MORGANTOWN — The time of year has arrived when college football preview magazines begin to hit the shelves at bookstores and grocery stores. I always get a little giddy when I see rows of Lindy’s Sports spread across a cardboard stand at the Suncrest Towne Centre Kroger.
Lindy’s, Athlon and Phil Steele put out the three best publications you can find, and Athlon started sprinkling out some information ahead of the 2018 season. Without even taking a glance at any magazine, though, it is easy to guess what most of them will say about the WVU football team: All offense and little to no defense.
Athlon already came out and said Will Grier is the best quarterback in college football. The receiving corps returns a ton of production, the running backs go three deep. and the offensive line returns four of five starters.
The defense, on the other hand, needs to replace both starting cornerbacks, a team-captain middle linebacker and an all-America freshman at nose tackle. Not only that, but depth is a concern across the board at all positions except safety.
Sound familiar? These Mountaineers look an awful lot like what we had prior to 2012, WVU’s first season in the Big 12.
The final game of the previous season was a little different. Hype for the 2012 team was directly correlated to hanging an Orange Bowl-record 70 points on Clemson. Now, WVU had a dud in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, against Utah, scoring just 14 points, albeit without Grier.
Looking at each team’s offense, though, you cannot look past the similarities. Star quarterbacks (Grier, 2018; Geno Smith, 2012) are back for their senior campaigns, as well as the leading pass catcher (Gary Jennings, 2018; Tavon Austin, 2012) and leading touchdown catcher (David Sills, 2018; Stedman Bailey, 2012).
Each team had youthful running backs and returned four of five starting offensive linemen.
The 2012 defense was in the middle of a major transition at the wrong time. Jeff Casteel left for Arizona, so Joe DeForest was hired as the new coordinator and wanted to ditch the 3-3-5 scheme for a more traditional 3-4.
It lost two of the best defensive linemen in school history in Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller, as well as starting middle linebacker Najee Goode (who just won a Super Bowl with the Eagles) and free safety Eain Smith.
Early on, the 2012 team met expectations, starting 5-0 while reaching No. 5 in the ranking and averaging 52 points per game. But the defense was giving up 35, and never improved.
The offense, feeling pressure to score every possession, faltered and WVU ended the season 7-6 — one of the most disappointing seasons in school history.
A key difference between the two teams is current defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. This will be his fifth season in charge.
There is more depth offensively and defensively than there was in 2012 at key positions.
But it’s hard to ignore the similarities.