West Virginia Football Report Card (Through 4 Games)

Morgantown, West Virginia – The West Virginia Mountaineers are now 2-2 entering the beef of their Big 12 Conference schedule and we still really don’t know what this team is made of yet. While losses against Pitt and Kansas were disappointing, the Mountaineers showed real promise by beating Virginia Tech on the road.

Here is West Virginia’s report card grades for each individual position for the Mountaineers through the first four games of the season:

Offensive Line: West Virginia’s offensive line had its best game of the year by a mile against Virginia Tech. However, the first three games were below average performances for the talented, veteran line. With that said, it looks like they are starting to gel and could finally live up to their promise soon. Grade: C

Quarterbacks: JT Daniels has been sensational in his first four games with the Mountaineers. His experience and cool in the pocket is the exact opposite of what we’ve seen over the past two and a half seasons with Jarret Doege. I believe he’s one of the top pure passers ever at West Virginia and is the reason that West Virginia stayed close in tough losses against Pitt and Kansas. His only real blunder this season was a poorly thrown ball in overtime against Kansas, which ultimately led to the Mountaineers losing the game. Grade: B+

Running Backs: CJ Donaldson has rushed 52 times for 380 yards and 6 touchdowns in his first four games of playing the position ever. Donaldson could potentially be one of the best running backs in the Big 12 Conference right now and Tony Mathis, Jr. (58 rushes, 272 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Justin Johnson, Jr. (30 carries, 145 yards, 1 touchdown) are outstanding changes of pace for him. Grade: A

Wide Receivers: This could be West Virginia’s most talented position with Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Kaden Prather and Sam James, but there have far too many drops, particularly in the first two games of the season. Wheaton and Prather are physically dominant and capable of being the top wide receiver tandem in the conference, but have lacked consistency so far. Grade: B- 

Tight Ends: Junior Mike O’Laughlin has 5 receptions for 66 yards, but the rest of the tight end room has underwhelmed from an offensive production standpoint. In addition, O’Laughlin dropped an easy touchdown pass at a key point in the game against Virginia Tech. Grade: D

Offense Overall: B+

Defense Line: Dante Stills, Jordan Jefferson and Sean Martin have applied plenty of pressure against opposing quarterbacks and have been terrific against the run. This is a position that the Mountaineers can always rely on to be consistently great. Grade: B+

Linebackers: The linebackers have quietly been a real strength of the West Virginia football team this year. Lee Kpogba, Lance Dixon, Jared Bartlett and Exree Loe have all played consistently well this season. Grade: B

Secondary: Losing All Big 12 First Team preseason selection Charles Woods in the first half of the Pitt game was devastating for the team’s secondary and has forced young, inexperienced defensive backs to step in earlier than expected. They have held up over the last two games, but they were also playing against two really bad passing teams in Towson and Virginia Tech. Next week at Texas will tell us a lot more about this position. Grade: C-

Defense Overall: B

Special Teams: Kicker Casey Legg has been perfect (8-8 FG, 17-17 XP) and freshman punter Oliver Straw has exceeded expectations, but punter returner Reese Smith has fumbled two punts, which is unacceptable. Grade: C+

Coaching: What we’ve learned is that this is an exceptionally talented team that can compete against any team in the conference and perhaps in the country on any given day, but head coach Neal Brown has appeared in over his head and too passive at key moments. While it can be argued that Brown made the statistically correct decision to punt on 4th and 1 late in the Backyard Brawl, not many other coaches in the country would have made that decision which ultimately cost the Mountaineers a huge win.

Brown has too often played to not lose rather than to win, and he must show that he can take some to win close games late. West Virginia has the talent. Now it’s up to Neal Brown and his staff to step up and make them winners. Grade: D