This Team Is Going To Be Special

The Mountaineers, in front of another disappointing, pathetic Coliseum crowd and on a new, sharp basketball court, beat a pesky Duquesne Dukes team 78-70 in a charity exhibition game. Despite occasional struggles throughout the game, the Mountaineers are clearly a deeper, more athletic, better scoring team than last season’s team. Oscar Tshiebwe, the highly-regarded Freshman forward, will average 10-15 rebounds per game this season.  He has a special knack for getting to the basketball and his athleticism is as good as anyone the Mountaineers have ever had.  Tshiebwe finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds in his debut. Derek Culver, who appears to be able to get to the rim at will, has a far more complete offensive game this season.  Pairing him net to Tshiebwe won’t be fair to the Mountaineers’ opponents this year.  He will likely average a double-double as well. Newcomer Jalen Bridges, who will likely redshirt this season, looked like he belonged and if West Virginia needs him, he absolutely could play and contribute this season.      

A True Mountaineer

Since joining the West Virginia Mountaineers, Jordan McCabe has embraced the Mountain State, its people and the spirit of being a Mountaineer like no other player in the past, present or future.  Although McCabe is from Wisconsin originally, he is a true Mountaineer at heart. West Virginia is a small state and has a lot going against it.  It doesn’t have the advantageous geographical location or the weather or several other factors that make a wealthy state prosperous.  The people of the state are tough, hard-working and it’s their spirit that makes West Virginia the best state in the country. Jordan McCabe is undersized and not an exceptionally athletic young man.  Although an extraordinarily skilled ball-handler, passer and shooter, his athletic ability is not on par with other Division I college basketball players.  What he lacks in athletic ability, he makes up with toughness, working hard and pushing himself to be the very best leader and point guard that he can be. Jordan McCabe is West Virginia and West Virginia is Jordan McCabe.  When Bob Huggins talks about the basketball team representing the great state of West Virginia and its people, there is simply no better representative for the university and our state than Jordan McCabe. McCabe does it the way that Huggins and West Virginians throughout the state can appreciate; he works harder than anyone else.  Every single morning of the week, McCabe is up before the sun rises and is at the West Virginia Coliseum or basketball practice facility working on his game, putting in the time to improve while the rest of the world sleeps.  This grind is what separates McCabe from everyone else.  Like West Virginia, his work ethic makes up for the disadvantages that he was born with. There are no off days for Jordan McCabe and West Virginia fans can rest assured that he has worked harder this offseason than anyone in the Big 12 to make sure that the Mountaineers are back on top of the conference where they belong this year.  

There’s the Will but not the way

The Carolina Panthers travel to New Orleans for their 11th game of the season today. And barring injury, it will be the 11th game of the season rookie quarterback Will Grier won't see action. It's not that the former WVU star has gotten off to a bad start to his NFL career. He hasn't gotten off to one at all. And what's unsettling for Grier's future prospects is that circumstances were firmly in his corner. Grier was taken in the third round by the Panthers in the 2019 draft, the fifth quarterback selected. It was a bit of a curious selection by Carolina, taking Grier when the Panthers had their franchise quarterback, Cam Newton, firmly entrenched and, at 30 years old, in the prime of his career. But Newton is a rough 30. He's battled injuries his entire career, and it's likely Carolina tabbed Grier with the idea that he would sit and learn for a season. Then, if Newton's injuries continued and worsened, perhaps in a season or two Grier would be the Panthers heir apparent to the position. The 2019 season has proven Carolina correct to worry about Newton's health. Newton played just two games this season before a recurring shoulder injury first sidelined him for multiple games then surgery did so for the season. This would appear to be an ideal situation for Grier to accelerate his ascent to becoming next starting quarterback of his hometown Panthers. That hasn't been the case. As he has for the past eight games, second-year quarterback Kyle Allen will lead Carolina. Allen is an undrafted free agent just one year Grier's senior in terms of experience. The fact that Grier, with a far superior pedigree and a much higher level of team investment, was unable to usurp the No. 2 role from Allen out of preseason was a bad sign. The fact that Allen is coming off of a four interception game in Carolina's loss to Atlanta and there is nary a peep about Grier replacing him is a worse one. Allen initially played well replacing Newton. But he has gotten steadily less effective, culminating in his disastrous performance in Atlanta last week. If the Panthers don't go to Grier now, they aren't likely to later. Maybe Grier makes a giant leap between year one and year two. It happens. But the trend in the modern NFL is that young quarterbacks play and they play early. If Grier is unable to seize this opportunity, it's not likely he'll get a better one.

