2013 West Virginia football's 10 things to know: Dana Holgorsen's biggest challenge yet

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Dana Holgorsen always fields a strong offense, and West Virginia always goes bowling ... right? In 2013, Holgorsen faces the biggest challenge of his career, replacing some superior offensive talent and attempting to patch holes in a defense that might not have been as awful as you think, but still wasn't good enough. For more 'Eers, visit West Virginia site The Smoking Musket.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. A blip and a downward trend

In my Auburn preview a few weeks ago, I mentioned that the Tigers were basically on a sustained downward trend, with one crazy blip in 2010. Granted, West Virginia's 2010 blip was not as strong, but the Mountaineers have basically taken part in the same effect.

From their "God, how did we lose to PItt?" run to the cusp of the BCS title game in 2007, a season in which they ranked fourth in the F/+ rankings, the Mountaineers fell to 31st in 2008 and 45th in 2009, jumped back to 17th in 2010, then fell to 19th in 2011 and 47th last year.

Now, describing anything that happened during WVU's 2012 season as part of a "trend" feels a bit strange. A spectacular, ridiculous Orange Bowl performance at the end of the 2011 season resulted in serious WVU-as-darkhorse-title-contender talk in the offseason (despite the fact that the Mountaineers were mediocre in November 2011 and barely finished in the F/+ Top 20). And about a month into the season, it looked like WVU might live up to the hype despite not playing any defense whatsoever. The Mountaineers allowed 108 points in two weeks to Baylor and Texas, won both games anyway, and reached fifth in the polls.

Then they misplaced their offense, lost five in a row, and threatened to miss a bowl game altogether.

And then, at the end of the tailspin, they moved Tavon Austin to running back, began posting silly yardage numbers again, improved slightly on defense, and finished 7-5. (And then they looked like they had never seen snow before in losing to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl.)

There was nothing normal about WVU's 2012 campaign, but it finished with the Mountaineers in a lower place than they had been in a while. They hadn't won fewer than eight games in a season since 2001, and now they have to replace almost every player you can name from last year's squad. The 2013 season should see defensive improvement and a significant test of head coach Dana Holgorsen's plug-and-play offensive system. And if they're not careful, the Mountaineers could finish 2013 having regressed again for the fifth time in six years.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 8-5 | Final F/+ Rk: 47
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
1-Sep Marshall 69-34 W 53.8 - 21.7 W
15-Sep vs. James Madison 42-12 W 42.8 - 24.7 W
22-Sep Maryland 31-21 W 30.0 - 37.2 L
29-Sep Baylor 70-63 W 47.2 - 32.9 W
6-Oct at Texas 48-45 W 36.2 - 28.0 W
13-Oct at Texas Tech 14-49 L 22.4 - 45.8 L
20-Oct Kansas State 14-55 L 17.3 - 40.9 L
3-Nov TCU 38-39 L 23.5 - 25.9 L
10-Nov at Oklahoma State 34-55 L 29.1 - 25.9 W
17-Nov Oklahoma 49-50 L 56.5 - 34.5 W
23-Nov at Iowa State 31-24 W 36.2 - 28.7 W
1-Dec Kansas 59-10 W 41.8 - 20.8 W
29-Dec vs. Syracuse 14-38 L 22.3 - 26.9 L
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 39.5 10 38.1 117
Adj. Points Per Game 35.3 17 30.3 86

2. It wasn't as bad as you remember it (really)

When you allow 39 or more points (and in some cases, much, much more) for seven straight games, you begin to develop a reputation. WVU introduced itself to the Big 12 by allowing 700 yards and 63 points on 92 plays in its conference debut against Baylor. Then the Mountaineers allowed 404 and 45, 676 and 49, 479 and 55, 405 and 39, 443 and 55, and 662 and 50 in their next six games. For the season, they ranked 108th in total defense, 118th in pass defense, and 114th in scoring defense.

