By Mickey Furfari
Times West Virginian
It shouldn’t have been surprising to any football fan that West Virginia University was chosen to finish eighth in the Big 12’s preseason poll for its 10 schools.
Third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen lost 22 seniors from last year’s squad, including three of the greatest offensive players in the school’s history. Quarterback Geno Smith, four-way scorer Tavon Austin and wide receiver Stedman Bailey most certainly will be missed this season.
All three were high picks in the National Football League Draft – Smith by New York Jets and the other two by the St. Louis Rams.
Keep in mind, too, that the Mountaineers finished the 2012 season with a totally unacceptable 7-6 record, despite that terrific trio’s presence.
After a blazing 5-0 and No. 5 national ranking start, West Virginia suffered its most disastrous drop in the storied program’s history.
This year’s preseason’s poll position is the lowest for WVU since 2002. That team was selected sixth among eight teams in the Big East Conference.
Holgorsen, who admitted in April that “there are no expectations whatsoever,” finds only Iowa State and Kansas ranked behind his team in the media preseason Big 12 Conference poll.
A year ago West Virginia was No. 2 before seasons start.
Oklahoma State, which won its first Big 12 Championship in 2011, is favored by the voters to take the title this fall. The ‘Cowboys are followed in order by Oklahoma, TCU, Texas, Baylor, Kansas State and Texas Tech.
Having lost nearly two dozen players from the 2012 squad, Holgorsen brought in nine junior college transfers in what appeared to be a desperate attempt to have a respectable season if possible. I can’t recall a year that WVU ever recruited that many JUCOS.
Holgorsen obviously has enjoyed one outstanding season during his short stay. That was a 10-3 record in 2011 with talent recruited by the late Bill Stewart, whom he replaced.
Has WVU’s football recruiting been as fruitful since he took over? Time will tell.
Last year’s defensive unit might have been the worst in this writer’s 68 years on the Mountaineer sports beat. Its statistics were among the lowest NCAA Division I ranks of 120 schools.
WVU coaches vowed in the spring that the defense will be much better this season. Mountaineer fans hope they’re right.
The offense, Holgorsen’s specialty, may or may not be quite as good or as productive.
The media types were not allowed to watch a single scrimmage prior to the annual Gold-Blue affair which was under wraps.
However, WVU director of football communications Mike Montoro said that Holgorsen, unlike the dozen or so of his predecessors that I’ve covered, did not have any scrimmages during the 14 days of actual spring practice. Does that sound strange?
Anyway, it’s pretty much a guessing game for me as far as prediction goes.
So I am hereby guessing that West Virginia will finish this season with a 6-6 record – at best.