2010 CFBZ Prediction: 2nd Place in Big East
2010 Actual Finish: Tied for 1st Place in Big East (9-4, 5-2)
West Virginia has now gone 9-4 for three consecutive seasons. That's not bad, but when you compare it to RichRod's tenure (which I know West Virginia fans won't like reading) it just doesn't stack up. West Virginia has also lost 2 consecutive bowl games to ACC teams. The Mountaineers lost to a good ranked LSU team by 6 points early in the season but what has to stick in the craw of WVU fans is the back-to-back losses to Syracuse and then UConn in what were both very winnable games.
The administration is obviously not happy as they have gone out and landed the high profile Offensive Coordinator from Okie State, Dana Holgerson, to be their OC next year and their coach the year after. To get a better perspective on the Mountaineers we sought out John Radcliff of Eers To You to find out his thoughts on this past season.
In our Pre-Season Preview you said that anything short of a Conference Championship and a BCS bid would be a disappointment this year. Now that the season is over, how do you feel now?
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It has to be a failure. As bad as I thought the Big East would be this year, I had no idea it would be this bad. It was a free trip to a BCS bowl for West Virginia if they took care of business. All they had to do was make a good showing at LSU, which they did, and win every other game.
But too many times this year, they barely beat or lost to teams they should have smoked. Like Marshall, Syracuse, and UConn. If this year's team had an MO, it was self inflicted failure. And that's 100% on the coaches. More specifically, the offensive coaches. Seriously, having Noel Devine, Jock Sanders, and Tavon Austin on your team should be worth at least 21 points a game.
It really is a shame, because this was one of the best defensive units WVU has ever had. At least statistically. You could argue that WVU didn't face too many top offenses this year, and I wouldn't deny that. But holding every team they faced under 21 points says a lot about the consistency of the defense. When you consider that they got almost no help from the offense, it looks that much more impressive.
Which players were the biggest surprises of the season?
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CB Keith Tandy has taken a lot of grief at WVU for being burned on big plays. But he really stepped up this year almost doubling the number of tackles and his six interceptions. He was really the only question mark on defense and he ended up being a star. You also have to look at rush end Bruce Irvin. The Juco Junior led the Big East in sacks with 12. And when he wasn't sacking someone, he had them running for their life. Like Tandy, he turned out to be a real asset we weren't counting on.
How do you feel about the hiring of "Coach In Waiting" Dana Holgerson from Oklahoma State? What do you think he will bring to West Virginia?
I'm extremely excited about "The Dude" coming to WVU! He's someone with a proven track record. But I don't see him as someone that is going to be around any longer than it takes for him to have some success. I don't have a problem with that as much as most Mountaineer fans. I knew RichRod wasn't going to stick around. He was just such a jerk about the way he left.
If Holgerson comes in and does what he has done everywhere else and gets a new job in three years, I'm cool with that. WVU is the kind of place that you only expect WVU grads to call their dream job. We're going to have to get used to that idea and be very particular about who we hire in the future. So yeah, hiring Bill Stewart in a hotel bar at 3 am probably wasn't such a good idea.
Which player are you most excited about for next season?
Geno Smith is going to be coached by a guy that has done great things with quarterbacks at every stop. Even with the loss of Jock Sanders, he's still going to have a very competent group of receivers. If the offensive line can make any improvements at all (there is literally no where to go but up for the offensive line), Smith should have a shot at some of the single season passing records at WVU.
What does West Virginia need to improve the most going into next season?
Offensive line play has to improve. We've beat Stewart and fired OC Jeff Mullen over the head for the lack of production on offense. With all the skill players at their disposal, it was mostly deserved. But you have to look at the offensive line as well. The holes you need to open for Noel Devine to be effective are not that big. But he and his draft stock really suffered this year because of the offensive line play.
Defensively we are losing a lot. Defensive Coordinator Jeff Casteel has done wonders in the past when he didn't have a lot of experienced players. We're going to need him to do that again.