Chip Shots – Game Time

Game time by Jim Buzzerd It’s time to stop wondering what is going on behind the scenes at West Virginia University football practices. As of Monday, we still don’t know a lot about the closed scrimmages and what not, but we won’t need to wait much longer to find out how head coach Neal Brown and his staff has prepared the Mountaineers for the 2022 campaign. That’s because West Virginia travels to a sold out Acrisure Stadium to meet Pitt at 7 p.m. this Thursday night. The Mountaineers are a 7.5-point underdog to the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champs. Not only is the game a sellout, but standing room only tickets were sold. It will be interesting to see, and probably difficult to tell on TV, how well each fanbase is represented. West Virginia fans love to rag on Pitt fans about how they look like empty stadium seats. This, in obvious reference to live game clips showing Acrisure Stadium with what looks to be as many fans as empty seats. Attendance figures released often don’t match what the naked eye can see. Nevertheless, I won’t be surprised if Mountaineer fans make up 40% or so of the total attendance. Since the WVU camp opened four weeks ago one of the main points of interest was who was going to be the starting quarterback. As a few weeks passed it became clear Brown was in no hurry to name a starter to the media. It also became clear from what the media was allowed to see of practice that Georgia transfer and former five-star high school recruit, JT Daniels was going to get the nod. On Monday Brown made it official. “JT earned the right to start,” Brown said. “Decision-making is what won that job for him. He has full trust of players and staff. We have a lot of confidence in him and how he’s going to perform in the opener.” “He’s played in big games, so I don’t think the atmosphere is going to rattle him,” Brown said. “He’s played in these types of games before. He’s really accurate with the football. He’s thrown the ball down field at a high completion percentage during camp. He does a really good job on run and pass decisions.” Georgia won all seven games Daniels started last year before an injury ended his season. The Bulldogs still went on to win the National Championship. One of the reasons I was anxious to know who the starter would be was to find out who the backup will be. Given Daniels’ history of injuries the backup quarterback may be needed sooner, rather than later. Brown did not make that announcement Monday. “All four of the guys had an equal opportunity and over the course of two weeks and two scrimmages, it was clear that JT earned the right,” Brown said. “The battle for the backup is ongoing. I feel really positive about the future of that position. I like the young guys we have and we’re doing some things with their development.” If you look at preseason predictions the Mountaineers aren’t getting much respect. I’ve seen numerous three-, four- and five-win totals from the pundits. Vegas has the over-under win total for WVU at 5.5. Well, I’m a homer and I see a crucial upgrade that should get the Mountaineers to seven or eight wins. WVU won six games last season with poor quarterback play and, at times, suspect game management and play calling. Daniels is a major upgrade at quarterback and the addition of Graham Harrell as offensive coordinator is just as huge. Harrell is expected to take the play calling duties from Brown thus giving the head coach more freedom to handle game situations. Harrell and Daniels have worked together at USC which should help Daniels transition to West Virginia. Also of note, Harrell coached Pitt quarterback Kedon Slovis for three seasons at USC. Slovis took over for USC in 2019 when Daniels suffered a season ending knee injury.