With only a bowl game to be determined looming, the West Virginia Mountaineers football team have completed their regular season. It ended on a rather sour note with quarterback Will Grier breaking his hand in the second-to-last weekend against Texas—a 28-14 loss—and then the team followed that with a 59-31 shellacking at the hands of the Oklahoma Sooners.
What looked like would be a possible 9-3 season with a shot to play in the Big 12 title game, turned out to be a 7-5 finish with maybe more questions than answers.
One of those questions would be why did the WHOLE team struggle after Grier’s injury? Why weren’t they prepared for the worst with a chance to step up in times of adversity to shine and overcome it?
With 12 games in the rearview and just the one remaining, here are my grades from each position on offense. The grade scale works just like school. A-F.
Will Grier was pretty much outstanding for most of the year. He came in with a lot of hype that seemed almost impossible to live up to. But for the most part, Grier was able to do that. He finished the year with 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns despite missing a game and a half. He formed a connection with David Sills, Ka’Raun White and Gary Jennings and showed tremendous leadership that was needed to be successful.
However, the position gets a “B” grade instead of an “A” because when backup Chris Chugunov was forced into action, the sophomore did not seem prepared and the offense came to a screeching halt. Whether it was his coaching or just his persona, there may not be a definitive answer on that. All over the country, backup quarterbacks played when needed and the offenses, often times, did not miss a beat, but at WVU it just did not happen that way. Also, at most schools the backup QB is the fan favorite. But in Morgantown, the biggest fear all season long was an injury to Grier.
Now fans will sit back and wait on what will be the drama of the offseason: Will Grier return, or will he go?
Running Back: B-
This position was considered possibly the strongest on the team coming into the season and even though Justin Crawford had over 1,000 yards, the running game was indeed a big disappointment. Now talentwise, this is a solid “A”, but the play-calling and scheme in the run game was no better than a “C” at best which held Crawford, Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway in check, strangely. The offensive line did not run block well and there were too many times the running game was needed on a big stage and it just fizzled out.
Considering Crawford had almost 600 yards rushing last year in a two-game span and did not even come close to a performance like that this season makes this year’s rushing attack a little disappointing.
McKoy ran nicely out of the wildcat against the Sooners leaving fans wondering where that had been all year. So that may be a sign of things going on the right path for the future.
Wide Receivers: B+
I know what you’re thinking. B+?!! This must be an “A” or an “A+”, right? Well, not exactly and here is why.
Yes, David Sills is a Biletnikoff finalist after a 60-catch, 980 yard and a nation leading 18 touchdowns performance. But how many touchdowns should he have had? I would guess somewhere between 23 and 25 because as great a season as it was for him, he dropped several key passes at critical points in critical games. The two examples that stand out to me are against Virginia Tech on the last drive when he let one slip through his hands, and against Oklahoma early in the contest when he dropped one in the corner of the end zone. Had he caught that one against the Sooners, the fumble by Crawford would not have happened two plays later and the score would have been 14-10 at that point. Instead, Oklahoma got it, went down the field and made it 21-3 before realizing what had just happened. Very good year for Sills, but can get better and he will.
Gary Jennings (94 catches, 1,030 yards, 1 TD) may have had the strangest stat season ever. All those catches and all those yards, yet just one score. However, the junior was the most sure handed of the group and always played favorite target on third down plays.
Ka’Raun White started the year slow, but really came on late, but he too had some untimely drops on throws that were made perfectly. Still, the senior will be fondly remembered in Mountaineer lure with his 978 yards and 11 scores.
Marcus Simms was the fourth guy that tried to take pressure off the top three and he did a pretty good job (32 receptions, 630 yards and 5 TD’s) and his return game provided some sparks.
Still, some experts blame the drops on fatigue which means WVU needs to develop some depth at this position for next season where more than four players are ready to contribute.
Offensive Line: C
Another supposed strength in the offseason turned out to be just average. There were some games when the line looked dominant, but more often than not the word soft made its way to social media when referring to the big uglies.
Again, whether it was having line coach Joe Wickline in his first year as the sole coach of the unit, I don’t know. What I do know is the talent was there to be much better. Yodny Cajuste, Colton McKivitz, Kyle Bosch and Grant Lingafelter were proven players and Matt Jones and Josh Sills were talked up by coaches all spring and summer.
But something just never clicked and the only ones that will know why reside inside the Milan Puskar Stadium meeting rooms.
However, it was not all negative. Crawford did run for 1,000 yards and they protected Grier for the most part. But the lack of a running game in that midseason stretch really seemed to hurt the psyche of the team.
The good news is that four of the five starters return next year with an extra year of experience and a full offseason of weight training that should only help them and get them moving in the right direction.
The defensive position grades will be coming soon. In the meantime, what grades would you guys give each offensive position and why?