But here's where advanced stats can come in handy. When you adjust for pace (absurd in the Big 12) and quality of offense (equally absurd), WVU's numbers weren't good, but they were slightly more acceptable. You're simply going to give up yards and points in the Big 12, and when you play at a ridiculous pace, your defense is going to be on the field for a lot of plays.

Taking that into account, WVU's defense was only bad for about a month and only truly awful for two games. But wow, those two games.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 5 games): WVU 42.0, Opponent 28.9 (plus-13.1)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 2 games): Opponent 43.4, WVU 19.9 (minus-23.5)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 6 games): WVU 34.9, Opponent 27.1 (plus-7.8)

Averaging 52.0 points per game after five games, with quarterback Geno Smith all but locking up the Heisman by the end of September, WVU was outscored, 106-28, in eight quarters versus Texas Tech and Kansas State. The rebound began at that point, but with a tough stretch and some late-game faltering versus TCU, the Mountaineers lost three more games before they could rally. But the collapse itself was both brief and incredible.

And it led to Holgorsen shaking things up a bit. Last year's linebackers coach, Keith Patterson, is now the defensive coordinator, while last year's coordinator, Joe DeForest, is now co-coordinator and associate head coach. Patterson has shifted things in favor of more of a straight 3-4(ish) instead of a 3-3-5.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 10 13 17 12
RUSHING 54 30 23 38
PASSING 10 10 12 12
Standard Downs 17 19 15
Passing Downs 8 12 11
Redzone 16 14 20
Q1 Rk 24 1st Down Rk 17
Q2 Rk 14 2nd Down Rk 4
Q3 Rk 19 3rd Down Rk 35
Q4 Rk 7

3. System vs. talent

Dana Holgorsen has been either a solo offensive coordinator or a head coach for six seasons. He spent 2007 at Texas Tech (after seven seasons there as either receivers coach, co-coordinator, or both), 2008 and 2009 at Houston, 2010 at Oklahoma State, and came to Morgantown in 2011. In terms of Off. F/+, his offenses have ranked seventh, 15th, second, 15th, 10th, and 15th, respectively, in Off. F/+. He is, by any definition, a good offensive coach.

That's something to keep in mind heading into 2013, because in the last two years, individual talent on the field has almost overshadowed the man pulling the strings. Quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey were incredible individual talents who posted absurd numbers under Holgorsen.

  • Geno Smith (2011-12): 715-for-1044 passing for 8,590 yards, 73 TDs, 13 INTs
  • Tavon Austin (2011-12): 269 targets, 211 catches, 2,467 receiving yards; 90 carries, 840 yards
  • Stedman Bailey (2011-12): 260 targets, 185 catches, 2,566 receiving yards

That's ridiculous. And it's easy to assume that in losing them, WVU has no choice but to take a step backwards this coming season. But Holgorsen offenses produce at a top-15 level no matter who is on the field ... right? West Virginia's going to move the ball even despite a new quarterback, an almost entirely new receiving corps, and a sketchy offensive line ... right?

Holgorsen faces quite a test of his offensive ingenuity this year, perhaps his biggest recent test, in fact. He might pass that test with flying colors, but it's going to be a hell of a challenge.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Geno Smith 369 518 4,205 71.2% 42 6 17 3.2% 7.6
Paul Millard 6'2, 219 Jr. *** (5.5) 9 19 87 47.4% 2 1 3 13.6% 3.4
Clint Trickett
(Florida State)
6'2, 180 Jr. *** (5.6) 22 34 272 64.7% 0 0 0 0.0% 8.0
Ford Childress 6'5, 234 RSFr. *** (5.7)






Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Andrew Buie RB 5'9, 190 Jr. **** (5.8) 181 850 4.7 4.6 7 -0.6
Shawne Alston RB 74 376 5.1 4.2 7 +3.3
Tavon Austin IR 73 652 8.9 11.2 3 +23.7
Geno Smith QB 49 312 6.4 4.7 2 +8.1
Dustin Garrison RB 5'8, 182 Jr. ** (5.4) 46 207 4.5 3.6 2 -0.4
Dreamius Smith RB 5'11, 217 Jr. *** (5.7)





