West Virginia Mountaineers Football: 2015 Season Preview and Prediction


Previewing Dana Holgorsen’s West Virginia Mountaineers and whether they’ll be able to replace Clint Trickett and Kevin White on an explosive offense.

Dana Holgorsen enters his fifth season at West Virginia trying to repeat the success he had in his first season with the Mountaineers when he led his team to a 10-3 record, a first-place tie in the Big East Conference and a win in the Orange Bowl to finish the year ranked inside the top 20.

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In his last three years since moving to the Big 12, Holgorsen has had no trouble scoring but his defenses have had trouble stopping the opponent from scoring and as a result has an 18-20 record, 11-16 Big 12 record, zero bowl wins and zero finishes in the top 25, so will this year be any different?

Offensive Outlook

Offense hasn’t been a problem for Holgersen’s teams and Clint Trickett stepped in for Geno Smith and had the nation’s No. 9 passing offense with an average of 317 yards per game. But now Trickett is gone and so too are wide receiver Kevin White was one of the nation’s best and the No. 7 pick in the NFL Draft and fellow receiver Mario Alford leaves three big holes to fill.

Skyler Howard gets his opportunity to quarterback this team after backing up Trickett last year when he passed for 829 yards and eight touchdowns to zero interceptions in three starts after Trickett was injured at the end of the year. He should be fine in this quarterback-friendly offense, but he needs Jordan Thompson, Daikiel Shorts, Shelton Gibson and KJ Meyers to develop quickly.

The running game should be really good if former five-star recruit and Pitt transfer Rushel Shell can stay healthy after battling a nagging ankle injury last year when he led the team with 788 yards and seven touchdowns. His 4.48 yards per carry average should be markedly better provided he is healthy this year. He and Wendell Smallwood should form a nice 1-2 combination in the Mountaineer backfield and should combine to rush for at least 1,800 yards.

Defensive Outlook

The West Virginia defense has been the downfall of Holgorsen’s teams the last three years and enter the second year under defensive coordinator Tony Gibson who has high expectations for his unit this year, but is that even realistic?

Last year, West Virginia had the No. 74 scoring defense, No. 73 pass defense, No. 65 rushing defense and were No. 95 in sacks. As ugly as those numbers look, they were only a middle of the pack defense in the Big 12, finishing sixth in scoring and total defense, so if they can get to the quarterback with a little more frequency and get off the field on third down, that could mean an extra win at the end of the year.

Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski returns after leading the team in tackles last year with 103 stops and there is a lot of experience here with seniors Isaiah Bruce and Edward Muldrow all seniors and all in line for starting jobs.

The defensive line is led by Kyle Rose but his 38 consecutive game streak could be in jeopardy after the nose tackle was arrested in April and charged with several misdemeanors after a night drinking. If this defensive line can’t find a way to get to the quarterback, it’ll be another year of trying to win games 49-45.

In the secondary, all three safeties return, including Dravon Henry who had 45 tackles and two interceptions as a true freshman. Karl Joseph, KJ Dillon and Terrell Chestnut bring experience as seniors and Darryl Worley is back after tying for the team lead with three picks.


The names and faces change on the West Virginia offense but this offensive system is good enough to score 35 no matter who is under center. The running game will actually be relied more this year and that should bring some much-needed balance to the unit and take pressure off a new starter at quarterback and wide receiver.

Defensively, the Mountaineers aren’t going to win many games holding their opponent to 13 or fewer points but they have to find a way to get pressure on the quarterback, especially in a conference that’s turned into a air-raid conference seemingly overnight.

Road games at Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU in a four-week span in October is a daunting task but November offers a chance to go 4-0 if they can beat Texas at home.

A third seven-win season in the last four years and four or five wins in the Big 12 looks like the outcome for the Mountaineers this season.

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