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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South Carolina’s Javon Charleston suspended after arrest on assault, burglary charges

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If you had the SEC in “next conference to reset the Days Without An Arrest ticker” pool, go ahead and collect your winnings.

According to the Columbia State, South Carolina’s Javon Charleston was arrested earlier this month on one count each of assault and burglary.  The charges stem from an incident that occurred during the early-morning hours of June 17.

The alleged victim claims that Charleston, after she stopped responding to his text messages, broke into her house and, after finding her in bed with another male, engaged in a verbal altercation with the man and ultimately chased him out of the residence.  It was after that when the woman claims she was physically assaulted by Charleston, who allegedly referred to her as a “dirty slut” in the process of the alleged assault.

Charleston, the newspaper wrote, “told the police he knew the woman and the code to get into the residence and that he went to check on her when she stopped texting him, believing that she was drunk.”

As a result of the arrest, Charleston has been indefinitely suspended by the football program.

Charleston was initially a walk-on to the Gamecocks who was placed on scholarship during summer camp last year. The wide receiver/defensive back appeared in 13 games last season, with most of those appearances coming on special teams.  He has been competing for a starting safety job throughout the offseason.

Chad Morris finally finalizes $3.5 million contract with Arkansas

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Chad Morris was hired in early December and has already gone through his spring practice at Arkansas but just signed that big new contract with the school this week.

The practice of working for a new program but not formally signing a contract isn’t new (just ask Texas A&M and Jimbo Fisher) but all the parties in Fayetteville finally got pen to paper in recent days to finalize the deal, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. The deal runs through the end of the 2023 season and will pay Morris roughly $3.5 million in base salary with plenty more available for the head coach to collect in bonuses:

Morris will be eligible for up to $1 million in competition-based bonuses and $200,000 in academic-based bonuses each year, and is eligible for three retention payments of $500,000 apiece, contingent that no “significant” NCAA violations have occurred and the program is not on NCAA probation at the time the payments are due in February of 2019, 2021 and 2023.

(AD Hunter) Yurachek said he signed the contract last Friday and it was executed with the signatures of University of Arkansas, Fayetteville chancellor Joseph Steinmetz and UA system president Donald Bobbitt this week.

Thankfully, there’s no complicated buyout structure like there was with former head coach Bret Bielema. If Morris wants to leave for another job, he’d owe $3 million prior to Dec. 31, 2019 and decreasing amounts each year afterward. If he’s fired by the school before the final day of 2022, he will receive 70 percent of his $3.5 million annual salary until the end of 2023. If he is fired on or after Jan. 1, 2023, he will take the full $3.5 million he’s owed.

Funny enough though, according to the Democrat Gazette, his boss still hasn’t signed his own deal with the school despite being formally hired the day before Morris was last December. One down, one to go we guess.

Clemson AD Dan Radakovich rules out alcohol sales at Memorial Stadium

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Death Valley is staying dry.

Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich spoke to the Post and Courier this week and pretty flatly rejected joining the burgeoning bandwagon in college athletics and allowing beer and/or alcohol sales at the Tigers’ football stadium.

“It hasn’t been a huge topic here because we really don’t look at that as something moving forward inside Memorial Stadium that is on our list of things to get done,” Radakovich said. “There’s a different atmosphere at our games.”

Alcohol is not sold anywhere at the stadium for Clemson home games though there are some unique cases where fan can bring some to specific areas prior to game day for consumption after kickoff.

The policy stands in stark contrast to some of their fellow ACC schools, as everybody from Pitt to Louisville to Wake Forest have begun sales. There’s been significant debate in the SEC on opening things up on the same front and major programs like Penn State to smaller ones like Fresno State are cashing in on the new revenue stream.

It doesn’t sound like the Tigers will be joining them anytime soon.

“Our people in the parking lot have a good time. There’s no question about that,” Radakovich added. “But inside the stadium, I think it’s a little different.”

Mike Gundy and AD Mike Holder will be together at Oklahoma State at least through 2021

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Mike Gundy and Mike Holder better patch up their relationship because both are set to be in Stillwater a lot longer.

Days after the Cowboys head coach and athletic director got into an interesting back-and-forth over the former’s recruiting prowess following the latter’s comments, Holder received a new contract extension that will keep him at the school through 2021.

Gundy himself is signed a year beyond that as part of the new five-year deal he inked after the 2017 season.

The new deal with Holder includes a hefty six-figure raise from the $644,371 he made from the school last year. There was a point early in his tenure where he was one of the Big 12’s lowest paid AD’s but that story has shifted significantly over the years as OSU’s budget has climbed, with the school taking in some $93 million in revenue according to the latest figures.

Given all of the new contracts, hopefully both Holder and Gundy will both have a conversation in the coming months to get back on the same page and patch up their relationship — because both are set to be attached at the hip in Stillwater for several more years.