Wendell Smallwood RB 5'11, 194 Fr. *** (5.7)





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Stedman Bailey WR 146 113 1627 77.4% 11.1 28.2% 71.9% 11.4 217.6
Tavon Austin IR 142 111 1287 78.2% 9.1 27.4% 68.3% 8.9 172.2
J.D. Woods WR 95 61 637 64.2% 6.7 18.3% 65.3% 6.7 85.2
Andrew Buie RB 5'9, 190 Jr. **** (5.8) 33 28 318 84.8% 9.6 6.4% 72.7% 9.6 42.5
Jordan Thompson IR 5'7, 168 So. ** (5.4) 21 13 75 61.9% 3.6 4.1% 76.2% 3.9 10.0
Ivan McCartney WR 6'2, 182 Sr. **** (6.0) 20 9 112 45.0% 5.6 3.9% 55.0% 6.0 15.0
Travares Copeland WR 16 10 55 62.5% 3.4 3.1% 50.0% 3.2 7.4
Ryan Nehlen WR 11 7 37 63.6% 3.4 2.1% 81.8% 3.5 4.9
Connor Arlia IR 5'9, 181 Jr. NR 9 7 43 77.8% 4.8 1.7% 44.4% 4.8 5.8
K.J. Myers WR 6'2, 197 So. *** (5.6) 5 2 9 40.0% 1.8 1.0% 80.0% 1.4 1.2
Dante Campbell IR 6'4, 212 So. *** (5.5) 4 2 13 50.0% 3.3 0.8% 75.0% 2.6 1.7
Devonte Mathis WR 6'1, 210 RSFr. *** (5.7)








Will Johnson WR 6'6, 248 RSFr. *** (5.7)








Kevin White WR 6'3, 211 Jr. *** (5.6)








Mario Alford WR 5'9, 175 Jr. *** (5.6)








Ronald Carswell WR 6'0, 180 So. *** (5.7)








Shelton Gibson WR 6'1, 175 Fr. **** (5.9)








Daikiel Shorts WR 6'0, 201 Fr. *** (5.5)








4. Who's catching 100 passes this year?

We don't know whether a Holgorsen offense will rank in the Off. F/+ top 15 for the seventh straight year, but we do know that WVU is still going to pass a lot. And whoever wins the quarterback job -- Florida State transfer Clint Trickett? Last year's backup, Paul Millard? Redshirt freshman Ford Childress? Other? -- is going to be throwing passes to rather green receivers.

The top five returning receivers combined for 59 targets last year, barely half as many as No. 3 target J.D. Woods saw. But at least a couple of guys are likely to see 100-plus targets. Who will they be?

Sophomore Jordan Thompson owned the spring game, but a good number of passes will go toward players who have yet to actually suit up for WVU. Holgorsen signed three junior college transfers and a star freshman in Shelton Gibson. Developing a rapport between a new quarterback (if Trickett wins the job) and brand new receivers will be tricky but vital. WVU should be able to lean on the run a bit with the return of Andrew Buie and a healthy Dustin Garrison, but come on -- WVU's going to pass, too. How good will they look in doing it?

