I have been on a bit of a hiatus, but with all the news surrounding the Mountaineers football program in recent weeks, I couldn't afford to bite my tongue any longer.
I’m sure you’re familiar with several of the Clemson Tigers jokes that have been floating around the Mountaineers fanbase, referring to the 70-33 beatdown of the ACC champ in the Discover Orange Bowl.
Overall, morale in the Mountain State is at its highest since he who must not be named (Rich Rodriguez) roamed the sidelines.
Players on the offensive side of the ball have finally bought into young head coach Dana Holgorsen’s system, and the result has been impressive, including ending the season with four consecutive wins.
Concluding the bowl season, QB Geno Smith and star RB/WR Tavon Austin made the All-Bowl team as a tribute to their fantastic performances in Miami.
In years past, the Mountaineers were known for their lethal running attack that featured WVU greats such as Pat White, Steve Slaton and Noel Devine. In Holgorsen’s offense, the passing game is king.
Smith showed that he is more than capable of excelling in this offense.
In 2012, the Miramar, Florida native will likely be an early candidate for the Heisman Trophy. This season the WVU QB was fantastic, tossing for 4,385 yards and 31 TDs. Mountaineers fans should be very excited for year two in the “air-raid” passing attack as many of the skilled players such as Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Dustin Garrison and Shawne Alston will return.
One thing that is changing in Morgantown is the overall atmosphere of the program—particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Now missing are what the fans affectionately call the “Good Ole Boys."
This group refers to several departed coaches such as current Marshall head coach Doc Holliday and members of the newly-appointed defensive staff at Arizona, Jeff Casteel (defensive coordinator) and longtime assistant, Bill Kerlawich; out with the 3-3-5 stack and in with what will either be a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive scheme.
In the past 24 hours, the Mountaineers program has taken a drastic turn towards what I believe will be a very bright future.
According to The Tulsa World, longtime Oklahoma State assistant Joe DeForest is leaving the Oklahoma State program to join the West Virginia staff as the defensive coordinator or co-defensive coordinator.. The newest member of the Mountaineers staff has a very impressive resume, working with both Les Miles and Mike Gundy over the past decade.
More importantly, DeForest is known as one of the top recruiters in the country, and with the impending move to the Big 12 nearing closer, this addition will be huge.
Who will be the other defensive coordinator? Well, it depends on who you ask.
Names floating around are former Houston Cougars and Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, former Miami Hurricanes head coach Randy Shannon and defensive coordinator Brent Venables from the Oklahoma Sooners. According to the latest Tulsa World report, Venables has been offered a defensive coordinator position at West Virginia but has not decided whether he will take the job.
Will the Mountaineers contend for the Big 12 title in 2012?
Whichever coach Dana Holgorsen and Athletic Director Oliver Luck choose will be an upgrade in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, Jeff Casteel is an outstanding defensive mind and he has brought tremendous success to WVU, but one factor that many overlook is the unorthodox scheme that he runs.
Sure, it is effective, but there is also a very steep learning curve when players arrive on campus.
Many high school football programs do not run the 3-3-5, so when these players first arrive they are forced to learn an entirely new system. Any of the three coaches I have mentioned have very impressive track records, and this will allow the Mountaineers to recruit impact players on defense.
What I know for certain is the time is now.
With Penn State going through a very difficult time, Pitt seeming to be a revolving door for coaches and Ohio State being hammered by the NCAA, WVU and the coaching staff will have the opportunity to take full advantage.
I feel I share the same sentiment as many Mountaineers fans when I say, “Bring on the Big 12 in 2012!”