In Neal Brown’s final press conference of this football season, he was very optimistic about his team’s future. Although the Mountaineers finished 5-7 and Brown admitted that that doesn’t meet the standard here, West Virginia was only favored in 2 out of their 12 games.
Brown went on to say, “I really liked how we finished the season. We played our best football in November, over the last three weeks of the season. I’m excited about our future and where we’re going. We played a ton of first and second year players and we return a really high percentage of production on offense and defense both.”
West Virginia’s defense was remarkably effective, considering all of the losses from the previous season. The secondary, obliterated by injuries and players fleeing to the Transfer Portal, greatly overachieved. Seniors Keith Washington and Hakeem Bailey will be gone next year, as well as Free Safety Josh Norwood, but several young players have been forced into action and have done quite well (Raines, Mahone, Fortune, etc.).
Returning Alabama transfer VanDarius Cowan at Bandit, the Stills brothers on the defensive line, Josh Chandler and other talented, young players who gained a ton of experience this season, will be invaluable. Defensive Coordinator Vic Koenning’s 4-2-5 defense was good (great?) and it will only get better next season.
The offense was a different story entirely. Currently ranked 118th out of 130 teams in the nation in total yards per game, it’s safe to say that this season was complete and utter disaster for the Mountaineers. Averaging 329 yards per game – 256.9 yards passing and 72.1 on the ground (2nd worst in the entire nation!) – will not get it done in the Big 12 Conference.
In other words, there is nowhere to go but up for the West Virginia offense and Neal Brown is an intelligent Head Coach who will get the issues fixed next season. Jarret Doege was sensational for every game but the last and ultimately Brown played it perfectly by giving Doege experience in the final four games without burning eligibility for future seasons. Doege is the perfect quarterback – poised, experienced, has the ability to throw the ball downfield – to lead the Mountaineers to successful seasons in the next two seasons.
The Mountaineers open up against the Florida State Seminoles next year Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. The Seminoles, who fired Head Coach Willie Taggart midway through the season, are a mess right now and it will certainly take more than a year or two to fix the issues in Tallahassee, regardless of who they name as their next Head Coach.
The rest of the schedule is very favorable for the Mountaineers. Three home games against Eastern Kentucky, Maryland and Kansas State gives West Virginia an opportunity to open the season 4-0 before traveling to Lubbock to play Texas Tech. The Mountaineers have TCU, Kansas, Oklahoma and Baylor at home and Texas, Oklahoma State and Iowa State on the road.
According to Brown, “This is a huge offseason for us in both recruiting aspect and developing. Our focus is going to be on becoming one of the most improved teams in the country next year. The key area of improvement on offense is run game production. If we want to make improvements as a football team, we’re going to have to run the ball better. On defense, we’ve got to increase our takeaways.”
Brown knows what he needs to fix and you better believe it will be fixed. With most of the offense and defense returning and a focus on improving the areas of weakness from this season, look for the Mountaineers to be one of the most improved teams in the entire country next season.