West Virginia Mountaineers: CFN College Football Preview 2021

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College Football News Preview 2021: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the West Virginia season with what you need to know.

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– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
West Virginia Schedule Analysis
West Virginia Mountaineers Previews
2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

2020 Record: 6-4 overall, 4-4 in Big 12
Head Coach: Neal Brown, 3rd year, 11-11 (46-27 overall)
2020 CFN Final Ranking: 43
2020 CFN Preview Ranking: 55
2019 CFN Final Ranking: 94

West Virginia Mountaineers College Football Preview 2021: Offense

West Virginia had a decent season thanks its defense. It seems outside of the norm for the Mountaineer offense to be along for the ride, and while that wasn’t exactly the case, it wasn’t far off.

The O averaged 413 yards and 27 points per game with a mediocre rushing attack and an okay passing game. With eight starters potentially back and most of the key skill guys returning, here comes the production in Year Three under head coach Neal Brown.

The Mountaineer offensive line was fine. It didn’t do quite enough for the ground game and allowed way too many tackles for loss. Now comes the shuffling with tackles Brandon Yates and Virginia Tech transfer Doug Nester set and veterans in the interior, but where does All-Big 12 blocker Zach Frazier play? He was a guard who’ll likely work at center.

The line has the back to blast for – senior Leddie Brown ran for 1,010 yards and nine scores, averaging more than five yards per carry. Second-leading rusher Alec Sinkfield took off for Boston College, and Tony Mathis needs more work after carrying it just 18 times last year.

Jarret Doege is a decent veteran quarterback who isn’t going to run much, but he’s careful with the ball and has the time logged in to be a whole lot stronger. He hit 64% of his throws with 14 touchdowns and four picks, and he’s not bad at spreading the ball around.

The former Bowling Green transfer has the gig with Austin Kendall transferring out, putting the pressure on redshirt freshman Garrett Greene and freshman Will Crowder to battle it out for the No. 2 job.

Winston Wright earned All-Big 12 honors with a team-high 45 catches for 529 yards and two scores, and he’s not alone. 6-3 Bryce Ford-Wheaton adds size, and there’s enough talent returning to fill in the gaps if the top two guys carry most of the load.

– What You Need To Know: Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
West Virginia Schedule Analysis

NEXT: West Virginia Mountaineers College Football Preview 2021: Defense

4. West Virginia Mountaineers College Football Preview 2021: Defense

The defense was a killer. It finished fourth in the nation and first in the Big 12 allowing just 291 yards and 21 points per game. It led the nation against the pass allowing 160 yards per game and wasn’t bad against the run, but the pass rush need to be a bit stronger, the penalties have to stop, and there have to be more third down stops.

Six starters are expected to be back with the most experience in that secondary that held down just about everyone. However …

Safety Tykee Smith left for Georgia. He only came up with two picks – tying for the team lead – and he’s not alone. CB Dreshun Miller is gone to Auburn, and few other corner options are leaving, too.

However, safety Alonzo Addae is back for his super-senior season after finishing second on the team with 66 stops on the way to All-Big 12 honors, and 2019 leading tackler Sean Mahone is back at the team’s hybrid CAT position. There are more options to work with at corner, but Nicktroy Fortune will lock down one job.

Star nose tackle Darius Stills left for the NFL, but brother Dante is back. The latter led the team with 10.5 tackles for loss and came up with 35 tackles in an all-star season, and he’ll get help from fellow All-Big 12 talent Akheem Mesidor, an active 6-2, 279-pound factor who’ll likely take the Darius Stills spot on the nose.

Leading tackler Tony Fields is gone from the linebacking corps, but Exree Loe is an athletic veteran who made 45 stops on the weakside. Third-leading tackler Josh Chandler-Semedo will be the main in the middle in place of Fields – be shocked if he doesn’t lead the team in tackles.

– What You Need To Know: Offense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
West Virginia Schedule Analysis

NEXT: West Virginia Mountaineers College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

West Virginia Mountaineers College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

Best West Virginia Mountaineers Offensive Player

RB Leddie Brown, Sr.
A good all-around back over his first two seasons, the 6-0, 212-pounder took over the offense as a junior with a team-high 1,010 yards and nine scores, and catching 31 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns. Get the ball in his hands 20 times, and he’ll gain 100 rushing yards and come up with the occasional explosive pop.

2. OT Brandon Yates, Soph.
3. C/OG Zach Frazier, Soph.
4. WR Winston Wright, Jr.
5. WR Sam James, Jr.

Related

West Virginia Football Schedule 2021, Analysis, Best & Worst Case Scenario

Best West Virginia Mountaineers Defensive Player

DT Dante Stills, Sr.
His brother Darius might have a wee bit more talent for the interior, Dante puts up the bigger numbers and does a few things in a different way.

While Darius – now a Las Vegas Raider – is more of an undersized nose type, the 6-4, 276-pound Dante is a versatile tackle with 35 tackles, two sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. He’s a lock for all-star honors again.

