Friday, June 13, 2014
Mailbag: West Va. outlook, McLane Stadium
By Jake Trotter
In this week's mailbag we discuss Baylor's stadium, West Virginia's 2014 outlook and whether Nebraska and Colorado are better off in their new leagues.
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To the 'bag:
Jimmy in Austin, Texas, writes: As a recent grad of Baylor, I am so pumped about our new stadium. Based on projections of what it will look like, how would you rate it compared to other Big 12 venues?
Trotter: That’s impossible to say without having seen the finished product in person. But it could be a game-changer for Baylor, which has had to overcome Floyd Casey Stadium and other mediocre facilities in the past in recruiting. Those will no longer be a hindrance, which is scary considering how well Art Briles and his staff have recruited in the past despite it. Ask me this question again in September and I will be able to give McLane Stadium a proper rating relative to the other Big 12 venues.
Bob Stricker in Alvin, Texas, writes: I was impressed with Marcus Johnson's production in 2013, given his limited playing time. His footwork on the sidelines and polished route running for a sophomore indicate a substantial upside. His speed and ability to separate (see wheel route vs. Oklahoma) might be his most outstanding asset. I can't find a 40 time listed for him. Do you have one?
Trotter: I’ve heard 4.3, which is really fast. Outside of Tyreek Hill, it might be the fastest time in the Big 12. I honestly don’t know. That brings up this thought – wouldn’t it be fun to have summer combine featuring the top returning players in the Big 12? If ESPN broadcasted that, wouldn’t you watch?
Shaun in Old Bridge, N.J., writes: With the West Virginia QB spot still being as shaky and the running back corps being as deep as it is, don't you think the offense should be run around the RBs' talents more?
Trotter: Sure, but remember who your coach is. West Virginia is only going to run the ball so much. But I agree, he needs to run the ball more. The Mountaineers ranked eighth in the Big 12 in rushing attempts per game. With that running back position stable and veteran run-blocking guards Quinton Spain and Mark Glowinski, West Virginia would be wise to establish the run more often.
David in Virginia writes: WVU went into the fourth quarter of Texas, Texas Tech and Iowa State with the lead. Had it held the lead until the end of those games, it would have finished 7-5. There has been a lot of talk about how the offense needs improvement, but the offense did their job in these games to get the lead and then the defense gave it away. That being said, do you see the offense or defense being a bigger issue for WVU next year?
Trotter: I’d call the offense the bigger concern, simply because of uncertainty with the quarterback position. The rest of the offense looks pretty good on paper. But if the quarterback play is shaky, that paper won’t amount to much. Depth is what killed the defense late in the season last year, after a host of injuries. This should be a deeper and more seasoned defense that also added a really good assistant in the offseason in Tom Bradley, who will bring composure to the unit.
Raymond Boggess in Charleston, West Virginia, writes: I really believe the Big 12 is sleeping on WVU after a rough start in the conference. I'm not saying WVU will win the conference or be world-beaters in 2014, but I believe it will finish in the top four in the conference. Am I being too optimistic, or is the Big 12 in for a wake-up call?
Trotter: With the fourth-most returning player starts in the league, West Virginia will have a veteran team. But top four sounds way too optimistic for a program that has gone 6-12 its first two seasons in a big-boy league.
Mike T. in Dallas writes: It's been a few years now since Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12. Do you think the two schools are happier or feel like they made a mistake? I’m not asking about Mizzou or A&M, since they haven't been gone long enough.
Trotter: Neither would admit they made a mistake, but I can’t imagine either move has gone as they had imagined. Last December, I did a conference realignment scorecard for every team that changed conferences in the last five years. I gave Nebraska a “C,” and Colorado an “F.” Nebraska is going to be in the Big Ten division opposite Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, which I guess will make for an easier road to the Big Ten championship game, but it's also less desirable home schedules. Nebraska’s new big “rival” these days is Iowa, which hardly moves the needle. It’s hard to remember whether Colorado even fields a football team anymore, as it has seemingly become so irrelevant. I still think it’s too soon to give a determination on whether either made a mistake. But so far, it’s difficult to make the case that either is better off.