Q&A: Get To Know The West Virginia Mountaineers

first_imgThe undefeated Mountaineers are headed to Stillwater this weekend in what should be the most challenging test the Cowboys have faced to date. We picked the brain of a very knowledgeable journalist in Allan Taylor who covers the Mountaineers for WVMetroNews.com and knows the pulse of the team. Let’s see what he had to say. 1. West Virginia is on an absolute tear this year behind a really solid defense and a balanced offense. What do you think are some of the biggest contributors for overall marked improvements?The defense has been so steady you forget you’re watching eight new starters. Stunning work from a group we expected to be in the bottom half of the Big 12. Offensively, there are still tempo moments but I sense Holgorsen being more patient — which helps limit the defense’s exposure.The offensive line has dealt with a big injury to left tackle Yodny Cajuste but seems situated now after some shuffling. Skyler Howard’s receivers produced some ‘wow’ moments last week and WVU shifts to bigger packages at will. This may not be one of Holgorsen’s highest-scoring offenses at the end of the year, but I think it will have proven effective and lower-risk.2. Some ESPN writers took different sides of the argument that OSU may pose the biggest threat left for WVU this year. What are your thoughts on how the Cowboys/Mountaineers matchup?I’d put Saturday’s game dead-even on the “threat scale” with upcoming home games against OU and Baylor. Will be interesting to see how West Virginia responds if Rudolph & Co. strike early. The Mountaineers haven’t trailed in their last two games.3. The 3-3-5 defense is unique in the conference and while returning all-conference end Noble Nwachukwu, the unit is playing improved football even after losing star safety Dravon Henry to injury and NFL talents in safety Karl Joseph (1st round), corner Daryl Worley (3rd) and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (4th). Please talk a little about the unique defense and what players have stepped up and filled the gap to spur the improvements?DE Christian Brown is playing at a career high opposite Nwachukwu. Al-Rasheed Benton apprenticed for three seasons at MLB under the guys who left, so he’s rarely out of position. Redshirt freshman LB David Long is small but explosive. 6-foot-2 CB Rasul Douglas has realized his potential, and the guys plugged in at safety have only made a few errors in Askew-Henry’s absence.We’re all astounded at how this unit tamped down Texas Tech and TCU to a combine 27 points. 4. Quarterback Skyler Howard seems to be really blossoming in his final year of eligibility, progressing in completion percentage, cutting back on interceptions and continuing to be a threat to tuck it and run. How has his progression affected the offense and what are some of the keys to this balanced attack?More check-downs lead to longer, clock-chewing drives. Better footwork in the pocket leads to more intermediate completions. Howard still has the horses to chase down deep throws, but there’s not the all-or-nothing feel of last year’s offense. 5. OSU fans dearly treasured our time with Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen roaming the sidelines, both for his incredible offenses and sideline antics. What have been some of your favorite Dana moments in Morgantown?He slams the headset less frequently now, so perhaps therapy is working, but he’ll NEVER stop zinging Baylor for its non-conference schedule. Recently he bragged on how gorgeous the stadium’s East Side renovations looked, but upon reaching the untouched west side he said, “You forget how sh*tty it is.” 6. Players like Nwachukwu and skill players like Howard, Shelton Gibson and Rushel Shell are well known, who are some players Cowboy fans haven’t heard of but will likely have an impact on the game this Saturday?The other CBs with Rasul Douglas have outperformed expectations. Transfers Maurice Fleming (Iowa) and Anthony Crawford (Miami) are seniors making their one year at WVU count. On offense, WR Daikiel Shorts has been clutch on possession downs. RBs Kennedy McKoy and Justin Crawford, if healthy from a 2-week-old ankle injury, are dynamic. 7. Another coach OSU is (much more) familiar with is WV “offensive coordinator” Joe Wickline. With his familiarity in the conference and prowess coaching an offensive line, what kind of an impact has he made on this team in your opinion?Wick has focused on the tackles and tight ends, allowing Ron Crook to focus on the interior linemen. I get the sense Wick also makes his mark during game-planning because he’s so familiar with Big 12 defensive schemes and their exploitable points. 8. Expansion news seems to be dying down for the conference, but what do you sense the general sentiment for WVU fans is as far as adding teams and who they would be?Some fans clamor for another Eastern Time Zone member seeing as how isolated the Mountaineers are from the rest of the Big 12, but BYU and/or Houston were popular options also. After the show-and-tell process led to waves of criticism and no expansion, some fans seem resigned to hoping the ACC will take WVU once the Big 12 grant of rights expires and the shuffling begins anew.If you’re looking for the comments section, it has moved to our forum, The Chamber. You can go there to comment and holler about these articles, specifically in these threads. You can register for a free account right here and will need one to comment.If you’re wondering why we decided to do this, we wrote about that here. Thank you and cheers!last_img