When casting bold predictions about WVU Football, recent history is the obvious jumping-off point. Defensively, the 2017 season provided a drastic step back from a greedy and improved 2016 defense. During the ’16 season, Defensive Coordinator Tony Gibson’s unit finished 77th in total yards, 99th in pass yards per game, 66th in rush yards per game, 36th in points per game, 35th in interceptions and 23rd in fumble recoveries. Overall, the defense also ranked 79th in yards per game in 2016.
Most of these numbers plummeted in the 2017 season. The Mountaineers ranked 109th in total yards and 111th in yards per game. These numbers played an obvious factor in a somewhat disappointing 7-6 season.
Creating bold predictions for a defense is tough no matter what, but it’s particularly difficult for a defense that appears to be radically different from last season.
Here are my three bold predictions for West Virginia’s 2018 defense:
Bold Prediction No. 1:
The importance of adding two senior grad transfers on a weak defensive line that saw attrition cannot be overstated. Jabrill Robinson and Kenny Bigelow, who will be paired with Ezekiel Rose, Reese Donahue, the Brown brothers and the Sills brothers, will provide some much-needed experience. With all the added DL talent, West Virginia’s defensive presence at the line of scrimmage should be noticeably improved.
Bold Prediction: The Mountaineers finish in the top 20 nationally in both run defense and sacks.
Bold Prediction No. 2:
This one is more about individual player success. If West Virginia’s defense does end up having another Renaissance year, it could produce as many as three All-Americans with Rose, Dravon Askew-Henry and David Long. If multiple players turn in All-American performances this season, West Virginia will most likely be competing at the top of the Big 12.
Bold Prediction: West Virginia has multiple All-Americans on defense.
Bold Prediction No. 3:
The stockpiles of talent at programs like Oklahoma and TCU cannot be disputed. However, because of the defensive turnover that occurred with both teams, the Mountaineers could finish with the best defensive numbers in the Big 12 in 2018. When it comes to Big 12 defensive might, there could be a power vacuum at the top of the conference this year, and West Virginia has both the coordinator and the talent to step into the spotlight.
Bold Prediction: West Virginia leads the league in at least one major defensive category.