Big 12

College Football Podcast: Baylor, Ole Miss and the Countdown to Kickoff

The guys tackle some tough topics following a news-filled Memorial Day weekend.
College Football Podcast: Baylor, Ole Miss and the Countdown to Kickoff

Braden Gall, David Fox and Mitch Light are back in the booth talking the latest in college football.

 

- Mitch's 14-year old daughter explains satellite camps in one sentence.

 

- What were our reactions when we found out Baylor fired Art Briles? What (or who) could be next for the Bears? Has Baylor done enough to keep the NCAA at bay and should the NCAA be involved at all? How does Jim Grobe fit in and how have our preseason projections changed on Baylor? How is this situation different than Tennessee?

 

More Stories:

Athlon Sports College Football 2016 Team Rankings 1-128

Athlon ranks every team for the 2016 season.
College Football 2016 Team Rankings 1-128

The 2016 college football season is less than 100 days away, but the countdown to kickoff is officially underway. Athlon Sports’ 2016 College Football Preview annuals are already on newsstands across the county and available for order in the online store, . Each year, Athlon Sports produces regional preview magazines for the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, as well as a national edition with previews for all 128 teams.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016 PRESEASON TOP 25

#71 Iowa State Cyclones

NATIONAL FORECAST

#71

Big 12 PREDICTION

#9

HEAD COACH: Matt Campbell, First Season | OFF. COORDINATOR: Tom Manning | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jon Heacock

Previewing Iowa State’s Offense in 2016 
 

Matt Campbell made it very clear on the day that he was introduced as Iowa State’s head football coach: This is a program that will have success running the football. He has a great starting point in Mike Warren, a sophomore who ran for more yardage than any other freshman running back in college football last season.

Joel Lanning, who started half of his sophomore season in 2015, looks to be a very capable dual-threat Big 12 quarterback. Lanning is a bulldozer of a runner but needs to be more accurate than the 55 percent mark he finished with last year. “We have seen him have great success on the football field,” Campbell says. “Now we need to harness his ability.”

Iowa State is loaded at wide receiver, led by Allen Lazard, who should be one of the best pass catchers in the Big 12 in his junior campaign. Senior Dondre Daley is another capable target.
 
It’s the offensive line that has people in Ames concerned, and rightfully so after the unit lost a combined 111 starts from last season. Left tackle Jake Campos is the only Cyclone returning to this unit who has more than one start to his name. Due to graduation and attrition, Campbell’s offensive staff essentially has to start from scratch up front, which is a major problem for any football team at any level of the game. Regardless of how the summer goes, the Campbell staff will likely be playing musical chairs on the offensive line all season long. 

 

, which includes an in-depth look at all 10 conference teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Previewing Iowa State’s Defense in 2016 
 

Eight starters return for an Iowa State defense that should take a significant step forward after ranking 107th in the nation last year. The Cyclones should be average-to-strong up front and very good on the back end. 
What happens in the middle at linebacker is the great unknown, and the question marks about this group grew after Jordan Harris decided to transfer in June. Willie Harvey at Will has a lot of potential, but he needs to work on the mental aspect of the game with a new coaching staff. 

Demond Tucker, the 2015 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, is one of the best tackles in the Big 12 and will carry the front four. Jhaustin Thomas has as much potential as any defensive end that Iowa State has seen in years. 
In Brian Peavy, Jomal Wiltz, Nigel Tribune and Jay Jones, Iowa State has four quality cornerbacks, which is key in the Big 12. Meanwhile, Kamari Cotton-Moya is an All-Big 12-caliber free safety. 

 

Previewing Iowa State’s Specialists in 2016 
 

There isn’t much margin for error at Iowa State, so when games come down to a chip-shot field goal, the Cyclones need to be consistent. Kicker Cole Netten struggled with that early last year before ending the season on a 7-of-7 streak after a 7-of-12 start. There’s no drama here, though. Netten, a senior, is the guy, while junior Colin Downing is a quality punter. Junior Trever Ryen is not only a versatile offensive player, but he also has the potential to be a game changer on punt and kick returns.  

Final Analysis
 

On his way out the door, former head coach Paul Rhoads predicted that the Cyclones would go to a bowl game in 2016. That was before injuries and attrition severely impacted the offensive line, but his point still stands: This is a talented football team, especially at the skill positions. Once again, the Cyclones will face one of the tougher schedules in college football; however, if a few bounces go their way, Rhoads could end up being right. One thing is for sure: After bringing in the top-ranked recruiting class in school history after being on the job for only two months, Matt Campbell has an energetic fan base fully in his corner. 