Come on Home, Jackie Matthews!

The West Virginia Mountaineers have landed Jackie Matthews, a defensive back out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.  Matthews visited Morgantown this past weekend and his cousin, T.J. Simmons, was his host around the university and city. Jordan Lesley, West Virginia's Defensive Line Coach and one of Matthews' lead recruiters, unofficially announced the commitment with a "Let's Go" earlier on Twitter: Outside Linebackers Coach Al Pogue added, "When you lose a very close game to a top 25 ranked team but you still pick up a "BIG TIME" commitment from a baller.  Let's GO!" Matthews is 3 star player and the 15th rated junior college cornerback in the nation.  He held offers from Arkansas State, Charlotte, Marshall, Old Dominion, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Troy, UAB and Western Kentucky, but it ultimately came down to West Virginia and UCF, who he had planned to visit next month. West Virginia gives him an opportunity to play major Power 5 college football and compete for playing time or perhaps a starting role immediately in the Mountaineers' decimated secondary.

West Virginia Lands Top Recruit in the State

The top ranked recruit in West Virginia in the 2020 class is coming home.  Sean Martin, a 6'6 260 pound defensive end out of Bluefield, West Virginia, initially committed to North Carolina on June 17th.  Today, he committed to the Mountaineers!   In addition to offers from North Carolina and West Virginia, the 3 star recruit has offers from Baylor, Duke, Illinois, Marshall, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, NC State, Oregon, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers, Temple, Utah, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Virginia Tech. Martin led Bluefield High with 144 tackles and 17 sacks last season as a junior as the Beavers made it to the Class AA State Championship.  He is the clear-cut top recruit in the state for the 2020 class and is a monster get for West Virginia. Coach Neal Brown has made keeping in-state recruits at home a real priority since taking over as Head Coach and now he has landed the very best of the best in his first season.

Two Mountaineers Leave the Team

The West Virginia Mountaineers, who lost several key players in Neal Brown's first season in Morgantown, lost two walk-on reserve players today. Former Martinsburg High School Bulldog Adam Stilley, a redshirt sophomore offensive lineman, entered the transfer portal today.  As a Freshman last year, he did not play and only played in one game this season against Iowa State.  In high school, Stilley was a two-time all-state center and team captain of the 14-0 state championship-winning Martinsburg High School team. The other West Virginia player to enter the Transfer Portal today was freshman punter Matt Daniel.  Daniel, from Richmond Hill, Georgia, was a preferred walk-on in the 2019 class. It's unlikely that either player would see significant playing time in the near future so these are certainly not key losses for the Mountaineers.    

Biggest Decision of His Life

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. 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 NFL Draft in the coming days. 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.  

Former Defensive Coordinator Gets Promoted

Former West Virginia Defensive Coordinator Tony Gibson, a native of Van, West Virginia, has been promoted from co-Defensive Coordinator of the NC State Wolfpack to the Defensive Coordinator. Gibson, who spent 13 years as a coach at West Virginia, is an outstanding recruiter and considered an innovative defensive mind in college football. NC State recently fired co-defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable and Gibson was promoted as the sole defensive coordinator and he will also now coach the linebackers. Back in September, West Virginia had perhaps their best offensive game of the season, compiling 272 yards passing and 173 yards rushing in a 44-27 win against the Wolfpack.