Andrew Buie. Ronald Martinez, Getty.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 95.9 2.72 3.16 41.5% 65.5% 21.5% 138.4 2.6% 6.2%
Rank 85 93 66 35 74 101 31 26 58
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Joe Madsen RG 50 career starts; 2012 2nd All-Big 12
Jeff Braun C 39 career starts
Josh Jenkins LG 37 career starts
Pat Eger RG 6'6, 302 Sr. *** (5.5) 19 career starts
Quinton Spain LT 6'5, 335 Jr. **** (5.9) 14 career starts
Curtis Feigt RT 6'7, 314 Sr. ** (5.4) 7 career starts
Nick Kindler LT 6'6, 298 Sr. *** (5.5) 1 career start
Marquis Lucas LG 6'4, 312 So. *** (5.6)
John Bassler C
Mark Glowinski RG 6'5, 305 Jr. *** (5.5)
Russell Haughton-James RG 6'5, 3012 So. *** (5.5)
Tyler Orlosky C 6'4, 296 RSFr. *** (5.7)
Tony Matteo LG 6'4, 296 RSFr. *** (5.5)
Stone Underwood OL 6'4, 285 Jr. ** (5.4)
Marcell Lazard OL 6'6, 293 Fr. *** (5.7)

5. A bad line wrecks everything

WVU's offensive line was terribly hit-or-miss in 2012, opening up holes for Buie, Austin, etc., but also allowing defenders into the backfield with frequency. And while the line's sack rates were pretty good, well, they better be good when you're throwing one-third of your passes behind the line of scrimmage.

And now it must replace three starters who combined for 126 career starts. There is some experience here, but the depth is questionable at best. And the last thing you need when you've got a green passing game is a line with holes.

(That's the last thing you need when you've got an impeccable passing game, too, of course.)

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 112 81 52 89
RUSHING 61 46 38 49
PASSING 122 100 81 103
Standard Downs 52 38 60
Passing Downs 107 88 112
Redzone 50 63 45
Q1 Rk 52 1st Down Rk 49
Q2 Rk 101 2nd Down Rk 94
Q3 Rk 73 3rd Down Rk 38
Q4 Rk 35

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 104.4 2.93 2.51 31.9% 72.0% 19.4% 103.8 4.8% 4.4%
Rank 43 64 15 8 86 63 55 58 100
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Shaq Rowell NT 6'4, 305 Sr. *** (5.5) 13 30.0 3.8% 2 0 0 2 0 0
Jorge Wright DT 13 22.5 2.8% 6.5 2 0 0 0 0
Kyle Rose DE 6'4, 283 So. *** (5.5) 13 19.5 2.4% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Will Clarke DE 6'7, 273 Sr. ** (5.3) 12 19.5 2.4% 6.5 1.5 0 3 0 0
Christian Brown NT 6'3, 308 So. *** (5.7) 11 9.5 1.2% 2 0 0 0 1 0
Korey Harris NT 6'4, 252 So. *** (5.6) 11 3.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Eric Kinsey DE 6'2, 265 So. *** (5.6) 13 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Noble Nwachukwu DE 6'2, 271 RSFr. *** (5.5)






Dontrill Hyman DE 6'4, 265 Jr. ** (5.4)






6. Legitimately decent versus the run

For all of WVU's struggles in 2012, defending the ground game really wasn't one of them, at least not until the bowl game (Syracuse rushed for 369 yards). Only once in the regular season did an opponent compile more than 188 rushing yards, and that was only partially because the passing lanes were so inviting. WVU's line was legitimately solid up front, preventing opportunities at a high rate. The Mountaineers struggled in short-yardage situations, but the big line showed some promise. That promise should increase with the return of six of last year's top seven.

