(Photo by WVU Athletics)
The bar is as low as it has been in several years for the Mountaineers. In a season that will be make-or-break for Neal Brown in Morgantown, things have to turn around in a hurry. Should the direction of this program continue downward, we should expect Wren Baker to make a head coaching change following the 2023 season.
Though the ultimate demise of the “Climb” will be what many fans expect, I am in the minority. I actually believe the Mountaineers will be the surprise of the Big 12 Conference next season. This is something I have wrestled myself over since the conclusion of the 2022 season, but I can’t help but still have faith this thing will turn around.
Let’s start with the first and most obvious reason – nobody is expecting anything out of the Mountaineer. If history has shown us anything, it’s that this is when WVU makes the biggest splash. They have no expectations, so nobody will see them coming. Opponents will go into each game with WVU expecting a pushover…and that’s just not what West Virginia is.
Next, Nicco Marchiol is WVU’s best quarterback since Will Grier. Though he hasn’t proven anything on the field yet, his talent is simply undeniable. This is the position that has been lacking the most for West Virginia under Neal Brown. Now that he has his man in Marchiol (assuming he beats out Garrett Greene), he will finally have something to build around.
Last but not least we have to take a look at the defense. They were absolutely horrendous in 2022. The defensive unit was easily as bad as it has been since 2012 under Joe DeForest. However, a lot of that was because the unit was very young – particularly the secondary. Now that they have more help and experience in that area, the only way to go is up. If they can once again force turnovers like we know they can under Jordan Lesley, they will give the team chances to win in games they should be outmatched in.
Their back is against the wall, they have their quarterback and the defense should be better. This is all a recipe for a surprising breakout season in Morgantown. It is a scenario we have seen play out before and I have no doubt it will happen again in 2023.
Buckle up, Mountaineer Nation – as Bob Huggins once said, “we ain’t dead yet.”