Talent, depth, and experience. These are all things I look for when trying to gage the potential of a football team. Coming into the 2020 Mountaineer Football season, I knew the team had the talent and the depth to be good, but the experience just wasn’t quite there yet. Where Neal Brown has the squad, with a 4-2 record and 3-2 in Big 12 play, is about where I expected West Virginia to be at this point in time.
However, as a fan I am always looking ahead. Though we still have a slim shot at making the Big 12 Championship Game, and an opportunity to improve our bowl status in 2020, my mind has started to creep ahead to the 2021 season. And boy, will West Virginia finally have all of the pieces there to be special.
The 2021 season will be the first time Neal Brown has the talent, depth, and experience to compete at West Virginia. With the NCAA freezing eligibility for players this season, this means every single player can return next season. At this point in time, the only player to confirm he will not return is defensive lineman Darius Stills. While there will likely be other players test the NFL waters, all of the main contributors this season should return.
Defensively, players like Alonzo Addae and Tony Fields may enter their names into the draft, but it is hard to imagine anyone else leaving. Despite the defense being rock solid this season, virtually everyone on that side of the ball still has room for improvement. Believe it or not, I do not believe West Virginia’s defense has reached their full potential yet. Should the Mountaineers be able to hold onto the majority of its experience, Jordan Lesley and Jahmile Addae could once again have one of the best defenses in the country in 2021.
Offensively, West Virginia is still very young. Outside of Leddie Brown, I could not imagine any player testing the NFL sooner than they have to – and I really can’t see Leddie Brown doing that either. This will be the side of the ball for West Virginia that will take the biggest step in 2021. Quarterback Jarret Doege will certainly return, and his top targets – Sam James, Bryce Ford-Wheaton, and Winston Wright Jr. – will all be back. Though it has seemed this unit has struggled in 2020, the experience, talent, and depth will finally be there for them to explode next season.
Neal Brown quickly made a jump during his last stop at Troy. Though it has taken him a little bit longer at the Power 5 level, I have full confidence 2021 will be the year it finally happens. His recruiting will finally be kicking in, and his system will be at full swing. The program will continue to “Climb,” but in 2021 it will finally reach the beautiful sights of the journey. Be patient, Mountaineers, Neal Brown is building this thing right, and the Mountaineers will reap the benefits sooner rather than later.
Mark your calendars for the 2021 Mountaineer Football season, because that is when things will finally begin to come together. Talent, depth, and experience will all be present for West Virginia then, and I can’t wait to see great things come to the Old Gold and Blue.