The problem, however, might come at linebacker. The linemen in WVU's 3-4(ish) look aren't called upon to make that many plays, only occupy blockers; and the team's biggest playmakers against the run, linebackers Terence Garvin and Josh Francis are both gone. That leaves Isaiah Bruce, Doug Rigg, and Shaq Petteway as the most proven players and opens the door for a couple of junior college transfers, and perhaps a star freshman or two, to earn some playing time.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Isaiah Bruce SAM 6'1, 231 So. *** (5.5) 13 72.5 9.1% 6.5 0.5 2 3 0 2
Terence Garvin STAR 13 62.0 7.8% 11.5 6 1 4 2 2
Josh Francis BUCK 13 48.5 6.1% 15 4.5 0 0 1 0
Doug Rigg SAM 6'1, 237 Sr. *** (5.5) 13 45.0 5.6% 2.5 1 1 0 1 1
Shaq Petteway SAM 6'0, 225 Jr. *** (5.6) 13 34.0 4.3% 4.5 1.5 0 3 0 0
Jared Barber WILL 6'0, 233 Jr. *** (5.5) 10 26.0 3.3% 2.5 1 0 1 0 1
Nick Kwiatkoski WILL 6'2, 232 So. *** (5.5) 12 22.5 2.8% 0 0 0 3 0 0
Garrett Hope BUCK 6'3, 245 So. *** (5.5) 12 12.0 1.5% 2 0 0 0 0 0
Wes Tonkery STAR 6'2, 222 Jr. ** (5.0) 13 8.5 1.1% 0.5 0 1 1 0 0
Tyler Anderson BUCK 6'2, 244 Sr. NR 10 7.5 0.9% 0.5 0 1 1 0 0
Dozie Ezemma BUCK 6'2, 235 Sr. NR 12 4.0 0.5% 1 1 0 0 0 0
Jewone Snow LB 6'2, 242 Jr. *** (5.6) 4 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Golson LB 6'3, 220 Jr. *** (5.7)

d'Vante Henry LB 6'5, 205 Jr. *** (5.7)

Darrien Howard LB 6'2, 250 Fr. **** (5.8)






Hodari Christian STAR 6'0, 218 Fr. *** (5.5)






7. Wanted: Pass rushers

WVU's pass rush wasn't horrendous last year, but it was mediocre at best, and that was with Garvin and Francis, who combined for 10.5 sacks. The rest of the team combined for just 12.5, and the leading pass rushers, end Will Clarke and Petteway, had 1.5 each.

Both incoming JUCOs, Brandon Golson and d'Vante Henry, will be given every opportunity to thrive in this regard; you hate relying on newcomers, but WVU might not have much of a choice. Converted end Dozie Ezemma apparently has some potential, but WVU's front seven has proven very little when it comes to pressuring the QB.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Karl Joseph FS 5'10, 200 So. *** (5.7) 13 90.0 11.3% 7 1 2 6 3 1
Darwin Cook BS 5'11, 203 Sr. ** (5.3) 12 55.5 6.9% 3 1 1 5 3 0
Pat Miller CB 13 45.5 5.7% 4 1 0 9 0 0
Brodrick Jenkins CB 5'10, 183 Sr. *** (5.5) 10 31.0 3.9% 1 0 1 2 0 0
Ishmael Banks CB 6'0, 182 Jr. *** (5.6) 11 19.0 2.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
K.J. Dillon FS 6'1, 200 So. *** (5.6) 13 17.0 2.1% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Cecil Level BS 13 16.5 2.1% 2 0 0 0 1 1
Nana Kyeremeh CB 5'10, 180 So. *** (5.5) 13 13.5 1.7% 0 0 0 2 0 1
Ricky Rumph CB 5'11, 182 So. ** (5.2) 9 7.5 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 1
Travis Bell S 6'1, 188 Jr. *** (5.7) 3 6.5 0.8% 1.5 1 0 1 0 0
Terrell Chestnut CB 5'11, 177 So. **** (5.8) 6 4.5 0.6% 1 0 0 2 0 0
Brandon Napoleon CB 5'10, 178 RSFr. *** (5.5)







Jarrod Harper BS 6'1, 212 RSFr. ** (5.4)







Jeremy Tyler DB 6'1, 200 Fr. *** (5.7)







8. Wanted: Cornerbacks

An improved pass rush (or at least, one that doesn't regress) could do favors for a secondary that hit pretty hard but lacked cover guys. As decent as the run defense may have been, the pass defense suffered dramatically. Three opponents -- Baylor, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma -- passed for at least 500 yards (the ridiculous combined line in the three games: 100-for-141 for 1,643 yards, 17 TDs, 3 INTs; Florida State allowed only 2,266 passing yards in 14 games, by the way).

