2018 West Virginia football projections on the Hour Glass
By John Luke McCord
The opening is wide and the opportunity is perfect. While the likes of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and even Texas (two QBs doesn’t mean you have one), figure things out at the quarterback spot, West Virginia has one of the best in the nation returning. Will Grier holds an Hour Glass QB stamp of 25.5, which ranks third in the FBS, and is returning for his second season as WVU’s starter. Historically, the Mountaineers are very good with signal caller in his second season as starter, and that was proven most recently when Skylar Howard led the 2016 team to 10 wins.
This season Dana Holgorsen and company have a shot at more than just a 10-win season, though. Grier threw for 3,490 yards and 34 scores, while winning seven starts, before missing the last two and a half games of the season. With an experienced, and ginormous, offensive line protecting him this season Grier should be able to reset the record books in Morgantown.
While Justin Crawford isn’t walking back through the door to play running back, Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway return and should keep defenses honest against the run. The receiver group will again boast plenty of size itself in 2018. David Sills V, who led the nation in touchdown catches in 2017, returns after snagging 18 TD tosses and terrorizing defenses in the red zone last season. So is Gary Jennings, who caught 97 passes for over 1,000 yards last year. While another vet Marcus Simms rounds out the group, the depth will mostly consist of younger guys.
Don’t expect the Mountaineers to be world beaters on the defensive side of the ball, but frankly, plenty of teams in the Big 12 will be much, much worse. At least WV added grad transfer defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow from USC. He adds star quality to D-line alongside returners Adam Schuler II, Ezekiel Rose, Lamonte McDougle and others. But at linebacker they’ll have to replace stud Al-Rasheed Benton, who registered 110 tackles in 2017. They’ll look to do so by moving Dylan Tonkery to the middle, where Benton played, and having David Long Jr., improve on his 75 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and three and a half sacks from last season. In the defensive secondary an alpha must emerge and depth must form, but there are plenty of athletic and versatile pieces.
Obviously, the defense will need to be better against the run. Even in the pass-happy Big12 you have to allow less than 200-plus yards per game as the Mountaineers did last season. Additionally, they’ll need the defensive backfield to gel and grow quickly, or develop a consistent pass rush. We know West Virginia will have no problem scoring, but stopping opponents at crucial times could mean the difference at the end of the season if they want to reach their potential.
Lastly, if WV can beat SEC foe Tennessee out of the gate, they should be set for a hot start in the first eight games. The final quarter of the season features road trips to Texas and Oklahoma State, as well as dates against TCU and Oklahoma.
HG analytics pick: 11-2, first in Big12 (loss in Big12 championship to Oklahoma)
My pick: 12-1, first in Big12 (win over Big12 championship over Texas)
2017 West Virginia Pick: 6-6; Actual Finish – 6-6 (100 percent accuracy)
Hour Glass National Recruiting Ranking: 42nd – OUTSIDE our Realistic College Football National Championship Line and our Playoff line on our talent index.
National Coaching Rank for Dana Holgorsen on HG Scale: 27th (Hologorsen Stamp at 5) – Average coaching value for 2018 set at 3.75.
Returning West Virginia quarterback play rated 2nd in the country in our Power Five Rankings with a stamp of 25.5. Average quarterback stamp nationally for 2018 is 8.3. Auburn has a stamp of 17.