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016 PRESEASON TOP 25

#99 Kansas Jayhawks

NATIONAL FORECAST

#99

Big 12 PREDICTION

#10

HEAD COACH: David Beaty, 0-12 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: David Beaty | DEF. COORDINATOR: Clint Bowen, Kenny Perry

When David Beaty took the head coaching job at , he knew the road ahead would not be easy. That belief became reality last season, as the Jayhawks went 0-12, including a loss to FCS member South Dakota State. The Jayhawks return 12 starters and Beaty now has a year of experience under his belt. But make no mistake, Kansas is a long ways away from bowl contention. Right now the Jayhawks' primary goal is to get that first win for their head coach.

Follow Athlon Sports on Twitter:

Previewing Kansas’ Offense in 2016


After losing its top three quarterbacks to season-ending injuries last season, KU had more bad luck in spring practices, as incumbent Ryan Willis was a limited participant after suffering a right wrist injury in early March. He still is the favorite to win the job after starting the last eight games as a true freshman, completing 52 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. 

Running back Ke’aun Kinner returns as one of KU’s most proven offensive players, and he hopes that his production will improve in 2016 after he played through a torn labrum and deep thigh contusion in the second half. Kinner, who was the National Junior College Offensive Player of the Year in 2014, rushed for more than 110 yards in each of his first two games at KU before suffering his leg injury Oct. 3 against Iowa State, though he still played in every contest.

LaQuvionte Gonzalez should highlight KU’s receiving corps after sitting out following a transfer from Texas A&M, and he provides an element of speed and playmaking ability that was absent a season ago. Steven Sims and Jeremiah Booker also have taken steps forward after being thrust into major roles during their true freshman seasons in 2015.

KU offensive line coach Zach Yenser believes his players are better and more confident than they were a season ago, but that doesn’t change the reality that the unit is still young and needs to improve. Yenser does have some veterans upon whom he can rely, starting with senior left tackle Jordan Shelley-Smith, senior guard D’Andre Banks and junior center Joe Gibson.

, which includes an in-depth look at all 10 conference teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Previewing Kansas’ Defense in 2016


Safety Fish Smithson is the team’s top returner defensively, as he led the nation in solo tackles per game (7.9) in 2015. Brandon Stewart returns as the top corner, though he battled injuries much of 2015.

KU’s top linemen are all sophomores, led by pass-rush specialist Dorance Armstrong, who had 3.5 sacks and four pass breakups as a true freshman in 2015. Tackles Daniel Wise and D.J. Williams also are part of a young core that was able to get early experience.

KU has some stability at its starting linebacker spots, beginning with Lawrence native Joe Dineen, who finished second on the team in tackles (86) and tackles for a loss (6.5). South Carolina transfer Marcquis Roberts returns for his senior season after ranking third in tackles last year.

Related: 

Previewing Kansas’ Specialists in 2016


After vowing that his team would overemphasize special teams, KU coach David Beaty saw the Jayhawks regress last season, moving from 121st in FootballOutsiders.com’s rankings to 127th (out of 128 teams). New special teams coach Joe DeForest has put an emphasis on his guys playing faster with freer minds, though he admits that this year could be a challenge based on personnel. Senior kicker Matthew Wyman returns, and though he has a strong leg, he’s been inconsistent with accuracy the last three seasons. The biggest question is with the team’s other kicker; DeForest was honest in April when saying KU didn’t have a punter yet.

Final Analysis
 

Beaty is entering his second year with some added pressure from an unlikely source: himself. After going 0–12 last season, Beaty upped the stakes at the beginning of spring football when he announced that he would be taking over as the team’s play-caller while demoting offensive coordinator Rob Likens. Though it’s admirable that Beaty is putting his name on the offense, he also is putting his neck on the line for both the team’s overall performance and its scoring ability. If either is disappointing in 2016, the criticism on the coach will come quickly — and could be warranted if he appears to have taken on too much before picking up his first victory as a Division I head coach.

The Debate

What Grade Did David Beaty Get in His First Year at Kansas?

