Replacing a star quarterback, star receivers, star defenders and a head coach is never easy. But with the Big 12 up for grabs, it gives folks the opportunity to see the glass half full in 2019.
#1- Big 12 Parity
If you take a quick glance around the league you’ll notice that West Virginia is not the only one going through a rebuild. Kansas, Kansas State and Texas Tech are also heading into their first year under a new head coach. Oklahoma has to replace their own stars, Kyler Murray and Marquise Brown. TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State all are trying to get back to what they were a couple years ago and Iowa State looks to finally break through.
If the Mountaineers can at least split the two games between the presumed favorites (Oklahoma & Texas) it gives them a shot.
#2- Kendall’s turn
What makes the league more interesting is that potentially seven teams could have new starting quarterbacks for their season opener. The Big 12 is known for solid quarterback play and with Austin Kendall sitting behind two Heisman Trophy winners at Oklahoma, he may be next in line. Will he win the Heisman in year one? Not likely, but he could produce huge numbers in Neal Brown’s offense.
West Virginia fans saw a glimpse of what Kendall can do during the spring game, but he was pretty banged up and was not at full health. Getting his knee healed will do wonders for what he can do with his legs and his ability to extend plays. It may take him a couple of games to find his rhythm and guys he feels comfortable with, but when he does he will put on a show.
#3- Unknown stars
Over the last few years everyone in the league knew about Will Grier, David Sills V, Gary Jennings, Marcus Simms, David Long Jr., Kenny Robinson and so on. Now, they’ll have to scrap the book on them and focus on a few players that have flown under the radar early in their career.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Sam James has the potential to breakout as early as this year. His speed is unmatched and will be a problem for teams in the open space.
Sophomore linebackers Josh Chandler and VanDarius Cowan appear to be next in line to lead the defense. Cowan, an Alabama transfer and consensus five star recruit out of high school, has the speed and size that Mountaineer fans aren’t use to seeing from a linebacker. He will likely line up as a stand up edge rusher and could be moved inside from time to time.
With that being said, there are plenty of other reasons to be hopeful for a successful 2019 season in Morgantown. My guess is they will probably fall somewhere between 0-12 and 12-0. That is my final answer, Howie.