West Virginia showcased plenty of talent in 2017, but very few fans would consider the season an outright success. If the Mountaineers want to make good on the preseason hype that’s followed them around the last two months, there are key areas from last season the new team will need to improve upon. Here are three specific facets WVU must improve if they want to be a top 15 team in 2018:
Run Defense —
It’s no secret that the Mountaineers were not very good on defense last year, but the worst category had to be rush defense. Opposing teams averaged 204.2 rushing yards a game against the Mountaineers in the 2017 campaign. In a particularly low moment for the defense, Kansas compiled a whopping 367 yards against the Mountaineers in last years game. West Virginia must improve its defense up front. This is not optional.
3rd Down Percentage —
On offense, there was a lot to cheer about last year, but third down efficiency was not one of them. Per TeamRankings.com, the Mountaineers converted 32.56 percent on 3rd down, which ranked 114th in the country. The Mountaineers often had to deal with 3rd and long instead of 3rd and short, which had an obvious negative effect on the unit. If The Mountaineers can adjust their strategy on (and before!) third down and get into the 40% range at least, look out.
Playing Four Quarters —
This is the biggest thing The Mountaineers have to adjust this year. Last year, the story was that WVU cannot play a full game. At times, The Mountaineers looked like the best team in the country, and at other times, it looked like they should be winless. It was either start fast and slow down, or start slow and heat up. If The Mountaineers can put together four quarters on a consistent basis, look for them to be in AT&T stadium on December 1.