Click here to join the debate.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016 PRESEASON TOP 25

#48 Kansas State Wildcats

NATIONAL FORECAST

#48

Big 12 PREDICTION

#8

HEAD COACH: Bill Snyder, 193-101-1 (24 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Dana Dimel, Del Miller | DEF. COORDINATOR: Tom Hayes

Kansas State was hit hard by injuries last season, but the Wildcats could be poised for a quick rebound in 2016. A Bill Snyder-coached team is always a dangerous opponent in the Big 12, and this year's version could surprise if the right pieces fall into place on offense. The defense returns standout talents in linebacker Elijah Lee and linemen Will Geary and Jordan Willis. Getting back to a bowl game is a reasonable expectation, but the Wildcats are aiming higher for 2016.

Follow Athlon Sports on Twitter:

Previewing Kansas State’s Offense
 

K-State’s quarterback situation last season may best be described as a nightmare. Starter Jesse Ertz was lost for the year on the season’s opening drive due to a torn ACL in his right knee. Then potential backup Alex Delton was ruled out for the season the following week with a knee issue of his own. Injuries left the Wildcats with little choice but to hand the offense to Joe Hubener, a former walk-on who served as the backup passer on his high school team.

That led to undesirable results. K-State completed 47 percent of its passes, and the Wildcats ranked 113th nationally in passing efficiency. Not surprisingly, K-State lost its first six conference games and had to rally to reach a bowl. Those numbers must improve drastically for K-State to win in 2016. Bill Snyder is hopeful they will. He will look to Ertz and Delton to lead the charge. Both players have recovered from their knee issues, and both showed flashes of brilliance during spring practices. Ertz blew away the competition in spring and summer practices a year ago, and his strong arm makes him the favorite to reclaim his starting spot. But Delton brings speed and dual-threat capabilities to the position.

Whoever wins the starting spot will be surrounded by promising skill players. Charles Jones, Dalvin Warmack and Justin Silmon all return at running back. Byron Pringle, Isaiah Zuber and Denzel Goolsby will strengthen K-State’s receiving corps. The biggest question mark comes up front. The Wildcats lost four starters from their offensive line to graduation.

Previewing Kansas State’s Defense

, which includes an in-depth look at all 10 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

K-State coaches compared their secondary to a revolving door last season. At one point, the unit had so many injuries that Snyder asked defensive coordinator Tom Hayes which defensive backs he could expect to play the following week. And Hayes didn’t have an answer. K-State’s secondary was thought to be a strength in the preseason, but it quickly became a weakness. The return of Dante Barnett, an all-conference safety, should make a world of difference. He missed all but one game last season with an injury and is now back for his fifth season. Barnett is the quarterback of K-State’s defense. With Kendall Adams playing alongside him, it should be much harder for teams to throw on the Wildcats. Duke Shelley will lead the way at corner after a promising freshman season in which he flashed moments of brilliance in pass coverage. Cal transfer Cedric Dozier should play opposite him.

With a veteran group returning up front and in the middle, K-State has the makings of a promising defense. Linebacker Elijah Lee led the team with 80 tackles last season, and Charmeachealle Moore came on strong at the end of his junior season. Jordan Willis, Tanner Wood and Will Geary should all be formidable players on the defensive line.

Previewing Kansas State’s Specialists
 

It won’t be easy to replace record-setting kickoff returner Morgan Burns. Then again, replacing gifted kickoff returner Tyler Lockett seemed like a tall order before Burns logged multiple touchdown returns last season. The Wildcats will look to Dominique Heath, Warmack and others to replace Burns. K-State should feel comfortable at kicker, where Matthew McCrane didn’t miss last season, converting seven field goals and 15 extra points. Nick Walsh returns as punter after averaging 41.6 yards last season.

Final Analysis
 

K-State suffered its first losing season under Snyder since 2005 last fall. Many factors, including injuries, led to the 6-7 record, but the Wildcats aren’t making excuses. They are eager to bounce back. Healthy quarterbacks plus a veteran defense provide a nucleus for success. But the Wildcats will face a rigorous schedule that begins with a road game against Stanford.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016 PRESEASON TOP 25

#43 Texas Longhorns

NATIONAL FORECAST

#43

Big 12 PREDICTION

#7

HEAD COACH: Charlie Strong, 11-14 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Sterlin Gilbert | DEF. COORDINATOR: Vance Bedford

In a must-win year for coach Charlie Strong, the pressure is on in Austin. The Longhorns definitely gained some positive momentum after bringing in some blue-chippers on signing day this past spring, but will that be enough? New coordinator Sterlin Gilbert was brought aboard to bring significant improvement to the offense, and there's quarterback uncertainty exiting spring ball. The defense should be solid, especially with the development of sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson. Alumni are getting antsy and this season will be a sign of where things are going- either north or south, there is no in between.  