Our Coaches Are Perfect For West Virginia

Neal Brown and Bob Huggins are perfect people to represent our state as the two major sports coaches in West Virginia. Neal Brown, who just completed his first season in Morgantown by going 5-7 during a rebuilding year, is such a perfect ambassador for our state, that I don't think I would trade him for any other coach in America. When considering the possibility of "upgrading" coaches, it's easy to look at success and immediately want that.  Bringing Alabama Head Coach and West Virginia native Nick Saban back home would be tempting, but would we really choose a 68 year old Saban over Brown at this stage in their careers?  Maybe, but Brown certainly represents a brighter future for the Mountaineers and is truly the right man for the team right now.  Even the most successful head coach in college football history (and a hometown hero) wouldn't be an upgrade at this point. Athletic Director Shane Lyons did a truly commendable job of landing the brightest young coach at the Group of 5 level.  Brown was the obvious choice for Lyons:  "When I started this national search, I learned very quickly that he checked all the boxes of what I was looking for in our next football coach. There is no question that the Mountaineers are West Virginia’s team, and I know our fans are going to love his energy, passion, work ethic and excitement that he is going to bring to our program. I look forward to working together and supporting him and his staff to bring championships to Morgantown." Lyons nailed this hire.  Brown, upon being hired, said, "We will work hard, play hard and do things the right way to make the people from the great state of West Virginia proud of their program. That will be a foundational element of our culture." 66 year old Bob Huggins is different story entirely.  Huggins - as much as we hate to admit it - is in the twilight of his career and his window of leading West Virginia is somewhere in the 2-5 year range.  But is there really another coach in America that West Virginians would trade him for? Is there anyone more proud of this state, or anyone more dedicated to bringing a national championship to Morgantown than Bob Huggins?  The simple answer is no. So while there are plenty of outstanding young coaches in college basketball, none would be a better fit than Bob Huggins. It's rare for fans of a school to have coaches in both sports that they are completely happy and satisfied with, but we have that here at West Virginia University. We have two of the finest coaches and men in college sports and there's truly never been a greater time than right now to be a Mountaineer.

Forget the high school crush; transfer portal plays huge role in recruiting

  When news broke Sunday that Brooklyn, N.Y., running back recruit Lamy Constant rescinded his verbal commitment to West Virginia and decided to reopen his recruitment, many in Mountaineer Nation were apoplectic. The reaction was, to say the least, overblown. Here's a tip: High school kids can be flaky. Shocking, I know. Reading the reaction, it was amazing that the same fan base that was a few weeks ago dreaming about what Constant would do in WVU coach Neal Brown's offense suddenly became convinced that the four-star back's fate is now to fade into oblivion. What college football fans lack in rationality they make up for in passion. Here's another tip: the high school recruiting scene is less important than it's ever been. If you're looking for the newcomer who will make the biggest impact on the program, close Rivals and open the transfer portal. High school recruits are still important. They still make up the majority of players in a program. But in the modern game, players who stared at a different school can be as important - often more - than those recruited as prep teenagers. Three of the four starting quarterbacks in the College Football Playoff field started their careers with schools other than the ones they're leading now. LSU's Joe Burrow went to Ohio State out of high school. Ohio State's Justin Fields (Georgia) and Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts (Alabama) also look to win a national title at colleges whose hats they didn't don on national signing day. West Virginia is no stranger to mining players who fled other programs. The last quarterback who went to WVU out of high school to lead the Mountaineers in passing was recruited by Bill Stewart (Geno Smith 2012). With either Bowling Green transfer Jarret Doege or Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall expected to be the starter in 2020 and 2021, it could be a full decade - at least - without WVU's starting quarterback being a WVU recruit. Trey Lowe had West Virginia fans excited upon choosing the Mountaineers as a dual-threat quarterback as a high school recruit in Tennessee. But after two years, it's possible - it not likely - that the extent of Lowe's contribution will be a few inconsequential snaps in the 2018 Camping World Bowl Earlier this year, Tallahassee, FL, prep quarterback Garrett Greene announced his commitment to WVU. Excited fans began planning how and when this dual-threat QB would take over the Mountaineers (sound familiar?). Greene might snap the streak of transfer quarterbacks leading the Mountaineers. But it's just as likely - maybe more so - that Doege's or Kendall's successor currently resides in a campus other than Morgantown. Constant may come back around and decide to attend West Virginia. He may not. Either way, the Mountaineers will survive.