While returning safeties Karl Joseph and Darwin Cook were active and aggressive, corners combined to defense only 16 passes, and nine of those came from since-departed Pat Miller. Sophomore Nana Kyeremeh showed some potential in minimal action and finished spring first on the depth chart. He and other youngsters could certainly improve just from the benefit of experience, but WVU's corners could improve and still be pretty average overall.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Tyler Bitancurt 32 38.2 2 10 6 50.0%
Corey Smith 10 42.6 0 0 2 20.0%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Corey Smith 59 60.4 15 25.4%
Tyler Bitancurt 34 59.4 8 23.5%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Tyler Bitancurt 64-66 6-8 75.0% 5-11 45.5%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Tavon Auston KR 32 25.4 1
Stedman Bailey KR 10 14.6 0
Jordan Thompson KR 5'7, 168 So. 5 13.4 0
Tavon Auston PR 15 11.0 1
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 105
Net Punting 113
Net Kickoffs 105
Touchback Pct 99
Field Goal Pct 107
Kick Returns Avg 94
Punt Returns Avg 29

9. You had Tavon Austin, and special teams was a weakness?

Losing Austin hurts a lot, but let's just say that losing the other major names in this special teams unit might not be a bad thing. Tyler Bitancurt really wasn't that bad -- a vast majority of his field goal misses were on long kicks, and he probably deserved better kick and punt coverage than he got. But he was replaceable.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2013 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug William & Mary NR
7-Sep at Oklahoma 7
14-Sep Georgia State 125
21-Sep at Maryland 75
28-Sep Oklahoma State 6
5-Oct at Baylor 36
19-Oct Texas Tech 42
26-Oct at Kansas State 40
2-Nov at TCU 16
9-Nov Texas 11
16-Nov at Kansas 104
30-Nov Iowa State 76
Five-Year F/+ Rk 28
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 34
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* +7 / +8.1
TO Luck/Game -0.4
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 11 (4, 7)
Yds/Pt Margin** +0.3

10. A 3-1 start, a 2-0 finish, and … ?

Once again, the narrative in late-September and the narrative in early-November could be quite different. The schedule is built for early success despite the September 7 trip to Oklahoma; even if some of the new pieces are struggling to gel a bit, WVU should expect to be around 3-1 when Oklahoma State comes to town. But the six games that follow will determine the Mountaineers' fate, and it is difficult to figure out how equipped WVU will be to handle this stretch.

Dana Holgorsen is proof of what I said about Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury on Thursday: being an offensive whiz kid does not automatically result in success as a head coach. Holgorsen's squad was the victim of some false hype last year -- it shouldn't have been hyped quite as much as it was in the offseason -- and that added to the feelings of disappointment with how the 2012 season played out. But still, WVU's defense has regressed dramatically in the two years since Holgo took over, and while he's trying desperately to shuffle pieces around and fix the holes, there's no guarantee that his moves will work.

When you run a high-pace, high-octane offense in the Big 12, your defense is going to allow points and yards. That's just the way it is -- ask Baylor's Art Briles. But WVU simply couldn't defend the pass well enough to succeed in 2012, and to improve on that in 2013, the Mountaineers will have to take advantage of experience in the secondary and hope that the pass rush doesn't regress dramatically. And even if the defense does improve -- I figure it will overall, at least a little bit -- it has to improve enough to offset potential regression on an offense that still has Holgorsen but is otherwise almost completely lacking in proven quantities.

Beat William & Mary, Georgia State, Maryland, Kansas, Iowa State, and somebody else, and WVU can at least continue a nice bowl streak (11 years and counting) while figuring out how to move forward with Holgorsen and this new cast of characters. That doesn't seem like too much to ask, though avoiding regression for the fifth time in six years might.

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