After a midseason collapse in 2012 and a calamitous 2013 season, Dana Holgorsen entered 2014 on the hot seat at West Virginia. The Mountaineers have rebounded against a brutal schedule and currently stand 6-4. West Virginia hopes to regain its early season momentum with closing wins against K-State and Iowa State. Matthew Kirchner of The Smoking Musket took time to answer a few questions about the 'eers.
TB: Dana Holgersen was on the hot seat coming into this season, and while West Virginia has four losses this season, there's noticeable improvement. What's his future prognosis in Morgantown?
MK: Holgo has definitely saved his job this year. He was able to manage the brutal schedule and get the wins he needed to send WVU bowling. Obviously 8-4 would be better than 6-6 but I'm convinced that 6 wins was all Dana needed. Add that to a stellar 2015 recruiting class and Holgorsen's future looks bright
Now, next year he has to show that this can be maintained while breaking in a new QB and WR corps but I think that we have players who have bought in to the program.
TB: Offensively at least, the personnel this year is mostly the same as last year. What's different that's led to the better play?
MK: Familiarity and health. Trickett's arm isn't falling off and that's a big first step.
Last year we were a hodge podge of skill players that had never been on the same field and it showed. We're a whole lot better in Holgo's system and he's finally comfortable calling the same stuff as he did for Geno a crew. White and Alford are actually running routes, too, which is cool.
Now this ties in to my prior answer: we break in a whole new cast of characters next season and that scares me a whooole lot.
TB: Of course, the offense is only part of the story. West Virginia is currently 33rd in Defensive F/+, a 32-spot improvement over last year's finishing rank. What's different on that side of the ball?
MK: Big time improvement in the secondary. No longer are you throwing up prayers against West Virginia and getting completions every damn time.
Daryl Worley is a true number one CB and Karl Joseph is developing exactly as we all hoped when he was the lone bright spot on 2012's WVU dumpster fire D.
Tony Gibson has brought an aggressive pass rush to WVU that was able to play cover zero against Baylor and shut them down. At the end of the day, I'm always going to have the opinion that getting to the QB is king and we've done that when we've needed to.
Now, there are still big time problems with run stopping on the D line, as that's the one place where our recruiting isn't quite where I want it to be, but I think that problem is going to have to be something we wait until 2015 to fix.
TB: At least based on F/+, these are two evenly matched teams. How are the 'eers on special teams, including kick and punt returns, punting and placekicking?
MK: oh god
I don't know where to start. Josh Lambert is a Groza candidate who had a tough one in Austin but has been absolute money from deep. Nick O'Toole has great facial hair and can punt really far.
But oh god.
We don't have anyone on roster who can catch a punt so you should probably just punt every down and you'll advance down the field.
Thanks, Matt. The game starts at 6 p.m. CST, and will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.