At the conclusion of last season, many anxious fans and spectators were already looking towards 2015 and had a lot of questions how this season would shape up. Since it’s late May, school’s out, summer ball isn’t quite here yet… it seems like the perfect time to do a “way too early look” at WVU’s opponents this fall.
Georgia Southern Eagles: Can WVU stop the GSU rushing attack? The leading rushers, junior RB Matt Breida and junior QB Kevin Ellison, are both returning this fall. If last year’s 642 rushes are any indication, WVU can expect to see a lot from these two. Fortunately for WVU, the Eagles only return one starter to the offensive line, senior OG Darien Foreman. Defensively, Georgia Southern gave up at least 250 passing YPG seven times last season (18th most in the country). Two key starters return for GSU in senior LB Antwione Williams and junior DE Bernard Dawson. They will carry the burden to stop opposing offenses this season.
Liberty Flames: What Liberty team comes into Morgantown? Luckily for WVU, LU has some questions, weakness and holes on the offensive side of the ball. Senior center Greg Ray and right guard Mitch Hanson have decided to leave the team. The QB department has vacancies with Javan Shashaty and J.T. Bradwell no longer on the roster. Defensively, the Flames will also have to decide what to do with replacing safeties Jacob Hagen and Gary Sampson – “losing” 159 tackles from last season. Freshman Stephon Masha has some experience from and looks for that starting spot.
Maryland Terrapins: Is Maryland rebuilding or not? The Terps lose 13 starters from 2014 including QB C.J. Brown, WR Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, OL Jake Wheeler, Silvano Altamirano, and Sal Conaboy. Despite the losses, the Mountaineers need to prepare for gifted running back, Wes Brown. But health may be a question for Brown, due to a torn labrum, which caused him to miss spring ball. Brown isn’t the lone bright spot on offense as Brandon Ross is returning as well. With Diggs and Long gone, the Terps have 10 young receivers to choose from; Marcus Leak and Juwann Winfree are both fighting for time on the field. Is Maryland rebuilding or not?
Oklahoma Sooners: What will the OU offense look like in 2015? The Sooners just hired a new offensive coordinator, Lincoln Riley, whom they hope can make their offenses the best in the Big 12. Riley looks to bring an “air raid attack” offense to Oklahoma for the first time since 1999. A battle for the QB position between Trevor Knight and Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield is brewing. Luckily for the Sooners, number 1 receiver, Sterling Shepard will be returning for his senior season. Coaches remain optimistic RBs Samaje Perine and Alex Ross can shoulder the load off RB Keith Ford’s transfer out of Norman. Oklahoma lost four seniors off last year’s O-line, but center Ty Darlington does return. The Sooners will struggle trying to fill the void of defensive backs, Jordan Phillips and Chuka Ndulue. Not only does Big Game Bob have to deal with changes in his roster, he has an entirely new coaching staff by his side.
Oklahoma State Cowboys: OSU has balance returning. The Cowboys have 16 starters coming back: 8 on offense, 8 on defense. One big reason for optimism on the Oklahoma State side is, the development of QB Mason Rudolph; who threw of 853 yards and six TDs over their last three games. Rudolph has 9 of the top 10 pass catchers returning to his offense including: Brandon Sheperd, James Washington, and redshirt freshman Keenan Brown. Questions still remain at the RB position for Oklahoma State. In August when four-star junior college transfer Chris Carson arrives in Stillwater the questions may be answered. DE Emmanuel Ogbah, LB Ryan Simmons, and CB Kevin Peterson show signs that WVU offense will have a tough Cowboy defense to work through.
Baylor Bears: Defense anchoring the Bears??? Defensively, Baylor remains strong: All-American Shawn Oakman & Andrew Billings both return, along with the entire secondary, who now have experience under their belt. Offensively, the Bears may have some questions as they lose Antwan Goodley, Levi Norwood, and Clay Fuller. But junior Corey Coleman returns after last seasons 64 catches for 1,119 yards and 11 touchdowns and will become a featured guy on Baylor’s offense, along with KD Cannon and Jay Lee. RB Shock Linwood returns to the help with depth to Baylor’s offense. Oh yeah … we should mention Baylor loses QB Bryce Petty, which could be a break in their system – but backup Seth Russell seems like amore than capable candidate for the job. With experience of the specialty players and the OL (returning all 5 starters), Russell will have the opportunity to do big things.
