#44 West Virginia Football 2020 Preview

West Virginia Mountaineers
Overall Rank: #44
#7 Big 12
 West Virginia Logo
Coach Neal Brown’s first season leading West Virginia went just about as expected. The Mountaineers finished 5-7 overall and 3-6 in Big 12 play. There were some close losses in there too, including a three point defeat at Baylor. A bowl appearance was not too far off. With two wins in their last three games, this group should take the next step and at least make a bowl game.
2019 Record: 5-7, 3-6
2019 Bowl: None
Coach: Neal Brown (5-7 at West Virginia, 40-23 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Gerad Parker, Chad Scott
Defensive Coordinator: Vic Koenning
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Leddie Brown, RB, 367 yards
Passing: Austin Kendall, QB, 1,989 yards
Receiving: Sam James, WR, 677 yards
Tackles: Sean Mahone, S, 80
Sacks: Darius Stills, DL, 7.0; Dante Stills, DL, 7.0
Interceptions: Tykee Smith, S, 2
Other Key Returnees: QB Jarret Doege, WR T.J. Simmons, LB Josh Chandler, S Kerry Martin Jr
Key Losses: RB Kennedy McKoy, WR George Campbell, OL Colton McKivitz, CB Keith Washington II, S Josh Norwood, CB Hakeem Bailey, P Josh Growden
In those final three games of the year, Jarret Doege was under center. He replaced an injured Austin Kendall who had some good moments of his own despite dealing with injuries throughout the season. Both are back and expect a heated quarterback battle that could last quite a while. Whoever is at quarterback will have plenty of experience at wide receiver. Sam James is back after leading the squad with 69 receptions for 677 yards and T.J. Simmons added 35 pass catches for 455 yards. The concern at the position is finding somebody who can make some big plays. The lack of big plays was an even bigger issue at running back. Leddie Brown should carry much of the load this season, but WVU was one of the worst rushing offenses in the country last season and that must change.
The defense was solid last season and got better as the season progressed. The front seven is in good shape led by linemen Darius and Dante Stills. Linebacker Josh Chandler is ready to emerge as a leader of the unit and the return of some injured players will help too. However, the secondary must replace three of their five starters. Sean Mahone and Tykee Smith are a decent duo to build around, but breaking in two new cornerbacks is always a huge concern in the often pass happy Big 12. The good news for the defense is that the unit created a lot of pressure last season. Despite that, they only forced 14 turnovers.
The Bottom Line:
If the West Virginia defense can continue to get into the backfield, the ball should bounce their way a few more times in 2020 and balance out their turnover margin. The offense would have really benefited from better field position that turnovers often create last season and they will need it this year too. Wins will be tough to come by in the Big 12 and the non-conference slate has two tough games against Florida State and, potentially, Maryland, but expect this group to at least get to six wins and remain competitive in conference play.
Projected Bowl: First Responder Bowl
2019 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 73.3 (128th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 248.7 (54, 6)
Total Offense: 321.9 (119, 10)
Scoring Offense: 20.6 (116, 10)
Rushing Defense: 159.4 (69, 7)
Pass Defense: 239.9 (88, 6)
Total Defense: 399.3 (74, 6)
Scoring Defense: 28.8 (73, 8)
Turnover Margin: -0.50 (103, 8)
Sacks: 2.75 (25, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.75 (41, 4)