Friday, September 29, 2023

Opinion: Injuries Cost Austin Kendall His Chance at Stardom at WVU

Though he is said to be a legitimate contender for the starting quarterback position at West Virginia, Austin Kendall is expected to go into the 2020 season as the backup for the Mountaineers. Jarret Doege ended the 2019 season with a strong grip on the job, and Kendall will have to prove his ability to manage the offense to be better to win it back. Easier said than done. While Kendall’s play wasn’t exactly up to par in 2019 — strongly contributing to the team’s five-game losing streak in the middle of the season — this was due to some misfortune for the Oklahoma transfer. If we’re being honest, Kendall didn’t look bad in the season opener against James Madison. He managed the game well, and played a turnover-free game as he led WVU to a 20-13 victory. However, a week two loss to Missouri is where things would begin to go off the tracks for Kendall. The team would suffer a 38-7 defeat at the hands of the Tigers, and Kendall would look shaky in the process. Though his play wasn’t great, many attribute this to an injury Kendall sustained early in the first half. He would cut his hand when being tackled in the first quarter, and this would prove to be the beginning of the end of Kendall’s potential in Morgantown.   His play would clearly be affected by the injury for the rest of the game, and even moving forward. The following week, Kendall would have a solid outing against N.C. State. But any NAIA quarterback could have success against Tony Gibson’s defense. The rumor was that Kendall’s hand would become infected, and he would begin to clearly struggle with the deep ball. It appeared as if he may get back on track against Iowa State. On the first drive, Kendall looked alive. He would evade tacklers, and look like he brought his athleticism to the table that chilly October day. However, the last play of the first drive would finish the day for Kendall as he would suffer an “upper body injury” after being sacked. From this point on, Kendall’s season was virtually over. He would start the next three games. In each contest, Kendall struggled with down the field passes, and finished with three touchdown passes to three interceptions. It was at this point when the team was 3-6 that WVU head coach Neal Brown would decide to make a change. A now healthy Jarret Doege would be inserted into the lineup and make all the difference for WVU. The fact of the matter is that Austin Kendall was only completely healthy for one game the entire season — against JMU. Outside of that, he would battle injuries to areas of the body that could significantly affect his passing abilities. How could someone who looked so solid in the season opener suddenly fall off a cliff? The injuries he sustained are simply the only clear option.   Had we seen a healthy Austin Kendall all season, who knows, he may be the craze of the Big 12 going into 2020. Instead, he caught the “wrong place at the wrong time” bug, and has now had to fight for his collegiate-life all offseason. It is disappointing to say, but Kendall’s stardom at WVU was short-circuited by injuries. The former four-star had all of the talent to be a stud signal-caller in Neal Brown’s offense. He will now be holding a clipboard and wearing a baseball cap on the sidelines this season, and will be pegged as a “what could have been” when his time is over in Morgantown.

Winston Wright Jr. is One of Several Players Who “Want to Play”

With cancellations coming in full force across College Football, many players are taking to social media to express their desires to play this upcoming season. One of those players just happened to be WVU’s Winston Wright Jr. Last week, the speedy sophomore took to Twitter to simply state that he is “just tryna ball.” Wright would continue that he his faith is “in God,” and that he knows that God will take care of  everything during these uncertain times. Many more players across the Big Ten and ACC have also spoken out in support of playing this season. Clemson’s Heisman Trophy favorite quarterback Trevor Lawrence would also tweet his desire to play this season. Lawrence would say “I don’t know about y’all, but we want to play.”   Simple — yet powerful. Players are working tirelessly, with their hearts set on getting to compete in the upcoming season. Despite his superstar status, Lawrence is not above sharing his desire to close out his Clemson career in the way he always wanted to....playing. Penn State’s football team swarmed social media today pleading with those following them and in the media that they also want to play: Call me crazy, but I believe the player’s voices are more important than anyone else’s. They know how much football means to everyone, and they are willing to take the risk to play the sport they love. Yes, we need to listen to the experts, but how about we listen to the kids who put everything they have into this sport. They want to play, and we want a season.  

Let’s Get This Straight, the MAC’s Season is Not Completely Canceled

Yes, today was a hard day. The Mid-American Conference’s decision to cancel “fall” sports came as a massive blow to everyone, and now the fear-mongering media has been feeding off of it all day. However, there has been a major misconception in the headlines after the MAC’s decision. Most outlets are reporting that the season has been “canceled,” but it has rather been postponed. As of right now, the conference plans to give sports affected by the cancellation a chance to compete in the spring — pending medical advisors allowing them to do so. So to say the season has been completely scrapped for the conference is bafflingly misleading. To make this simple, many college’s athletic departments cannot survive financially without a football season. While the health and safety of everyone involved has to be a priority, it’s irresponsible to entirely ignore financial obligations of a season. This is why many, if not all conferences who have canceled their “fall” season, are planning to attempt a season in the spring. Before believing the “fear porn” media, check the facts. No, we’re not going to go a full school year without College Football — it’s just not possible. The MAC will be back in the spring, and if other Group of 5 conferences are smart, they will make the same decision. Things will eventually get better in a world controlled by COVID-19, and it is time we start understanding completely shutting down until it is somewhat eradicated is not possible. There will be some sort of College Football within the next eight months, it is simply a matter of when.