Follow Athlon Sports on Twitter:

Previewing Texas’ Offense

Charlie Strong and Texas had to give new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert a guaranteed three-year deal at $850,000 annually, in part because back-to-back losing seasons have raised doubts about Strong’s own job security. But if Gilbert, an Art Briles disciple, can get anywhere close to an offense resembling Baylor’s, it will have been money well spent.

In many ways, Gilbert and laser-armed freshman quarterback Shane Buechele, the top QB recruit in Texas in 2016, hold the keys to putting the Longhorns back on the path to prominence — and possibly to Strong’s survival. It’s clear Strong likes Gilbert’s simplified, up-tempo scheme with Buechele, an early enrollee who lit up spring football, running it. “Players know players — and they’ll tell me, ‘Shane’s a baller.’ He’s going to play in the fall,” says Strong of Buechele, the son of former Texas Rangers infielder Steve Buechele.

Outside receivers John Burt and 6'6", 212-pound early enrollee Collin Johnson have what it takes to spread defenses from sideline to sideline. That should help make defensive fronts vulnerable to the Longhorns’ “Thunderstorm” running back combination of 238-pound junior D’Onta Foreman and 255-pound sophomore Chris Warren III.

Previewing Texas’ Defense
, which includes an in-depth look at all 10 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

The good news is Texas desperately needed defensive tackles in the 2016 recruiting class — and landed five highly recruited prospects: four-stars Jordan Elliott, Chris Daniels and Marcel Southall as well as three-stars D’Andre Christmas-Giles and Gerald Wilbon of Louisiana. The bad news is — because of thin numbers — some or all are going to be relied upon immediately by a defense that gave up 219.2 yards per game on the ground last season.

“The defensive line is a big concern,” Strong says. “Those freshmen are going to have to come in ready to play.”

Sophomore ends Charles Omenihu and Breckyn Hager as well as linebacker Malik Jefferson, a Freshman All-American in 2015, should be able to generate a pass rush — so long as the defense can get into obvious passing situations.

The secondary is overflowing with top-end talent. Sophomore cornerbacks Davante Davis and Holton Hill both played fearlessly as freshmen. Versatile sophomore linebacker Anthony Wheeler and hard-hitting sophomore safety DeShon Elliott appear poised for breakout seasons in 2016.

Previewing Texas’ Specialists

Poor special teams have played a role in at least three losses over the past two seasons under Strong (UCLA in 2014, Cal and Oklahoma State in 2015). The third-year head coach didn’t exactly comfort fans after spring practice when he admitted he still needed a field goal kicker because three walk-ons failed to impress.

Final Analysis
 

Clearly, Strong believes that Gilbert’s new offense — most likely with Buechele at QB — is going to be a huge upgrade over last year’s three-and-out-a-thon. In the spring, Buechele’s accuracy, moxie and poise set him apart from senior Tyrone Swoopes and sophomore Jerrod Heard.

Texas fans are hoping for the same type of turnaround TCU experienced when Gary Patterson ditched his run-first, pro-style offense and brought in Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie as co-OCs to spread things out. The Horned Frogs, 23–3 since the move, went from 25.1 points per game in 2013 to 46.5 points per game in 2014.

If the Longhorns could get even half of that increase on offense and be solid on defense and special teams, there’s a lot of young talent that could turn 2016 into a surprise year in Austin. The first five games will determine if the Longhorns are finally contenders. Texas opens at home against Notre Dame and plays road games at Cal and Oklahoma State before facing Oklahoma in Game 5.

The Debate

Should Texas start Shane Buechele at quarterback?

Click here to join the debate.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016 PRESEASON TOP 25

#42 Texas Tech Red Raiders

NATIONAL FORECAST

#42

Big 12 PREDICTION

#6

HEAD COACH: Kliff Kingsbury, 19-19 (3 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Eric Morris | DEF. COORDINATOR: David Gibbs

Having Patrick Mahomes - one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12 - will be a big help, but will those around him make the offense flourish? Texas Tech must replace standout receiver Jakeem Grant and running back DeAndre Washington, and the offensive line has to be rebuilt. Coach Kliff Kingsbury is an offensive mastermind, but the defense also has to make major strides in 2016. Coordinator David Gibbs is in his second year and should ease the growing pains of a young defense.

