The West Virginia Mountaineers looking to recover from a difficult 4-8 season that ended with inexplicable losses to Kansas and Iowa State. It was too be expected that there would be some difficulty in the transition to the Big 12. However, with fan interest waning the pressure is on head coach Dana Holgorsen to start producing once again as he was the guy athletic director Oliver Luck wanted to take West Virginia to the next level when he let go of Bill Stewart. If the Mountaineers have a third consecutive subpar season the heat on Holgorsen. and Luck will be ratcheted up by an angry fan base. There are still several questions to be answered heading into the 2014 season.
Can Skylar Howard come in and improve the quarterback play in 2014?
Junior college transfer Skyler Howard is expected to come in and compete for the starting quarterback job with Paul Millard, and when he’s healthy Clint Trickett who is recovering from shoulder surgery. The quarterback play last year was just not good enough to compete in a quarterback driven Big 12 Conference. The Mountaineers averaged only 26.3 points per game in 2013 and the revolving door at quarterback was a huge reason why.
How will the offensive line come together needing to replace three starters?
West Virginia needs to replace both tackles and center heading into 2014. The ability to blend together five guys functioning with the right chemistry is going to critical to the Mountaineers offense finding more consistency this season. Guards Quniton Spain and Mark Glowinski are a good foundation to start with as returning starters but they will need several players to step up very quickly. Sophomore left tackle Adam Pankey as he will need to develop quickly in order to keep whoever the quarterback is going to be upright all season long.
Can the defense continue to get better under new defensive coordinator Tony Gibson?
The defense last year made some small strides but still was not good enough as they just wore down toward the end of the season because of the mounting injuries that affected the overall depth. There is always an unknown when a defensive coordinator is in charge of an entire defense for the first time but coach Holgorsen made a shrew d decision in the offseason getting former Penn State defensive assistant Tom Bradley to join the West Virginia staff. This combination of Bradley and Gibson should keep the defense moving forward and allow Holgorsen to stay firmly focused on fixing the offense.
How is the defensive line going to develop and take back control of the line of scrimmage?
The Mountaineers finished 102nd in overall defense last season and need to replace their two best defensive linemen in Defensive end Will Clarke and defensive tackle Shaq Rowell. New Defensive line coach Damon Cogdell is going to have a huge task ahead of him in this pass happy league like the Big 12. West Virginia has to find a way in within their 3-4 scheme to get pressure on the quarterback to take pressure off of the secondary when opponents attack in the passing game.
Can Rushel Shell or Andrew Buie take control of the running back position?
Shell, is a transfer from Pittsburgh that will counted on to try and take control of the running back position to replace the production of Charles Sims in 2013. Andrew Buie returns from a one year absence after a sophomore season in which he ran for 851 yards. Buie and Shell will be part of a very packed running back group and if Shell or Buie can as emerge as the frontrunner then that will ignite the offense in the right direction.