Bulger with Words of Wisdom

Marc Bulger is one of the most beloved quarterbacks in Mountaineer Football history.  Today, he offered words of wisdom for us all as we go through difficult times in today’s world. Bulger would offer advice that we “relish life and live it not sulk in it,” quoting Robert Frost. He would also state that we have a “1 in 400 trillion chance” of even being born, and that life is full of risks and decisions. Read Bulger’s tweet from this morning, and work to apply it to your life.

Neal Brown Reaches Out to Former Player

It has been over half a decade since former Mountaineer offensive lineman Quinton Spain took the field in Morgantown. Since then, he has made a name for himself in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans. Today, current WVU head coach Neal Brown reached out to Spain to wish him a happy birthday, and tell him a home is waiting for him in Morgantown. Brown would wish Spain a happy birthday, and good luck in the upcoming season. What caught the eye of most fans, however, was that Brown would also tell him a “locker is ready” for him whenever he “comes back.” Neal Brown has made it a point to have former players involved, and this further drives that narrative. Quinton Spain is a huge part of WVU’s Big 12 history, and Brown recognizes and appreciates that.

TCU and Gary Patterson Can Learn From WVU and Vic Koenning

Yesterday, TCU linebacker Dylan Jordan released a statement on Twitter accusing Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson of using a racial slur. The reason for Patterson using the word, as indicated in Jordan’s accusations, was to bring attention to it being said in meetings in hopes for its usage to cease.   As head coach, Patterson has the right to ask his players not to use the word around the program. However, him allegedly saying the word instead of simply addressing it another way is where the issue resides. As a society, we are slowly eliminating the use of this term, and many others that can be deemed as racist. For the leader of a major College Football program to say this word or anything related to it is simply unacceptable in any context. Many speculated whether or not Patterson would be unemployed soon after these allegations arose. To this moment, he is still the head coach at TCU. According to ESPN, the Chancellor of TCU has even released a statement saying that Patterson has apologized to the team for his usage of the word. While things may improve and tensions lessen within the program, the damage has already been done. Now, the Horned Frogs Football program has this cloud hovering over them. No matter what Patterson’s intentions were with saying the word, high school recruits on the outside looking in may be severely taken back. For this, recruiting at TCU could take a significant hit — leading to a potential major slump for the program. If TCU wants to learn from an example on how to handle this situation, they have to look no further than WVU. While the allegations against former Mountaineer defensive coordinator Vic Koenning were nowhere near this severe, all involved knew it was best for the program to go their separate ways. In head Coach Neal Brown’s statement regarding the “mutual parting of ways,” he referenced that in the political climate of today, it was the only logical decision. This should be how it is viewed by TCU. In today’s world, what Patterson did is simply unacceptable — whether you view it as such or not. As long as he is with the program, this baggage will come along with him. No matter the context, and no matter the intentions, it is a bad look for Patterson. It is in TCU’s best interest to move on.

