Five Biggest Questions for West Virginia This Offseason
With the inaugural season of the Neal Brown era in the rear view mirror, it's time we turn our focus to what this offseason holds for the Mountaineers. Anytime a new coaching staff takes over there is always going to be attrition and that attrition will continue in the next few months. There will be players who don't feel like they fit in the system, don't see a path to playing time or maybe just home sick. When you're coming off a 5-7 season, there's a whole bunch of happenings to be concerned about.
Today, we take a look at the five biggest questions surrounding the Mountaineers off-season.
1. Will Darius Stills return for his senior year?
After a solid junior campaign, the star defensive lineman is considering entering the 2020 NFL Draft and forgoing his senior season. How much of an impact does his decision make on the 2020 roster?
Well, he is arguably the best player on the defensive side of the ball and provides the Mountaineers a bevy of negative plays. It would probably make sense for him to return, considering he would be taken in the later rounds, but he could also show out at Pro Day and shoot his draft stock through the roof.
Prediction: Stills returns. His dream has always been to play for West Virginia and do it with his brother, Dante. Having one more go around will give him possibly the final chance the two strap up for the same team. Also, by returning, his draft stock could rise even higher.
2. Does Austin Kendall hang around?
I'm not going to go deep into this one. You've heard me say it before, the offensive issues were not completely his fault, but part of them were. Dealing with an injury on his throwing hand probably hindered him some, but how much? We'll likely never know.
Prediction: Kendall returns. Having already used a grad transfer to come to West Virginia, Kendall would likely have to go down a level to play his final year if he chose to enter the infamous transfer portal. Also, I don't think Neal Brown is sold on Doege just yet. He'll have the chance to battle it out in the spring and summer for a chance to regain his job.
3. Can Jarret Doege keep the starting job?
The former Bowling Green transfer started the final three games for the Mountaineers after Kendall was benched. He displayed great pocket presence, touch, and feel for the offense. Doege has good zip on the ball, but his arm strength could use some improvement. The entire quarterback room could use improvement in that area, I should say.
Prediction: Doege wins the job in fall camp. Kendall and Doege will battle it out in the spring, but I don't think either will separate themselves during that time. A healthy Kendall and improved surrounding pieces at the skill positions will finally allow Kendall to excel. Doege didn't necessarily "light it up" by any means and didn't do anything special to lock up the job. Yes, he made a good throw to beat TCU, certainly, but the defense won that game, the Kansas State game and pretty much every game West Virginia won in 2019.
4. How do you replace Keith Washington & Hakeem Bailey?
This will be a tough task. Fortunately, true freshman Nicktroy Fortune gained a lot of valuable experience this year due to the lack of bodies at the position. Dreshun Miller should be healthy and ready to make his debut in the gold and blue and will be a guy pushing for a starting job. West Virginia is also bringing in some help from the junior college ranks with Jackie Matthews (Mississippi Gulf Coast).
Prediction: Fortune and Miller will start, but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see West Virginia look at the grad transfer market or dip further into the juco level.
5. Is 2020 the year Leddie Brown gets it going?
Since his arrival on campus, sophomore Leddie Brown has shouldered some hefty expectations. He came in game ready as a true freshman a year ago and contributed to what was a crowded backfield. He rushed for 446 yards and four touchdowns in 2018 and only accounted for 367 yards and one touchdown this season. He has the skill set and the look of an every down back, he just needs to prove it.
Prediction: Brown will take a few games to get going, but I fully expect that he will be the team's most improved player in 2020. Now, I'm putting a lot of belief into the offensive line improving for this to happen, but if so, he can easily push for the 1,000-yard mark.