2022 is a make-or-break season for Neal Brown at West Virginia, and after coming off a disappointing 7-6 season in which the offense was mostly inept, the pressure is on in Morgantown.
New faces at offensive coordinator and quarterback are reasons for optimism, but the Mountaineers were hit hard in the transfer portal and will need several new contributors on both sides of the ball if they are to have any sort of success.
Will J.T. Daniels save the day, and Neal Brown’s job, or will WVU crash and burn, leading the university to hit the reset button? Here’s the best-case, worst-case, and most-likely scenario for West Virginia in 2022.
The reunion of J.T. Daniels and offensive coordinator Graham Harrell goes flawlessly as the former five-star quarterback thrives in his new system. The offensive line, which returns all five starters from last season, does a great job keeping J.T. Daniels upright and allows him to distribute the ball to playmakers Bryce Ford-Wheaton and emerging tailback Tony Mathis. Defensively, the Mountaineers’ star DT Dante Stills has a career year and anchors a stout defensive line that gives the rest of the conference fits. Going into the last three weeks of the season, West Virginia finds itself in the thick of the Big 12 race, but a tough stretch of games against Oklahoma, Kansas State, and at Oklahoma State keeps them just out.
J.T. Daniels’ fragility shows up, as it has in each of his previous seasons, leaving the Mountaineers in the hands of Garrett Greene or true freshman Nicco Marchiol. The offensive line gels well, but there just isn’t an answer at running back as the loss of Leddie Brown proves to be too much for WVU to overcome. Defensively, the experience lost in the transfer portal shows up in a big way and West Virginia struggles to get off the field in key situations. Losses to Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech start the season off on the wrong foot and by Week 8 Neal Brown is staring a bowl-less season in the face and likely out of a job. With Brown out the door, the Mountaineers struggle to keep focused and fall apart down the stretch.
J.T. Daniels and Graham Harrell get on the same page early and elevate the offense from last year. However, the inexperience defensively and at running back is a detriment, leaving the door open for opponents to win games that they shouldn’t. Dante Stills still holds things down up front for WVU defensively, but the back end is a mess for the first half of the season. The Mountaineers are able to get to .500 and get back to a bowl game. Unfortunately, that’s not going to be good enough for the West Virginia brass and Neal Brown gets the boot at the end of the regular season.