Voice of Motown’s 2020 Preseason Big 12 Power Rankings

The 2020 College Football season is right around the corner. After an off-season that was dictated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is time to finally talk some football. Here are The Voice of Motown’s 2020 Preseason Big 12 Power Rankings:   10. Kansas Jayhawks: The Jayhawks were able to show improvement in their first season under Les Miles, but the boys in Lawrence could take a step back this season. Not only do they have to replace starting quarterback Carter Stanley, but the starting lineups are largely depleted all across the board. Expect Kansas to be competitive, but a winless season in league play seems likely. 9. Texas Tech Red Raiders: The Red Raiders actually took a step back in Matt Wells’ first season at the helm. The success of the team will rely solely on the health of quarterback Alan Bowman. If he finds himself in the injury tent once again this season, it could be another long year in Lubbock. Tech will be fighting for bowl eligibility in late November, but yet another holiday season at home may be in the cards. 8. Kansas State Wildcats: After first-year head Coach Chris Klieman was able to splash onto the scene knocking off Oklahoma and finishing 8-5, don’t expect a repeat for the Wildcats in 2020. The offense will be replacing virtually their entire offensive line, potentially posing to be very worrisome for senior quarterback Skylar Thompson. This season will likely be spent hovering around the 6-6 mark while Kansas State builds for the future. 7. TCU Horned Frogs: West Virginia was able to knock the Frogs out of bowl eligibility in the season finale last season. Gary Patterson’s crew should make a return to the postseason, but it will not be flashy. Unless Alex Duggan can build on the flashes he showed in 2019, the offense may struggle as it has in recent years. However, five-star running back Zachary Evans could be a huge boost for the offense this season. As usual, Patterson’s defense will be stout no matter the team’s record. 6. West Virginia Mountaineers: How high West Virginia is able to climb in 2020 will depend on the improvement of their running game, and the defense’s ability to adjust to a “by committee” coordinator. However, if Neal Brown has proven anything in the past it’s that he can pull off the shocker. We expect to see that this year for the Mountaineers, but not to the magnitude he was able to at Troy. The Mountaineers will likely return to the postseason with Jarret Doege under center, and this year will be used as a building block for future success. 5. Baylor Bears: The Bears suffered a huge blow when former head coach Matt Rhule bolted for the NFL. In comes former LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, but he will be faced with a huge challenge due to the COVID-19 shortening the offseason. Charlie Brewer should have a successful final year in Waco, but the talent lost from last year up and down the board will result in the team taking a step back in 2020.   4. Iowa State Cyclones: Will this finally be the year Iowa State breaks through? It’s unlikely. However, junior quarterback Brock Purdy could lead the squad to some major upset wins in 2020. As always, Matt Campbell’s squad will be a tough outing for each opponent, and will finish the year with around 8-wins. Also, this could finally be the year Campbell decides to bolt for a bigger job — so live in the moment, Cyclones. 3. Texas Longhorns: Is Texas back? Hell no, but they will be a top contender in the conference. Sam Ehlinger will hope for huge success in his last year in Austin, and the defense will likely improve after taking a step back last season. It seems as if the Longhorns are still “one season away,” but this could be their last chance to breakthrough as they will have to replace Ehlinger in 2021. 2. Oklahoma State Cowboys: While Mike Gundy may be a dud these days, his team certainly isn’t. Returning is Heisman contender Chuba Hubbard, and Spencer Sanders should cement himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12. The Cowboys should hit double-digit victories this season, and be a serious contender with the Sooners. 1. Oklahoma Sooners: Lincoln Riley’s team will be the best in the conference once again, but this time they will have to work for it. Spencer Rattler should be the next great OU quarterback, but the fact of the matter is that he is inexperienced. Should he prove his talent worthy, the Sooners will be be in the national spotlight once again. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch should have his unit towards the top of the conference as well.  

Meet the New Mountaineer

During the WVU-Baylor matchup on Saturday evening, a new mascot for the 2020-21 athletic season was announced in front of a sold out crowd. Timmy Eads, the 66th Mountaineer, handed the musket over to Greenbrier County native, and WVU sophomore, Colson Glover. Glover will be the university’s 67th mascot and will begin serving at the annual Gold-Blue Spring Football Game.

Clark Johnson’s Plan for Big 12 Expansion

*Disclosure: I will be looking at this primarily from a football perspective.* As Brad Smith previously gave his plan for expansion in the Big 12, I also have a vision for the conference moving forward. Since it is unlikely that many other Power 5 schools would consider making the jump to the wild-wild Midwest, this list will strictly consist of proven Group of 5 programs. Here are 3 programs that could potentially be strong additions to the Big 12 Conference:   NAVY: The triple-option in the Big 12? Could it work? Whether it would or would not is a mystery, but it would certainly be fun to watch. Navy has been a strong football program under Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo. The Midshipmen have won 8 or more games in 9 of his 12 seasons at the Naval Academy. Many defensive coordinators in the Big 12 would not appreciate this addition, but it would be compelling to see how they would hold up against the high-flying air raid offenses. UCF: A program that has became increasingly arrogant over the course of the last three seasons, it may be time for them to finally prove themselves against legitimate competition. The Central Florida Football program has been on a tear since 2017, compiling a 35-4 record over that span. Josh Heupel is annually a highly sought after head coaching candidate for Power 5 programs, he would only add to the list of impressive young Big 12 coaches. HOUSTON: Do not act like you did not see this coming. No, this is not a Dana Holgorsen based choice despite the interesting rivalry that could be there with the Cougars and West Virginia. Houston is a legitimate football program that is only continuing to grow. The Cougars have a talented roster, and could compete with the best of the Big 12 after Holgorsen lays his foundation.

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.

West Virginia WR coach leaving for USF

  West Virginia coach Neal Brown has seen the first change in his coaching staff as wide receivers coach Xavier Dye has left the program. Dye has taken the same position South Florida under new USF head coach Jeff Scott. Dye thanked Brown and West Virginia in a tweet announcing his departure. “’West By God Virginia’ is a really special place, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that,” Dye wrote. “I want to thank Coach Brown for giving me this opportunity…The best is yet to come!” Brown also thanked Dye via Twitter. “I want to thank Xavier Dye for his contributions to WV football over the last 10 months,” Brown posted. “We wish him the best as he reunites with close friend and mentor Jeff Scott.”