Follow Athlon Sports on Twitter:

Previewing Texas Tech’s Offense

Following a season that saw the Red Raiders set a program record for points scored, Kliff Kingsbury’s Texas Tech offense will look to replace a number of departing seniors in critical positions, namely leading receiver Jakeem Grant, leading rusher DeAndre Washington and left tackle Le’Raven Clark. It’s not all bad news on offense, as quarterback Pat Mahomes returns and will look to build off of his highlight-stuffed sophomore campaign.

There’s competition at both running back and receiver. At tailback, Justin Stockton looks to be the frontrunner to start, as he’s proven himself to be an electric home run hitter. The Red Raiders will have plenty of size at outside receiver, thanks to the arrival of junior college transfer Derrick Willies and the return of Dylan Cantrell from injury. Slot receivers Cam Batson, Ian Sadler and juco transfer De’Quan Bowman will all have opportunities to make noise, too.

The offensive line will be young but talented, anchored by veteran guard Baylen Brown.

Previewing Texas Tech’s Defense

, which includes an in-depth look at all 10 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

The Red Raider defense, like the team’s offense, also set records in 2015. Unfortunately for coordinator David Gibbs, they weren’t positive. Texas Tech surrendered the most points (43.6 ppg) in school history, to go along with its Big 12-worst 279.9 rushing yards allowed per game. It wasn’t all bad for the Red Raiders, as they did make huge strides in gaining turnovers, forcing 25. Now in his second season at Tech, Gibbs is hopeful that stability in the scheme will translate into improvement on the field.

The core of the Tech defense is comprised of three sophomores: defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko, linebacker D’Vonta Hinton and safety Jah’Shawn Johnson. That group will lead as the rest of the picture comes into focus, and it’s a solid quartet around whom Gibbs can build. This unit was dealt an offseason setback when sophomore linebacker Dakota Allen was dismissed from the team in May.

Transfers, such as defensive end Kolin Hill (Notre Dame) and nose tackle Ondre Pipkins (Michigan), are being counted on to come in and contribute right away. Those two newcomers, along with Fehoko and end Gary Moore, are the only players on the defensive line with legitimate experience.

In the secondary, it will be a battle of youth versus experience as seniors such as Paul Banks and Justis Nelson will have to fight off D.J. Polite-Bray and several true freshmen.

Previewing Texas Tech’s Specialists

Sophomore Clayton Hatfield returns as Texas Tech’s primary placekicker after connecting on 14-of-16 field goals last season and making 53-of-54 PATs. Michael Barden replaces Taylor Symmank on punting duties, and he has some big shoes to fill as Symmank garnered some All-Big 12 recognition during his career. Stockton is expected to be the primary kick returner now that Grant is gone, a natural progression for the speedy San Antonio native. Punt returner could be a close competition between incumbent Batson and newcomer De’Quan Bowman, who was one of the most electric punt returners in junior college a year ago.

Final Analysis
 

Texas Tech enters 2016 needing to replace several critical pieces on offense and defense, but those losses should be softened by the return of Mahomes, one of the best quarterbacks in the country. It’s probably too much to expect another record-setting season on offense, but the potential for elite production is there as long as players in vital roles step up to support Mahomes.

Defensively, the youth movement is on. The young core of Fehoko, Hinton, and Johnson is promising, but overall experience is scary low across the board, and the depth situation is just as frightening. Success may come only in the form of baby steps this fall.  A 7–5 or 8–4 season is likely in the cards for the Red Raiders, as so many new players will have to take on vital roles. 

The Debate

Where does Patrick Mahomes rank among the nation's best quarterbacks?

Click here to join the debate.




5 Coaching Candidates to Replace Art Briles at Baylor in 2017

Who will be the next full-time coach for Baylor?
5 Coaching Candidates to Replace Art Briles at Baylor in 2017

Art Briles’ tenure at Baylor ended on Thursday, as the 60-year-old coach was fired as a result of the findings from the Pepper Hamilton investigation into football program and athletic department. With Briles out, defensive coordinator Phil Bennett will serve as the program’s head coach for the 2016 season. While Bennett has previous head coaching experience and is a veteran assistant, it’s unlikely the program will keep this current staff in place after this season. Instead, a full house cleaning of the staff is likely in order.