Florida State Contacts Garrett Greene

Garrett Greene is the future starting quarterback of the West Virginia Mountaineers.  Jarret Doege will likely start the next two seasons and Greene will learn under him and play sparingly in blowout games.  In 2022, as a Junior, the team will belong to Greene. That's the plan anyway. Garrett Greene was recently contacted by Mike Norvell, the new Head Coach of the Florida State Seminoles.  Greene is a four star quarterback from Tallahassee, so it only makes sense that Norvell would make contact with a very talented player in his new backyard. Shockingly, Greene was completely ignored by the previous Seminoles staff under former Head Coach Willie Taggart, even though Greene has shined during his career at Lawton Chiles High School in Tallahassee. Florida State recently lost a four star quarterback in high school senior Jeff Sims, who de-committed from the Seminoles leaving the team with just two eligible scholarship quarterbacks on the roster (James Blackman and Louisville transfer Jordan Travis). West Virginia Head Coach Neal Brown visited Tallahassee on December 5th for an in-home visit with Greene.  Greene posted a picture of himself with Brown on Twitter and wrote "Family." Greene is a very solid commit for the Mountaineers and although he's certainly humbled by Norvell reaching out, he is visiting Morgantown this weekend on an official visit and will certainly sign with West Virginia next week on Signing Day.  Although many players flip commitments before Signing Day (see: Lamy Constant), Garrett Greene will be a West Virginia Mountaineer. West Virginia meets the Florida State Seminoles to open the season next year in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta, Georgia on September 5th.

Sean McNeil Could Average 30 Points Per Game

West Virginia's Sophomore shooting guard Sean McNeil is the best pure shooter to play for the Mountaineers since Chris Leonard.  Leonard is WVU's all time three point percentage leader at 41.7% during his career from 1989-1992.  Jerry West, Alex Ruoff, Kevin Pittsnogle, Patrick Beilein and Frank Young could also all make a case for being West Virginia's best shooter ever, but this article is not about who the most accomplished three-point shooter to ever play at the Coliseum. Rather, this is about Sean McNeil and his dazzling start to his West Virginia career.  McNeil, who is averaging 7.1 points per game as a reserve for the Mountaineers through the first ten games, is shooting 44.4% from three point range and has been a consistent spark off the bench early on.  Dazzling might be a strong word, but what more could West Virginia Head Coach Bob Huggins expect to get from him so far? McNeil's playing time has been limited, averaging only 14.9 minutes per game, but if he had more court time, he could easily score 30 points a game.  In fact, when he has played extra minutes during close games when the Mountaineers needed his point production, he's stepped up and been the team's go-to scorer during spans this season. If Bob Huggins needed him to play more minutes and made McNeil a priority in the offense, he could easily average 30 points a game right now.  He's not incredibly gifted athletically, but he's shifty, a very solid passer, a sneaky good defensive player and he could be the best shooter in the Big 12 Conference. Last season, McNeil led the nation in scoring (29.7 points per game) as well as 4.3 3 point field goals made per game at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. West Virginia is a deep, talented team that doesn't need one scorer to get all of the points, but Sean McNeil is capable of going off on any given night.  McNeil is an accomplished scorer and he has two full seasons remaining following this one to chase some of the all-time great West Virginia shooters' records, and I wouldn't be surprised if he surpassed them.