TCU Horned Frogs: Heisman Candidate in the house? TCU welcomes back 10 starters, none bigger than pre-season Heisman favorite QB Trevone Boykin. TCU’s no-huddle spread offense allowed Boykin and his offense to shine. Some adjustments may need to be made trying to fill the loss of 5 starters. But TCU will need to improve on red zone efficiency – ranking 65th nationally with red zone TD rate. The losses of tackle Chucky Hunter, All-American LB Paul Dawson, and DB Sam Carter, Kevin White and Chris Hackett hurt the Horned Frogs’ defense. Returning is defensive tackle Davion Pierson; he and coach Gary Patterson’s scheme, make it likely that the defense might not suffer too much.
Texas Tech Red Raiders: Who will the QB guru anoint the starter? Davis Webb and Patrick Mahomes will battle to earn the starting QB spot. Webb didn’t participate in spring practice due to surgery for a torn labrum. WVU could see Mahomes at QB October 29 if Webb’s rehab doesn’t progress as expected. Offensively the Red Raiders are not hurting in talent with RB DeAndre Washington, WR Jakeem Grant, and left tackle Le’Raven Clark all returning. Texas Tech brought in new defensive coordinator David Gibbs to help bring some stability to the defense. Gibbs gained some depth when highly recruited defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko committed to Texas Tech.
Texas Longhorns: Are the Longhorns back? The Longhorns may be in search for a new QB after Tyrone Swoops’ embarrassing performance against Arkansas last bowl season. Texas won’t have to search far because redshirt freshman, Jerrod Heard, may be the most obvious candidate to replace Swoops. While Coach Charlie Strong must focus on deciding on who will start at QB, they also have to work on replacing top receivers Jaxon Shipley and John Harris. RB Johnathan Gray and five starters on the line all return for the Longhorns offense. Defensively, Texas lost 6 starters, the biggest being tackle Malcom Brown. Linebacker is a still a question as the Longhorns struggle to replace Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond. Coaches will be forced to rely on senior Peter Jinkens and junior Jim Cole. If these two don’t step up, the Longhorns will have to rely on a decorated group of freshman.
Kansas Jayhawks: Will the post-Charlie Weiss era be any better? The Jayhawks have a lot of improving to do under new coach David Beaty. The Jayhawk fan base is hoping for major improvement from last years 3-9 season. Even with a lot of questions with the rest of the team, two things Kansas is positive about: QB Michael Cummings and RB Corey Avery. The two will be leaned upon to bolster a new scheme, with a new coach with an eager and “desperate for mediocrity” fan-base. Adding to the depth of Kansas’ roster, junior college linebacker Jayd Kirby recently committed – which could aid a thin position group after the departure of Ben Heeney.
Iowa State Cyclones: Will Mangino make a difference in Ames? The Iowa State offense should be better under 2nd year OC Mark Mangino and star Quenton Bundrage will be back at receiver. Not only is Bundrage someone the Cyclones will benefit from, but receiver Allen Lazar and D’Vario Montgomery will all help improve the Cyclone offense. Balance becomes the question. Will the run game help set up the pass? Defensively, only two starters depart – LB Jared Brackens and DE Cory Morrissey. Nigel Tribune, Kamari Cotton-Moya, and Sam E. Richardson will be defensive weapons for Iowa State. But unless Demond Tucker, Vernell Trent and others on the defensive line progress, problems in run-stop and QB pressure for Iowa State could rise again in 2015.
Kansas State Wildcats: What will the league’s best coach come up with to replace his offensive stars? The Wildcats face some problems with departures from QB Jake Waters and WR Tyler Lockett. While some skill talent must be replaced, Coach Bill Snyder has four OL starters returning including Cody Whitehair. Unfortunately for the Big 12, Deante Burton, Judah Jones, Stanton Weber and Andre Davis all return. The losses were not isolated to the offensive side of the ball, as DE Ryan Mueller, LB Jonathan Truman, and DB Randall Evans all ran out of eligibility. While Mueller is the biggest loss, the Wildcats have plenty of talent with LB Elijah Lee and DT Travis Britz. “Smart Money” says Coach Snyder will have the Wildcats ready by the first weekend in December.
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