a 51-10 win over Mississippi State, Jimbo Fisher’s days at Texas A&M could be coming to an end soon. According to Billy Liucci or TexAgs.com, A&M and Fisher could part ways “as early as today.” https://Twitter.com/billyliucci/status/1723694746575442027?s=46&t=cXIQ4JQG-pp-P6qrRwLwjw Fisher, who has been at A&M since 2018, would be owed $76 million if he is outright fired. In a little under six seasons, he has accumulated a 45-25 record, including 27-21 in SEC play. This brings a large amount of significance for the Mountaineers as Fisher has been named as a potential replacement for Neal Brown if WVU moves on from him at the end of the season. However, given WVU’s 6-4 record, it is hard to fathom that Wren Baker will pull the plug on Brown with so much production expected to return in 2024. Stay tuned to The Voice of Motown for updates. (Photo by Texas A&M Athletics)   

Rich Rod’s Next Move

Former West Virginia Head Coach Rich Rodriguez was recently not retained as Offensive Coordinator by Lane Kiffin, the new Ole Miss Head Coach.  Although Ole Miss struggled to a 4-8 record, their offense made great strides under Rodriguez.  In addition, Rodriguez is widely recognized as one of the most brilliant offensive minds in college football today. However, with a questionable past and mediocre results since leaving Morgantown - 15-22 at Michigan and 43-35 at Arizona - it's unlikely that he will be given another opportunity to be a Head Coach at a Power 5 school this year.  Rodriguez has made it clear what he wants, recently saying, "I’ve loved my time at Ole Miss during the last 11 months and I was really excited about the future all around the program, but particularly offensively with all the young true freshman we were playing.  I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I would like to be a Head Coach again." It's possible that a lower-tier Division I school will give him a chance as a Head Coach, but it appears far more likely that he will have to settle for a role as an Offensive Coordinator before landing an opportunity to be a Head Coach again. NC State seemed like a natural fit for Rodriguez to join former West Virginia Defensive Coordinator Tony Gibson there, but the Wolfpack instead hired former Texas Longhorns' Offensive Coordinator Tim Beck.  Another possibility was the vacant Miami Hurricanes' Offensive Coordinator position after they fired previous coach Dan Enos, but just moments ago the Hurricanes announced the signing of Rhett Lashlee, former SMU Offensive Coordinator, as its new Offensive Coordinator. One other position to keep an eye on is the Head Coach position at Tulane if current Head Coach Willie Fritz takes another job.  Fritz has been mentioned for multiple open positions and if he goes elsewhere, Rodriguez would jump at the opportunity to return there, where he was the Offensive Coordinator for the 12-0 Green Wave team that featured quarterback Shaun King.  Rodriguez nearly became the Head Coach at Tulane back in 2012 before ultimately deciding to take Arizona job and has several connections to the program. The coaching carousel is very fluid and anything can happen before next Fall, but right now the options for Rodriguez are limited.  Perhaps taking another year off as a CBS Sports Network analyst (Rodriguez was impressive in his first attempt as an analyst and would certainly be welcomed back) makes the most sense while waiting for the right opportunity to open up.  One thing is certain, though, and that's that we have not seen the last of Rich Rodriguez on the sidelines in college football.  He will be back.

The Case for Neal Brown as the Big 12 Head Coach of the Year

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia - Look, no one has been more critical of Neal Brown during his almost 5 seasons with the West Virginia Mountaineers, but he is certainly in contention to earn the Big 12 Head Coach of the Year award this season. Remember, it's easy to forget that West Virginia was picked 14th out of 14 teams in the Big 12 Conference, which is dead last. Most experts predicted that the Mountaineers would win somewhere between 2 and 5 games, and as we currently stand, West Virginia is 7-4 and 5-3 in the conference, and they are in 5th place in the Big 12. In addition, the teams that are currently ahead of West Virginia - Texas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas State - were expected to have success this season. So while Steve Sarkisian, Mike Gundy, Brent Venables, Chris Klieman and even Lance Leipold at Kansas could make a case as the conference's coach of the year, no one has exceeded expectations in terms of wins like Neal Brown at West Virginia. Does that mean that I've been wrong about Neal Brown over the last 5 seasons? Absolutely not. The Mountaineers are only 29-29 under Brown, have never been anywhere near the Top 25, are 0-16 against teams that finish in the Top 25 and 19-24 in the Big 12 Conference. He's underwhelmed time and time again, and should have been fired after last season. In fact, he would have been fired if it wasn't for his enormous contract buyout. Regardless of how you view Neal Brown's tenure at West Virginia - I, for one, view it as a tremendous flop - he will likely win 8 games and finish in the top half of the Big 12 during a season that he was supposed to only win a few games and finsih in dead last place, and the Mountaineers' success this season will earn him real consideration as the the conference's top head coach for the 2023 season. What's your take? Do you think Neal Brown should be named the Big 12 Conference Head Coach of the Year this season? Vote below! https://twitter.com/voicemorgantown/status/1728081915998056921?s=20

A Surprise Secret Weapon for the Mountaineers in 2020

While the offense was for the most part stagnant for the Mountaineers in 2019, the wide receiver corps is the one area that clearly made progress all season. Players like Sam James, T.J. Simmons, Ali Jennings, and the recently departed George Campbell all got stronger as the year went on. However, there is one receiver that was overlooked during the season. Isaiah Esdale played a mostly limited role in the Mountaineer offense in 2019, but the flashes that he put on display during the last quarter of the season should have fans excited for his potential. The rising redshirt junior finished the season with only 15 catches for 171 yards and 1 touchdown, but the skill set he brought each play could pose trouble for Big 12 defenses in the future. Not only did Esdale display the ability to be a possession receiver, he also had the opportunity to show his arm talent. During the first half of a matchup with Texas Tech on November 9th, Esdale has his opportunity to show his arm strength. In what Neal Brown called a “Texas flea flicker,” Austin Kendall threw a backwards lateral pass to Esdale, who then found Kennedy McKoy streaking down the far sideline for the touchdown. For Esdale to be able fit a ball in a tight space throwing across his body shows natural passing talent. This could open up the possibility of trick plays into what should be a much improved offense in 2020. The most difficult catch a receiver can make is over-the-shoulder. Having the ability to track a ball can make a good receiver an elite receiver. Esdale has this ability on full display in the season finale. On a 2nd and 10 late in the fourth quarter, Jarret Doege found Esdale at the front pylon for the game-winning 36-yard touchdown. A pass that Doege said he did not know had a chance to be completed due to the immense pressure in the pocket, was perfectly placed right over the shoulder of Esdale. The toughness of this catch showed the pure talent that Esdale brings to the table. With the limited space, the Elkton, Maryland native was able to get one foot in bounds while possessing the ball. Esdale will continue to see his role increase in the offense. Bringing to the table the threat of being a vertical target and a superb passing ability, the sky could potentially be the limit. Every season, unknown players have surprise breakout seasons. West Virginia will just have the most surprising of them all. https://twitter.com/wns_brandon/status/1201908465284898816?s=21