Second-year head coach Bill Stewart, who went 9-4 as a rookie but also had the support of quarterback Pat White, is going to need to pull out all the stops to keep this program at the level so many fans and alumni have expected it to achieve each year.
As a former student at West Virginia University, it pains me to write this, however, I don't see any other outcome other than the roller-coaster variety for the Mountaineers' 2009 football season.
Being an inexperienced team with no real quarterbacking presence anymore, going on the road will be difficult. WVU travels to face four quality opponents in 2009: Rutgers, South Florida, Cincinnati, and Auburn.
Say what you will, Mountaineer nation, about Pat McAfee...the kid had a leg. He went 36-of-36 on extra points, and 17-of-20 on field goals, including 2-of-2 from 50+ yards.
Going into 2009, WVU does not have a player on the roster who has attempted a field goal or PAT in a collegiate football game.
Think we missed kicks last year? Baby, you ain't seen nothing yet...
It seems like the Mountaineers have had a young secondary for the past two or three seasons. Ever since the graduations of Mike Lorello and Adam Jones's departure to the NFL, WVU has been at a loss in the secondary.
Look for upperclassmen like junior cornerback Brandon Hogan to help the defense this season.
If you think the night games will help us in 2009, think again. Our student body parties entirely too hard to give our team the proper emotional lift it needs against a stiff competitor for the entire three-hour plus football game.
There has always seemed to be criticism of the WVU student body for leaving at halftime and in the third and fourth quarters.
Bottom line: If it's 10:15, and WVU is trailing Colorado 13-10, thousands of kids, (21 or not) are going to bail and head to De Lazy Lizard. (Sorry, I love Lizard too, I just think that's the truth.)
The prize of the WVU recruiting class this offseason, quarterback Geno Smith, is out 6-8 weeks with a broken foot.
Not only does this weaken the Mountaineers' depth at the quarterback position, but it slows the growth of Smith, who many thought would take over the quarterback reigns from Jared Brown toward the October/November months of the 2009 season.
Coley White, Pat White's little brother, obviously has the potential to be a pleasant surprise for WVU this season.
One can reasonably expect Noel Devine to turn a few games around this season with the big play, but who else would you count on for a game changer?
Jock Sanders is no Darius Reynaud, and Jarrett Brown is certainly no Pat White.
Furthermore, the play at receiver must improve. Dorell Jalloh and Arlic Arnett combined for a total of 64 receptions and 11 TDs. It will probably be tough for them to improve on these numbers in 2009 without White under center.
Jarrett Brown attempted just 30 passes in 2008, but did complete 22 of them.
The duties of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks seems to fall predominately on junior defensive tackle Scooter Berry and senior home-grown linebacker Reed Williams's shoulders.
This season, if the secondary is forced to cover route runners for four, five, and six seconds on any kind of consistent basis, WVU football fans could be watching some long games in 2009.
With only two seniors on the offensive line and an inexperienced group of quarterbacks, it is undoubtedly going to be tough for the Mountaineers to put up the offensive numbers they did in years past when beating up on talented teams like Georgia (38-35) in 2005 and Oklahoma (48-28) in 2007.
Don't expect to see the run-n-gun in Morgantown for quite some time.
From 2005-2008, Pat White was the catalyst for the West Virginia University football program. He propelled the University and city into a national spotlight that it should be forever grateful for.
Without No. 5 in a blue and gold uniform, the city of Morgantown, the WVU football team, and the fans of WVU football will be attempting to fill a void for the next big thing to enter Morgantown and return WVU football to a contender status.
It has been reported that Pat White made up for many of head coach Bill Stewart's shortcomings as a coach with his athleticism.
Devoid of White, will Stewart really be able to out-coach his competition on any kind of consistent basis in the close games he seemed so content playing in last season?
Scoring three points against ECU (9-4), 15 against Pitt (9-3), and 14 against Colorado (5-7) will not cut it this season.
Even the wins like the 17-6 victory over Syracuse (3-9), the 24-17 victory against Rutgers (7-5), and 13-7 win versus USF (7-5) aren't impressive, seeing as they were all home games.
Bottom line: In 2009, I lack confidence that WVU can close games. We lack experience and foresight to execute effectively enough to win the tight games.