West Virginia Needs Jordan McCabe to be JORDAN MCCABE

Jordan McCabe, the 6’0 boy wonder  who turned into a full grown man during his Freshman season in the Big 12, went through the usual first-year struggles in college.  The game seemed to be too fast, too big, too athletic, too everything for him at the beginning of last season.  He was a fish out of water.  A game that came so easy to him his entire life was suddenly challenging and frustrating.  He made boneheaded mistakes and forced difficult passes and spent most minutes of most games sitting on the bench.  He was bad and the team was even worse. And then… February 26, 2019.  A tough TCU came to the Coliseum and McCabe seemingly just had enough losing. He put up 25 points, had 11 assists, 6 steals in a triple overtime 104-96 upset win over the Horned Frogs.  This is the night that Jordan McCabe showed who he could really be, who we all knew that he would one day become, the leader of the West Virginia Mountaineers basketball team.  The stats were great, but it was the leadership and confidence he showed on the court and in the huddle that really mattered.  Bob Huggins finally had his leader, his coach on the court. A severely-depleted WVU team went 2-2 to close out the season and 2-1 in the Big 12 Tournament, beating Iowa State, Oklahoma and eventual National Championship-bound Texas Tech along the way.  McCabe averaged 13.5 points, 5 assists and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 35% from three point range during the last 10 games of his Freshman season. There were big expectations for Jordan McCabe entering his Sophomore season and through the first twelve games of the season, it has been an absolute disaster for him.  In what was supposed to be a breakout season for McCabe, he is currently averaging 3.0 points, 2.2 assists, 0.8 rebounds, 1.1 turnovers while shooting 22.2% from the field and 12.0% from three point range. While still a starter technically, McCabe is only playing 13 minutes a game and is most often on the bench during critical times.  On the other hand, his "backups", sensational Freshman Miles McBride and Sophomore Brandon Knapper, have greatly exceeded expectations. McBride has been the most pleasant surprise for Bob Huggins to start the season, averaging 8.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.7 rebounds while playing nearly 22 minutes per game.  Like all Freshmen, he has struggled with consistency a bit, but there is no one more reliable on the Mountaineers than McBride in clutch, crucial situations.  Knapper hasn't been much better than McCabe statistically (3.3 points, 0.5 rebounds, 0.7 assists while shooting 33.3% from the field in about 8 minutes per game), but he does appear to be a steady hand at point guard for the Mountaineers. When Jordan McCabe has the freedom to be the basketball virtuoso that we know he can be, he's an outstanding floor leader capable of leading West Virginia to great heights.  However, it appears that his freedom is limited by Bob Huggins, who values steadiness over flashiness from his point guard.  McCabe is very aware that if he makes a mistake, that Huggins will immediately bring in McBride or Knapper to replace him.  This stunts McCabe's ability to just be himself on the court. At the end of last season, McCabe was left in games because Huggins didn't have another player to turn to and McCabe was truly fantastic.  Although McBride has been fantastic and Knapper has been reliable enough, McCabe has to be given some leeway to make mistakes without constantly looking over his shoulder.   McBride and Knapper can both play off the ball and can get minutes without replacing McCabe. While Bob Huggins is one of the best coaches in college basketball history and knows what he's doing, McCabe has clearly regressed as a player and needs to be given the support from his coach to regain his confidence.  Huggins needs Jordan McCabe to be Jordan McCabe and not the shell of himself that we've seen through the first twelve games of the season to be successful.

Kansas Basketball Will Never Be the Same

When the West Virginia Mountaineers travel to Lawrence, Kansas to play the Kansas Jayhawks, this will likely be the last time that the game will be such a difficult matchup at Allen Fieldhouse because the NCAA is finally about to lay down the hammer on Bill Self and his shady program.  Kansas basketball will never, ever be the same after this scandal. Remember, the Kansas Jayhawks have not one, not two, but three Level 1 major violations pending and these Level 1 violations carry the most severe punishments, including postseason bans and scholarship losses. Back in September, the Kansas City Star reported that the Kansas basketball program were notified that their program will face multiple major violations. According to the Star, “The notice will come after a summer of speculation following a top NCAA official saying the organization would make findings against schools involved in a pay-for-play recruiting scheme investigated by the FBI." The NCAA has extended Kansas' deadline to respond to the NCAA's accusations of recruiting violations by its men's basketball program. Kansas now has until Feb. 19, 2020 to respond to the NCAA's Notice of Allegations. The allegations are related to payments made by Adidas to Kansas players Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa.  De Sousa was suspended for two years by the NCAA but will be eligible to play again this season and Preston now plays for the Texas Legends in the NBA G League. My prediction is that Bill Self, who faces the violations for "lack of institutional control", will take the first NBA job offered to him and leave the mess he's created in Lawrence behind.  However, this is a major mess and the Kansas basketball program will likely not be the same for many, many years to come because of it.

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.