To get a look at the KU-West Virginia match-up we caught up with Keenan Cummings from WVSports.com
It appears Will Grier has made quick strides running the offense. What are his strengths and did you expect his success to be early like it has been?
Grier has led the West Virginia offense to its highest three-game yardage output in the Dana Holgorsen era in Morgantown which is saying something considering the success that he has had and the fact that the quarterback has played roughly a little more than four quarters in the past two games. Grier has been every bit of the quarterback that was billed when he transferred from Florida and has a complete understanding of what to do and where to go with the ball in this scheme. But outside a few tosses, perhaps his biggest strength is how accurate he has been with the football.
Grier is equipped with a strong arm and can get the football out fast, although at times he does tend to shoot for big plays down the field instead of taking what’s there in front of him. It’s hard to complain about what he has done to date however, and his 11 touchdown passes rank second nationally.
A better runner than expected, Grier isn’t asked to do it a lot because of the depth behind him but he has shown an ability to move around in the pocket and extend plays to find receivers down the field.
West Virginia is rushing over 200 yards a game in the Air Raid style offense. What is the scheme of the offense and what are their strengths?
West Virginia is back to a more traditional air raid scheme, although the Mountaineers have shown the ability to still run the football effectively with a stable of backs led by senior Justin Crawford, who has rushed for over 100-yards in all three games. Even with the success that the Mountaineers had on the ground a season ago, no one player accomplished that feat.
Redshirt senior Elijah Wellman is the engine that makes the run game go with his blocking ability and the Mountaineers are equipped with four wide receivers that bring different things to the table. Through three games, the offensive line has held up well also both with clearing holes and providing time to throw the football. Juniors Gary Jennings and former quarterback David Sills have proven plenty capable at the wide receiver position, while the return of sophomore wide receiver Marcus Simms after a one-game suspension has opened up the down field passing game. This is an explosive offense that will go fast. The biggest improvement so far has come in the red zone where the Mountaineers have scored 13 touchdowns in 16 trips so far.
This week David Beaty called WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson one of the better ones in the league. What kind of scheme do they run and who are the key players to watch?
West Virginia will utilize the odd 3-3-5 stack that has been known for its pressure under Gibson since he took over the post at coordinator. The scheme allows the Mountaineers to bring heat from various spots on the field and challenges its cornerbacks to hold up in man coverage on the outside. But with eight new starters it has been a work in progress through three games.
To date, Gibson has admittedly called a more vanilla version of the defense not wanting to put young players in bad positions on the field – but he wants to get back to doing what they have done best. The Mountaineers have been cycling a number of players into the game opposite cornerback Mike Daniels and a true freshman will earn the start at Kansas for the second consecutive game in Kenny Robinson. Kansas will provide a challenge for this group when they throw the football and will likely give the Mountaineers an idea of where the secondary is at this point.
As for key players, senior Kyzir White plays the hybrid safety/linebacker role on the defense and has been all over the field through three games. Redshirt senior MIKE linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton is one of the leaders of the unit and is playing some of the best football of his career.
Has there been any interesting team news i.e. regarding injuries, players returning from injury, position battles, that are storylines going into the Kansas game?
Redshirt junior safety Toyous Avery missed the game against Delaware State but is set to begin practicing this week so he is a possibility to return. The Mountaineers also could see the return of one of their best defensive players in redshirt sophomore David Long, after the WILL linebacker was injured in off-season workouts and hasn’t played yet. He also was set to return to practice this week along with a pair of offensive linemen in redshirt senior Grant Lingafelter and redshirt freshman Jacob Buccigrossi but it is unclear if any of them will actually see the field.
As for position battles, the biggest one of interest is the other cornerback spot where Robinson will make his second career start. The true freshman wasn’t challenged much against a Delaware State team that struggled to protect but this will be a test for the youngster.
How do you breakdown this game and what is your prediction?
As long as West Virginia can continue to play efficiently on offense by protecting the quarterback and finding balance with the run game it has proven to be a difficult outfit to stop including against Virginia Tech in the season opener. Kansas presents some challenges up front, but the secondary has had its issues and the Mountaineers offense has shown it can score in bunches. Avoiding turnovers and special teams gaffes while scoring touchdowns in the red zone will all be key. On the defensive side, the Jayhawks have proven they can throw the football and that means that the Mountaineers will have to cover in the backend and get off the field on third downs which it has only allowed opponents to convert 27 percent of those attempts.
West Virginia is favored by 20-points in this game, but I don’t think the Mountaineers are taking this matchup lightly after what happened to them in Lawrence in 2013. I expect the team to come out motivated and if that happens they should be able to win this game going away.
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