Right On Track

To steal a phrase from Dennis Green: They are who we thought they were. More specifically, West Virginia is what I thought it would be four games through the year.

The 3-1 Mountaineers are ranked in the top 25 heading into a Homecoming showdown against Bowling Green this weekend. Then, Big East Conference starts, and WVU is still the favorites to win the league.

WVU – as many expected – lost to No. 1 LSU. But, the Mountaineers gave the Tigers a fight before losing 47-21.

After the game, the players were saddened like I hadn't seen them since losing to East Carolina in 2008. For the first time in a while, I saw players who were adversely affected by the loss. The looks on their faces told me that any more losses simply wouldn't be tolerated.

For that reason, and many more, I see a lot of hope for West Virginia this year. Sure, the LSU game ended in a loss. But, I saw what I had expected to see – a team filled with talent and the ability to get better.

West Virginia has already seen major dividends from the head coaching change when head coach Dana Holgorsen took over for former head coach Bill Stewart earlier this year.

He is everything I thought he'd be … and more. He's not only a great offensive coordinator but a solid head coach, as well.

There's an added sense of energy around the WVU program. Things are changing – and it's not just the photos on the Puskar Center walls.

The Mountaineers have an effective offense for the first time since the 2007 season, and the numbers show a significant improvement in that area.

Players are stepping up like quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. All three are future all-Big East players if they keep up the good work.

The new offense has an identity for the first time in a long time. It will find a weakness and exploit it. It found something against LSU last weekend that other teams couldn't find in the last six seasons.

It's the real deal.

Defensively, there have been struggles. But, those should've been and probably were expected.

There isn't the veteran leadership, experience – and talent to a certain extent – that was there a year ago. There's no J.T. Thomas, Chris Neild, Scooter Berry or Brandon Hogan to rely on.

Teams have caught on to defensive end Bruce Irvin and defensive tackle Julian Miller, as opponents are throwing the ball much quicker. In turn, WVU isn't getting the interceptions or sacks it had in 2010. In addition, the Mountaineers aren't tackling as well, either.

I have learned a lot about what West Virginia will be like under Holgorsen. And, I've yet to find something to dislike looking forward.

The Mountaineers' program will be on the verge of one of the nation's elite again soon. I'm not sure if it will be next season – or three or four down the road – but it will happen as long as Holgorsen's in charge.


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