CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 8 West Virginia

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2011 record: 10-3 overall, 5-2 in Big East (1st-tie)

2011 postseason: Orange Bowl (70-33 win over Clemson)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 17/No. 18

Head coach: Dana Holgorsen (10-3 in one season at West Virginia)

Offensive coordinator: Shannon Dawson (second season at WVU, first as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 92nd rushing offense (122.7 ypg); 6th passing offense (346.8 ypg); 15th total offense (469.5 ypg); 13th scoring offense (37.6 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: eight

Defensive coordinator: Joe DeForest (first season as co-DC) and Keith Patterson (first season as co-DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 55th rushing defense (144.8 ypg); 35th passing defense (203.5 ypg); 33rd total defense (348.2 ypg); 61st scoring defense (26.8 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: six

Location: Morgantown, W.Va.

Stadium: Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium (60,000; FieldTurf)

Last league title: 2011 (co-champs with Cincinnati and Louisville)

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
At the quarterback position right now, it doesn’t get much better than Geno Smith in the game, and the senior is one of eight offensive starters returning from a unit that was one of the most explosive — hello, Clemson! — in its first season under Holgorsen.  Also among the returning starters on that side of the ball are a pair of receivers — Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey — who were seemingly born to play in Holgorsen’s version of the spread.  With experienced talent at the running back position returning as well, offense will be the least of WVU’s worries in its first season in the Big 12.

The Bad
Then there’s the opposite of the worry spectrum.  The defense was fair-to-middlin’ in the offensive-deficient Big East; entering the Big 12, the Mountaineers will face a greater challenge  nearly every week compared to what they were used to in their former conference.  As a signal that the staff was fully cognizant of both the deficiencies on defense in 2011 and the stiffer offensive competition in its new conference, WVU scrapped its 3-3-5 defense and will be going with (mostly) a version of the 3-4 defense.  Suffice to say, that new iteration of the 3-4 defense will be put to the test early and often in the offensively-superior Big 12.

The Unknown
The Big 12 fit.  Specifically, how fast can the Mountaineers get up to speed — both literally and figuratively — in a football conference that’s vastly superior to what they’ve been used to the past two decades.  Gone are the likes of Cincinnati and Louisville and Pittsburgh, replaced annually with Oklahoma and Texas and Oklahoma State and TCU and… well, you get the point.  With the presence of Holgorsen, it feels as if the Mountaineers will make as seamless a transition as possible and should be a prime contender in its virgin tour around the Big 12.  Still, it’s an unknown how quickly WVU will adapt to its new conference home.

Make-or-break game: at Texas, Oct. 6
It’s a bit of a stretch to call this a make-or-break game for the Mountaineers; rather, it might be better to state that it should serve as a litmus test for the remainder of the conference season.  The Longhorns should — should — provide a stiffer Big 12 test than they have the past couple of seasons, and give the Mountaineers a solid idea of how their first season in the Big 12 will go as it gets into the meat of their first conference slate — TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma the first three weekends in November.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Geno Smith
In his first season in Holgorsen’s offense, Smith threw for 4,385 yards, 31 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in 526 attempts.  With an experienced group of receivers returning, and yet another offseason soaking in the scheme, Smith should enter 2012 as one of the preseason favorites, although, for whatever reason, he flies below some radars nationally.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Ohio State DL Darius Slade to transfer

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In a day packed full of Big Ten moves becoming official, Ohio State has added a roster move of its own.

Urban Meyer revealed at the conference’s media gathering in Chicago on Monday that defensive lineman Darius Slade will not return to the team.

A 3-star recruit out of Montclair, N.J., Slade (42) redshirted in 2014 and missed the ’16 campaign with a lower leg injury. He racked up seven appearances in 2015.

Slade was expected to back up Sam Hubbard at defensive end.

Meyer said that he “thinks” Slade is off to Arizona State. If that’s true, Slade would have two years of eligibility to play as a Sun Devil unless the NCAA approved a waive for him.

Indiana RB Camion Patrick, LB T.J. Simmons medical hardships

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Indiana running back Camion Patrick and linebacker T.J. Simmons will not return to the team this fall after being granted medical hardships, the program announced Monday. Both players would be fifth-year seniors in 2017.

Simmons appeared in 37 games with 35 starts before suffering a season-ending injury that knocked him out of the 2016 campaign entirely. He collected 213 tackles, six sacks, 16.5 TFLs, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery as a Hoosier. Simmons will remain with the program as a student assistant.

“T.J. was a three-year starter and a tough kid that I was looking forward to coaching,” head coach Tom Allen said in a statement. “He did everything that he could to get himself back from his knee injury, but he was unable to reach a place where he could consistently play. T.J. is excited about his new role as a student assistant coach in the weight room and on the field. He will be helping his teammates get better. T.J. has such a passion for the game and this program, and I am thrilled to have him help us breakthrough.”

Patrick arrived from East Mississippi Community College — of Last Chance U. fame — and proceeded to sustain injuries to his ACL and a shoulder. He caught six passes for 154 yards with one receiving touchdown and one rushing score for Indiana.

“Unfortunately, Camion dealt with multiple injuries during his time at IU and was never able to fully recover,” Allen said. “He has worked hard in the classroom. Camion has battled to get back following each injury, but his body has let him down. He recognizes that. We recognize that, and we want to help him finish strong in the classroom and help him create a bright future for himself.”

Penn State K Joey Julius no longer with the team

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Joey Julius was everyone’s favorite kickoff specialist last season. Sadly, he won’t be your favorite kickoff specialist in 2017.

At Big Ten media days on Monday, the Nittany Lions unveiled their 2017 roster and Julius was not on it.

Listed at 5-foot-10, 258 pounds, Julius announced in May he would seek treatment for an eating disorder.

“I have been struggling over the last couple months with my eating disorder,” he announced at the time. “It got to the point where I had to return to St. Louis to seek further treatment at the McCallum place. Recovery is a wonderful and beautiful thing that I am working on returning too.”

Julius handled 93 kickoffs for the 2016 Big Ten champions, averaging 62.1 yards per kick with 45 touchbacks. His kickoff average ranked 47th nationally, and his 48.4 touchback percentage was 40th in FBS. Julius made 10-of-12 field goals and 20-of-24 extra points in 2015 before ceding the job to Tyler Davis last season.

 

Urban Meyer on College Football Playoff loss to Clemson: That ship has sailed, it’s gone

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Ohio State may have won the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship, but its most recent trip to the postseason tournament was not nearly as much fun. The Buckeyes were blanked by eventual national champion Clemson, 31-0. Asked whether or not that plays into the mental approach to the upcoming 2017 season, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer suggested that loss is no longer thought about.

“That ship has sailed. It’s gone,” Meyer said. “Professionally, it changed how we do some business on offense, and we’re moving forward.”

Ohio State has added former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson as offensive coordinator, with Meyer noting that Wilson is the first offensive coordinator to be brought into Meyer’s program as a head coach (all others have been promoted from within). Meyer acknowledged that more of the offensive management has been put in the hands of Wilson, which supports the thought that things have changed with the offense in 2017.

Ohio State is a heavy favorite among media members covering the Big Ten to win the conference this season, and the Buckeyes will likely be viewed as a playoff contender. Regardless, how last season ended has to leave an empty feeling that needs to be fulfilled this fall, whether Meyer wants to use it as fuel or not.

“It’s the back of everyone’s mind,” Meyer said. “Whether I use that in training camp or not is to be determined.”