 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016 PRESEASON TOP 25

#40 West Virginia Mountaineers

NATIONAL FORECAST

#40

Big 12 PREDICTION

#5

HEAD COACH: Dana Holgorsen, 36-28 (5 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Joe Wickline | DEF. COORDINATOR: Tony Gibson

Is 2016 a make-or-break year for coach Dana Holgorsen? It certainly seems that way. Provided quarterback Skyler Howard picks up where he left off in the bowl game, the Mountaineers should have one of the Big 12's top offenses. However, there's concern on defense with a revamped back seven. A new-look secondary will be tested in the offensive-minded Big 12. West Virginia has the talent to push for eight wins, but if this team gets off to a slow start, will the coaching uncertainty impact the Mountaineers?        

Follow Athlon Sports on Twitter:

Previewing West Virginia’s Offense

The fortunes of WVU — and perhaps embattled coach Dana Holgorsen — will rest on a strong offense in 2016. Quarterback Skyler Howard and seven other starters — including four of the five along the line — return on offense from 2015.

Howard tumbled in national statistics throughout much of last season but finished strong by throwing for 532 yards and five touchdowns against a porous Arizona State secondary in a Cactus Bowl victory.

“Skyler has a lot of ball under his belt,” Holgorsen says. “A lot. He should be a ton better this year.”

At running back, WVU lost the services of Wendell Smallwood but returns former high school All-American Rushel Shell and signed three highly regarded recruits. Kennedy McKoy shined in spring drills.

The Mountaineer receiving corps is strong. Returning is Daikiel Shorts, who led WVU with 45 receptions last year, and Shelton Gibson, who led the Mountaineers with 887 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Gary Jennings, Jovon Durante and Ka’Raun White are also threats.

WVU has bodies along the offensive line. Those bodies just need to improve. That’s why Holgorsen brought in assistant Joe Wickline to coach this unit. Former Michigan transfer Kyle Bosch, a guard, is the standout of this group.

Previewing West Virginia’s Defense

, which includes an in-depth look at all 10 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

If WVU’s season turns sour, it will be because of the defensive side. Twelve lettermen, including eight starters, are gone from last season’s team. Holgorsen, though, was upbeat in the spring. “The defense looks the same to me,” he said. “If you look at the first-string defense right now, it’s made up of juniors and seniors.”

Holgorsen says that the Mountaineer defensive line is “at a better place than it’s ever been” since he hit Morgantown. Two of the three starters return, and there is depth. Keep any eye on ends Noble Nwachukwu and Christian Brown. Nwachukwu was one of the conference’s sack leaders last season with 8.5. “We have a plan of attack for him,” says line coach Bruce Tall.

The linebacking corps, however, has a gaping hole after the loss of all three starters from last season’s 3-3-5 odd stack. The man most are looking at to lead the corps is Xavier Preston at the strong-side position, although he’s expected to miss the first game for disciplinary reasons.

WVU also lost serious talent at defensive back: Karl Joseph, Daryl Worley and K.J. Dillon. That puts the spotlight on free safety Dravon Askew-Henry, a junior who has been starting since his freshman year. Junior college transfer Kyzir White could start at Spur. The Mountaineers made a late addition to the secondary with the arrival of graduate transfer Maurice Fleming from Iowa. 

Previewing West Virginia’s Specialists

There was uncertainty in the spring about the status of strong-legged field goal kicker Josh Lambert, but he will be available in the fall after a three-game suspension. Gone is punter Nick O’Toole, one of the nation’s best last season, and steady snapper John DePalma. Sophomore Billy Kinney is expected to punt, while junior Nick Meadows is expected to snap. The explosive Gibson is again expected to return kicks, and Jennings is set to return punts.

Final Analysis
 

West Virginia has won almost entirely via offense before, and it might have to in 2016 in order to return to a bowl game, and, perhaps, save Holgorsen’s job. Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson has to perform magic with new linebackers and a suspect secondary. The good news for Holgorsen is that his Mountaineers diced up Arizona State’s secondary in the Cactus Bowl, and almost every offensive weapon returns. Howard will have to be more consistent, but he has plenty of weapons, and the running game with Shell, McKoy and four returning line starters should be strong. 

The Debate

Where does Dana Holgorsen rank among Big 12 coaches?

Click here to join the debate.




Ranking the Big 12's College Football Coaches for 2016

Oklahoma's Bob Stoops ranks No. 1.
Ranking the Big 12's College Football Coaches for 2016

Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

 

Pages