After West Virginia dismantled ACC chumpion, I mean champion, Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl, thoughts of a crystal football have invaded Morgantown.
Eight starters, including recording-setting quarterback Geno Smith, leading rusher Dustin Garrison and wideouts Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are returning next year. The offense looks to be as explosive as it was on January 4. That makes for some high expectations that include an outside shot of a national championship game appearance.
If defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel decides to stay in Morgantown and not go to Arizona the expectation should be high and somewhat realistic. Seven starters return on a defense that got better as the year went on.
Now with that said, there will be some questions going into the spring. Linebackers and defensive line will be front and center in those questions. Bruce Irvin, Julian Miller and Najee Goode are gone. So finding leadership and a pass rush will be needed. The secondary will be pretty much intact and better than last year.
I am not about to forget that special teams were anything but special this past season. Kicker Tyler Bitancurt returns for his senior year and has kicked well during his career. The punting duties will be up for grabs and should be a good spring camp battle between Cory Smith and Mike Molinari. Personally, I think Smith wins that battle considering that he kicked very well down the stretch.
The players have vowed to return and work twice as hard. They should be highly ranked in the preseason polls. They want to play for, and win, a national championship.
They might just have what it takes to bring WVU its first national title home.