West Virginia Mountaineers

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 11:  Kenny Hill #7 of the Texas A&M Aggies chats with quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital during the first half of their game against the Mississippi Rebels at Kyle Field on October 11, 2014 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Jake Spavital set to reunite with Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia

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Jake Spavital worked for Dana Hologrsen three different times spread across four years, and now the two are set to reunite again.

According to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, Spavital will return to West Virginia to serve as offensive coordinator in 2017. Spavital spent the ’16 campaign in a similar capacity at California. With Spavital coming aboard, Joe Wickline will transition back to coaching the offensive line, as he has for the majority of his career.

Spavital served as as graduate assistant under Holgorsen at Houston in 2009, followed him to Oklahoma State as a graduate assistant for the 2010 season, then served as Holgorsen’s quarterbacks coach at West Virginia in 2011-12. He left Morgantown to coach quarterbacks and coordinate the offense at Texas A&M from 2013-15.

The combination of Holgorsen, Wickline and Spavital helped create the No. 3 total offense, No. 8 yards per play offense and No. 3 scoring offense in the country in 2010.

West Virginia’s 2016 attack ranked 26th in yards per play and 49th in scoring en route to a 10-3 record and a No. 18 final ranking in the AP poll.

Dabo Swinney wins second straight Bear Bryant coaching award

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers celebrates with the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 35-31 to win the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Dabo Swinney vanquished Bear Bryant‘s former team in the national championship game earlier in the week.  Last night, the Clemson head coach claimed an award named in the legend’s honor.  Again.

At a ceremony Wednesday, Swinney was named as the 2016 recipient of the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year award.  Swinney won the award last year, and is the first in its history to win it in  back-to-back seasons.

The former Alabama walk-on becomes just the second two-time winner, joining Boise State’s Chris Petersen (2006, 2009).

Monday night, Swinney guided the Tigers to its first national championship in more than three decades.

Swinney and his counterpart on the opposing sideline, Nick Saban, were two of the nine finalists for the award.  The other seven included Paul Chryst (Wisconsin), P.J. Fleck (Western Michigan), James Franklin (Penn State), Clay Helton (USC), Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia), Mike MacIntyre (Colorado) and Bob Stoops (Oklahoma).

Instagram the vehicle for WVU’s Shelton Gibson to announce NFL plans

AMES, IA â NOVEMBER 26: Wide receiver Shelton Gibson #1 of the West Virginia Mountaineers pulls in a 50 yard pass in the first half of play against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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For the first time this cycle, West Virginia is losing a Mountaineer football player to early draft attrition.

On his Instagram account Wednesday afternoon, Shelton Gibson revealed that  he has decided to enter the 2017 NFL draft, foregoing his remaining collegiate eligibility.  The wide receiver said he came to his decision “[a]fter many emotional talks with God, family, coaches and teammates.”

🤐GODS PLAN🙏🏾 #blessed #216

A photo posted by Shelton Gibson (@sheltongibson_) on Jan 11, 2017 at 9:45am PST

Gibson led the Mountaineers this year with 951 receiving yards and eight touchdown receptions, while his 22.1 yards per catch was good for fourth nationally. He also led the Mountaineers in all-purpose yardage at 124.1 yards per game as he was also the team’s primary kick returner.

Following the regular season, Gibson was named second-team All-Big 12.

A Look Ahead: CFT’s Way-Too-Early 2017 Top 25

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Sam Darnold #14 of the USC Trojans passes the ball against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the 2017 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 2, 2017 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The last bit of confetti has barely settled onto the Raymond James Stadium turf and the carcass of the 2016 season isn’t even cold yet, and we’re already rolling out a way-too-early Top 25 for the 2017 season? Yep. Because that’s how we roll. Or something.

In our role as preseason Nostradumbass, the first 10 of CFT’s Top 25 consisted of No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Clemson, No. 5 LSU, No. 6 Notre Dame (ouch), No. 7 Washington (yeah us!), No. 8 TCU, No. 9 Michigan State (whoops) and No. 10 Tennessee. A little over 4½ months later?

Three of the four playoff participants were in our Top 10; the fourth, Ohio State, was just outside at No. 11. While not No. 1, Oklahoma came into the postseason ranked seventh in the College Football Playoff Top 25, and will likely move up thanks to the 16-point Sugar Bowl win over No. 14 Auburn (not in our preseason Top 25). Florida State (No. 11), LSU (No. 20) and Tennessee (No. 21) were all ranked at least eight spots lower when the postseason began, but all three won their respective bowl games.

On the flip side, TCU, at 6-6, earned a bowl bid… and subsequently lost to finish under .500. And then there was Notre Dame and Michigan State, which combined to win a total of seven games so let’s just forget about that and move on.

The point of this whole review-before-we-look-ahead exercise? Preseason polls are meaningless — but not nearly as meaningless as polls produced nearly eight months ahead of the start of a new season. With that in mind, enjoy this way-to-early Top 25 that will put the “mean” in meaningless. And the “less” in it, for that matter.

Oh, and as always, feel free to complain/whine/moan/bitch away in the comments section below.

NO. 1 USC
WHY? As a redshirt freshman, Sam Darnold emerged as one of the most electrifying playmakers at the quarterback position in college football, and should, to the chagrin of opponents, get even better with a full offseason as the man at the position.  Winning nine straight to close out the season doesn’t hurt either.
WHY NOT? There’s always at least one team that’s way overhyped — hello 2016 Notre Dame — and the hoopla and attention proves to be too much for the young Trojans to bear.

