Mountaineers open in 17 days
by Jim Buzzerd
First, a brief update on the latest round of conference realignment, or, perhaps more accurately, the pending realignment. All we know for sure is that Texas and Oklahoma are going to the Southeastern Conference after the 2024 season, but we are also reasonably certain that both schools will try mightily to make 2021 their last season. Where West Virginia University ends up in the shuffling is a wild guess at this point. All Mountaineer fans can do is cross their fingers and hope that university president Gordon Gee and athletic director Shane Lyons have the ability to get WVU a desirable destination.
There have been reports that Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has had at least one discussion with the Pac 12 about some sort of alliance, or potential merger. That could work for some of the remaining Big 12 schools but playing west coast teams makes little sense for West Virginia. Elsewhere there is word that the Big 10, ACC and Pac 12 are looking at forming an alliance to prevent the SEC from controlling the college football landscape.
Yeah, I know, I didn’t mention other sports because this power play is about football, not the other sports. I think college basketball will be fine no matter how this shakes out, but some football programs could suffer greatly. The afore mentioned three conference alignment doesn’t include the Big 12, so on the surface there is no good news there for Big 12 fans. The silver lining is those three conferences may slow the steamroll effort of the SEC, then absorb some of the Big 12 schools. That would be a win for college football.
The number of days before West Virginia’s season opener at Maryland depends on when you are seeing this, but it is 17 days from Wednesday’s publishing date. Last Saturday was the first full contact scrimmage and I’ll relay some thoughts from a couple folks who were there.
At the top of the list is that the defense will be stout, possibly one of the best WVU has fielded in a while. The front three of Dante Stills, Akheem Mesidor and Taijh Alston are names you should recognized from a season ago. Ditto the linebacker pool which includes Vandarius Cowan, Exree Lowe and Josh Chandler, plus several others that have made the depth at linebacker a strength. Despite defections in the secondary WVU still has familiar names like Alonzo Addae, Sean Mahone and Nicktroy Fortune returning.
Quarterback Jarret Doege is said to be throwing the ball better and that his body fat has dropped from 20% to under 10%. That could pay huge dividends if he’s going to be asked to run a little more.
The elephant is in the receiver’s room. You could see how athletically gifted they were a season ago, but too often they were droppers more than receivers. The group as a whole played a lot of pitch and catch with Doege over the summer. Leddie Brown is a known commodity at running back and consistency in the passing game will only help Brown continue his assault on Big 12 defenses. Finding a reliable backup for Brown is a priority this fall, and Saturday Tony Mathis made his bid to be the number two guy in the backfield. “I thought Tony Mathis was the guy that really stood out offensively. He had a couple touchdowns. I thought he ran the ball with great balance and broke tackles. I am excited for him,” head coach Neal Brown said.