Don’t be Shocked if Trey Lowe Transfers

Jarret Doege is the unquestioned starter for the West Virginia Mountaineers next season.  He earned it in the final four games of the 2019 season by showing a calm presence in the pocket and an ability to throw downfield.  Due to Doege only playing in 4 games, he is eligible for 2 more full seasons and he is clearly the best option for the Mountaineers moving forward.  His ability and experience makes him the obvious choice for Neal Brown for the next two seasons. Austin Kendall, who left the field prematurely while the rest of his teammates celebrated a season finale upset win at TCU, may or may not return.  To be honest, he is pretty much stuck at West Virginia University next season.  Kendall could spend his Senior season as a backup for Doege or quit football entirely.  Unless he's completely fed up with the team after being benched for the last three games, there's a good chance that Kendall will be the backup next season. West Virginia's quarterback of the future, four star golden boy Garrett Greene, will be a fiery, precocious Freshman ready to compete for the starting position immediately next season.  Greene is confident and believes that he can beat out the quarterbacks in front of him with more experience.  He will simply not accept being the 4th quarterback on the team, even as a Freshman.  Greene is a winner and he wants to be involved.  Where does this leave the ultra-talented, dual threat Redshirt Freshman Trey Lowe?  Unfortunately, Lowe is on the outside looking in, an enormously talented young man who will have his talented wasted on the sideline for the Mountaineers. With all four quarterbacks on the roster, this would be an extremely complicated situation for the coaching staff.  My guess is that if Austin Kendall decides to return for his Senior season, Head Coach Neal Brown will likely have to have a frank, very difficult talk with Trey Lowe. I imagine the talk would go something like this: "Trey, you've done everything that you're supposed to do.  You've been a great teammate, you've worked hard on special teams, you put in the time in the offseason, but the reality is that your chances of getting significant playing time in a West Virginia uniform is very low.  We will support you looking at other options to have a real chance at playing college football." When student athletes are involved, it's important to consider what's best for the young men.  Obviously Neal Brown and Mountaineer fans would like for Trey Lowe to remain with the team for the next four years, but can anyone honestly say that this is what is best for this young man's future?  While the success of the football program is paramount, would anyone really blame Lowe for doing what's best for himself?

Constant Decommits

Lamy Constant, one of the best running backs in high school right now, was fully committed to West Virginia. Moments ago, he re-opened his recruitment and is no longer committed to the Mountaineers. Constant, 6’0 and 186 pounds, is a 4 star running back out of Brooklyn, New York.   He is the top ranked prospect in the state and the 20th ranked running back in the class of 2020. Constant spoke with “Beasts of the East” following his Final 4 announcement and said the following about each program: TEXAS A&M: “How real and upfront the coaching staff is. They don’t sugarcoat much and that’s exactly what I need to continue to elevate my game.” MICHIGAN STATE: “The coaches are extremely genuine. They are eager to get me on campus and start working.” LSU: “Honestly the name speaks for itself. The legacy and tradition built there when it comes to the running back position isn’t something you can argue.” WEST VIRGINIA: “The one school I visited so far. Great facilities and an even better presence when it comes to the knowledge and experience under the coaching staff’s belt.” Losing Constant is massive news for Head Coach Neal Brown and the Mountaineers.  Constant was the most highly-rated commit for West Virginia in the 2020 class.

Mountaineers Land Talented Cornerback

The West Virginia Mountaineers landed a talented JUCO cornerback in Lakevias Daniel.  Daniel, from Lousiville, Mississippi, played for Jones County Junior College last season. Daniel was originally committed to Ole Miss but de-committed after their Head Coach Matt Luke was fired. Daniel was also offered a scholarship by Tennessee, Louisville, Illinois, among many other programs.  With a secondary decimated by injuries and players entering the transfer portal, Daniel will be a welcomed addition to the Mountaineers.

Big 12 Conference Awards

Moments ago, the Big 12 Conference announced awards for the 2019 season.  For the second year in a row, Senior offensive linemen Colton McKivitz has been named the co-offensive linemen of the year. Junior Darius Stills, who is currently considering leaving the team to enter the NFL Draft, was named to the All-Big 12 First team Defense.  Stills finished his junior season with 47 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Darius' brother Dante Stills was named to the All-Big 12 second team, along with teammates Josh Norwood, who ended his season with an incredible interception and Senior Keith Washington. In addition, Josh Chandler, Josh Growden, Sam James, Tykee Smith and Darius Stills were named  All-Big 12 Honorable Mention.