NO. 2 ALABAMA
WHY? Nick Saban + top-ranked recruiting classes year-in, year-out + a burning desire to be the greatest there ever was at this level = a permanent spot inside the Top 10 as long as The Nicktator resides in Tuscaloosa.
WHY NOT? An NFL team (finally) entices Saban to go back and finish what he started — and abruptly ended — in the big boy league of football.  It’s not going to happen, of course, but that’s about the only thing that could derail the Crimson Tide juggernaut — well, that and a Tiger named Deshaun.

Clemson v Florida StateNO. 3 FLORIDA STATE
WHY? The Seminoles are once again loaded with top-flight talent on both sides of the ball and at every positional unit, with Deondre Francois showing flashes in his first season as the starter of being one of the best young quarterbacks in the sport.
WHY NOT? They face Alabama on a (ahem) neutral field to open the season, then travel to Gainesville to face Florida in the regular-season finale.  In between, there’s a trip to Death Valley for their annual ACC Atlantic grudge match with Clemson.

NO. 4 OKLAHOMA
WHY? With Baker Mayfield returning, and the rest of the conference still trying to play catch-up, the Sooners are clearly the cream of the Big 12 crop.
WHY NOT? The twin backfield loses of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine can’t be overcome and Mayfield has to shoulder too much of the offensive burden. Plus, the road trips to Ohio State, Baylor and Oklahoma State for Bedlam.

NO. 5 WASHINGTON
WHY? They have a talented arm in quarterback Jake Browning, a very staunch defense and a schedule that’s very favorable, with the toughest road game being the trip to Stanford.
WHY NOT? They are losing a significant amount of talent that helped get them to the College Football Playoffs.

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Ohio State v ClemsonNO. 6 OHIO STATE
WHY? Given the personnel losses after the 2015 season, 2016 was thought to be a rebuilding year but turned into another playoff appearance.  The target was always the 2017 season for this young Buckeyes team, and a squad loaded with this much talent will be a factor throughout.
WHY NOT? J.T Barrett continues to regress as a quarterback despite Urban Meyer shaking up the top of his offensive coaching staff, and none of the other young quarterbacks are quite ready for prime time.

NO. 7 CLEMSON
WHY? Despite losing a couple of pieces, Brent Venables‘ defense will once again be one of the best in the nation.  The Tigers won 10 or more games in each of the three seasons prior to Deshaun Watson‘s arrival, so it’s far from a one-man show that Dabo Swinney has built.
WHY NOT? Losing Watson, a three-year starter at quarterback, proves to be too much as his replacement simply can’t handle the burden.

NO. 8 MICHIGAN
WHY? For all of his well-publicized off-field antics, Jim Harbaugh is simply one of the best head coaches in the sport and will settle for nothing less than getting his beloved Wolverines back into the national title discussion on an annual basis.  Wilton Speight was a breakout star in 2016 and should flourish despite the loss of his quarterbacks coach, while Don Brown continues to be one of the best defensive minds in the game.
WHY NOT? Too much talent was lost to the NFL, and Harbaugh simply hasn’t gotten the requisite time to completely restock the cupboard in Ann Arbor to compete with the Ohio States of the college football world.

Oklahoma State v BaylorNO. 9 OKLAHOMA STATE
WHY? One of the best quarterback-wide receiver tandems in the country, Mason Rudolph and James Washington, eschewed an early shot at the NFL and returned for one more season in Stillwater.
WHY NOT? A defense that was 53rd in scoring as it was loses nearly half its starters, plus OSU will have to play at Pittsburgh, Texas and West Virginia.

NO. 10 PENN STATE
WHY? They return a bunch of talent from their Big Ten-winning squad, including Heisman contenders in quarterback Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley, and get Michigan, Nebraska and Pittsburgh in Happy Valley.
WHY NOT? They lost a very talented wide receiver in Chris Godwin and have to play at Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State.

NO. 11 STANFORD
NO. 12 AUBURN
NO. 13 TEXAS
NO. 14 LSU
NO. 15 WISCONSIN
NO. 16 LOUISVILLE
NO. 17 GEORGIA
NO. 18 WEST VIRGINIA
NO. 19 SOUTH FLORIDA
NO. 20 FLORIDA
NO. 21 KANSAS STATE
NO. 22 COLORADO
NO. 23 WASHINGTON STATE
NO. 24 SAN DIEGO STATE
NO. 25 OREGON

Final AP poll: Clemson No. 1; USC rockets to No. 3; Ohio State drops to No. 6

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The votes are in and — surprise!!! — Clemson’s the media’s king as well.

The Associated Press released its final 2016 rankings Tuesday morning, with Clemson, off their stirring win over the cyborg that is Alabama football, claiming the No. 1 spot in the last Top 25 of the 2016 season.  As expected, the Tigers claimed all 60 first-place votes, while the Crimson Tide earned all 60 second-place votes to finish No. 2 in the final AP poll.

Up next is the a team that will no doubt be the media darling throughout the offseason — I’m already guilty, as you’ll see shortly —  with USC moving from ninth to third on the strength of the epic Rose Bowl win over Penn State (fifth to seventh) as well as a nine-game winning streak to close out the season.  Ohio State, which was shutout by Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal, tumbled from second to sixth.

The remainder of the Top 10 is rounded out by Washington (No. 4), Oklahoma (No. 5), Florida State (No. 8), Wisconsin (No. 9) and Michigan (No. 10).

Three Group of Five teams managed to finish in the final Top 25, although none came in higher than 15th: Western Michigan (No. 15), South Florida (No. 19), San Diego State (No. 25).  Two of those teams will have new coaches in 2017, with Charlie Strong replacing Willie Taggart with the Bulls and a too-be-determined replacing P.J. Fleck with the Broncos.

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