A Little Know-Howe: Three Things WVU Fans May have Learned after First Half of 2017 Football Season

By Brad Howe on October 21, 2017 from A Little Know-Howe via Connect-Bridgeport.com

It's hard to believer, but we’ve reached the midway point of the 2017 season. Here are three things I've learned during the first half of the season.
 
Will Grier - As Good As Advertised
 
I’m somewhat surprised by this only because the expectations were so high. I realize I helped set those expectations by saying all spring and summer that I thought Grier was going to be so good he should be in the Heisman discussion.
 
That’s a high bar to get over for a guy that entered the season having not played in nearly  two calendar years. Through six games, he has cleared that bar, in my opinion. 
 
He leads the country in touchdown passes with 21. He’s currently on pace to break Geno Smith’s record for most touchdown passes in a single season.  He has complete command of this offense. You hear Dana and Jake Spavital mention it. You hear opposing coaches mention it. 
 
And more than anything, he just gives you the feeling that he's going to make a play. The offense hasn't been perfect, but we also haven't seen those long stretches where it seems feels like the gears are grinding as we have in past years. With Grier at the helm, you just have the sense that things will work out offensively. 
 
David Sills Is A Star
 
Think about what he has done. In his first full year as a wide receiver he leads the nation in touchdown receptions and has been named a midseason All-American by multiple outlets.
 
He is also already tied for second place in the WVU record book for touchdown receptions in a single season. He has 12 through the first six games.
 
Stedman Bailey’s record of 25 touchdown receptions may be nearly impossible to catch, yet Sills is on pace to do just that. Assuming he keeps his current touchdown per game average and WVU plays in a bowl game, Sills will finish the season with 26 touchdown receptions. 
 
Dana Holgorsen had this one right. He said two years ago Sills had a chance to be a pro as a receiver even though he was still a quarterback at the time. 
 
It’s been a remarkable first half for Sills and it seems as if he can get even better. Scary thought for other Big 12 schools. 
 
West Virginia Defense
 
We were spoiled. West Virginia entered the 2016 season needing to replace nearly every starter of the defensive side of the ball. Guys like Karl Joseph and KJ Dillon were off the he NFL. Dravon Askew-Henry went down with a season ending knee injury in August. 
No problem. All Gibson’s unit did was go out and be better than they were the year before. 
 
How often do you replace eight starters and improve? West Virginia’s defense did last year, leading the Big 12 in scoring defense and total defense. 
 
So what was the big deal about entering the 2017 season with eight new starters? Yes, David Long (arguably the best defender on the team), went down with an injury and would end up missing the first third of the season. 
 
Been there, done that said many Mountaineer fans. 
 
Tony Gibson tried to warn us. He joined us on our Sportsline radio show and cautioned everyone about just assuming you could plug guys in and get the same results. Replacing that many starters in back-to-back seasons is not easy. We're seeing that now. An experienced defensive line in 2016 gave way to a youth movement up front in 2017. 
 
West Virginia has used two true freshman on the defensive line already this season with Lamont McDougle earning his first start against TCU. To give you an idea how rare that is ... Greg Hunter said he could only remember one true freshman starting at nose for WVU in the last decade. 
 
In 2016, Rasul Douglas went from a rarely talked about player to the nation’s leader in interceptions and ultimately, a third round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles. This year, no one has emerged yet as that type of playmaker on the back end of the defense.
 
With David Long back in the lineup and true freshman cornerback Kenny Robinson joining McDougle and Darius Stills as true freshman getting meaningful snaps, it’s not hard to see that this defense could be very good in 2018. But, Tony Gibson can't worry about 2018. He's still got half of 2017 to worry about. 
 
We’ll continue this discussion later today as part of our pregame coverage leading up to the start of West Virginia- Baylor tonight. You can listen on radio stations around the state or stream us live at: wvmetronews.com/gameday
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Will Grier after one of his five touchdown passes last week, while David Sill is shown in the middle hauling one of them down. Bottom photo shows defensive coordinator Tony Gibson looking to make his next move against Texas Tech. Photos by Ben Queen of www.benqueenphotography.com.


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