2. S Alonzo Addae, Sr.
3. S Sean Mahone, Sr.
4. DT Akheem Mesidor, Soph.
5. LB Josh Chandler-Semedo, Sr.

Top Incoming West Virginia Mountaineers Transfer

OT Doug Nester, Jr.
His arrival from Virginia Tech helps the line shuffle around a few parts to turn into a potential better front five. There’s already all-star talent up front with Brandon Yates at one tackle and Zach Frazier strong at either guard or center.

Now Nester tightens up the tackle situation on the right side. He’s a 6-7, 320-pound ready-made option with the versatility to play guard if needed.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
West Virginia Schedule Analysis

NEXT: West Virginia Mountaineers College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

West Virginia Mountaineers College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

West Virginia Mountaineers Biggest Key: Offense

Get more out of the offensive line. It had a few good moments for the running game, and it only allowed an average of two sacks per outing, but it needs to be a whole lot stronger at keeping defenses out of the backfield.

To be fair, the O line improved immensely after allowing 94 tackles for loss in 2019 with the running game averaging a pathetic 2.6 yards per carry, but things can be better.

Leddy Brown ran for more than 1,000 yards last season, but the team averaged just 3.8 yards per carry and the 76 tackles for loss allowed were still too many.

West Virginia Mountaineers Biggest Key: Defense

Third down stops. For a team that doesn’t have a ton of offensive explosion and lives on control, great defense and time of possession – holding the ball for 32 minutes per game – coming up with defensive stops means almost everything.

The D was amazing overall and was great at coming up with third down stops, allowing offenses to convert just 39% of their chances. However, the four losses also happened to come on the four worst days by the defense on third downs.

The Mountaineers allowed teams to convert 45% or more of their chances four times, and again, those were the four losses. In the two years under Neal Brown, they’re 1-6 when allowing teams to convert 45% or more and 7-9 when allowing 35% or more. They’re 4-2 when allowing fewer than 35%.

West Virginia Mountaineers Key Player To A Successful Season

QB Jarret Doege, Sr.
He has quietly carved out a nice college career. He pushed through at Bowling Green and there for over 4,000 yards, and he managed to work his way though a few decent options at West Virginia to become the main man.

Again, the stats are there – close to 7,500 career yards – and he’s careful with the ball, but can he do more for the attack? He’s been able to work within the offense – don’t screw it up and let the defense take care of the rest – but it would be nice if a little bit of Will Grier could kick in so the passing game can go from solid to sensational.

West Virginia Mountaineers Key Game To The 2021 Season

Iowa State, Oct. 30
Forget beating the loaded Cyclones; can West Virginia even stay in the game?

It’s a season full of marking point games for the Mountaineers. It starts with the date at Maryland to kick things off, the battle with Virginia Tech will be tough, and just to make things spicy, the Big 12 campaign kicks off at Oklahoma.

But Texas and Oklahoma State are home games, and so is the battle with Iowa State. The Cyclones won 42-6 last year after rolling 38-14 the year before and 30-14 the year before that. The Mountaineers won the previous four meetings, and this time around it starts a run of three home games in the next four.

West Virginia Schedule Analysis

2020 West Virginia Mountaineers Fun Stats

– Fumbles: West Virginia 14 (lost 7) – Opponents 11 (lost 2)
– Penalties: West Virginia 82 for 741 yards – Opponents 60 for 518 yards
– Passing Yards: West Virginia 2,775 – Opponents 1,596

NEXT: West Virginia Mountaineers College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

West Virginia Mountaineers College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

Incremental improvements.

That’s what Neal Brown did during his time at Troy – the teams got better and better over the first three seasons before leveling out a bit with a ten-win fourth year – and on his watch West Virginia went from five wins to six wins to now being in a position to push for being a bit of a player in the Big 12 race.

Set The West Virginia Mountaineers Regular Season Win Total At … 7.5

This isn’t going to be the type of older West Virginia team that seemed perfect for the Big 12 – lots of offense, lots of big plays, lots of shootouts – and that’s okay. Under Brown, the transformation to a more defensive-oriented, ball-control style has been okay, and now the payoff has to come.

The problem is the experience. The Mountaineers have it, but in this super-senior year, they’re not loaded with 20+ returning starters like so many other teams are.

However, the defense should be among the best in the Big 12, the offensive line should be the strongest it’s been in years, and the schedule is just nice enough to make a run.

If the program has progressed like it needs to, it has to at least split the non-conference dates with Maryland and Virginia Tech, and the trip to Oklahoma gets out of the way right out of the Big 12 gate.

Getting Texas, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and – this year, it matters – Texas Tech at home is massive. West Virginia has to own Morgantown, come up with a conference road win against someone other than Kansas, and keep on improving on the way to at least seven wins and a bowl game.

Brown is 4-0 in bowls, but before making it 5-0 he’s about to take West Virginia a few steps forward.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
West Virginia Schedule Analysis