A Little Know-Howe: With the 2019-20 College Season Upon Us, Thoughts on WVU Football and Hoops

By Brad Howe on August 17, 2019 from A Little Know-Howe via Connect-Bridgeport.com

It was a busy week in Morgantown leading up to the return of the students today. Here are a couple of the stories we have been following:
 
WVU Football Changing of the Guard
 
With the Mountaineers just two weeks away from the season opening game against James Madison, we didn’t expect to see a major position change from one of the team’s best players.
 
Yet we did. 
 
Josh Sills, the talented redshirt junior offensive lineman, moved from guard to center earlier in the week. Sills hasn’t snapped since early in his high school career, but the early reviews were good. Neal Brown said he was struggling to remember a single bad snap from Sills during his first practice at center.
 
Given how talented Sills is there isn’t much doubt that he’ll be good regardless of what position he occupies along the offensive line. The question now becomes who replaces HIM at guard.
 
Chase Berendt, James Gmiter and junior college transfer, John Hughes have been getting the bulk of the reps. All may play, but which one starts is a key question heading into the final week of training camp.
 
Offensive line play is rarely given its due in terms of importance. You won’t find a single championship team with bad offensive line play. 
 
Can you hide average line play if you are uber-talented at the quarterback and receiver positions? Yes. But, long term, title-winning success … no chance. I realize this Mountaineer team is a long way from being ready to compete for Big 12 title, but getting above average play from the guys up front may be even more critical than usual. 
 
The clear strength of this year’s team is at running back where four players that have seen action return. Kennedy McKoy, Martell Pettaway and Leddie Brown combined for 1,871 yards on the ground and 18 rushing touchdowns in 2018.  Alec Sinkfield added 68 yards and one touchdown while being limited due to injuries.
 
With no Will Grier, David Sills, Gary Jennings, Marcus Simms or Trevon Wesco, WVU will have to run the ball effectively or it will be a long fall in Morgantown. If the offensive line struggles, that talented group of backs won’t come close to realizing its potential. 
 
Basketball Returns From Spain
 
The WVU basketball team returned this week from a successful 3-0 trip to Spain. I know, I know. The level of competition was nowhere close to what the Mountaineers will see when the season begins. I get it. But, that doesn’t mean the trip wasn’t beneficial. 
 
Even though the Mountaineers made the trip without McDonald’s All-American Oscar Tshiebwe we still got a taste for what this group will look like come November.
 
Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil showed flashes of the long range shooting so badly needed in Morgantown. Freshman Deuce McBride backed up the talk from the coaches that he would be a guy that could play right away. McBride showed he could knock down shots, defend and even rebound. 
 
Jordan McCabe continued his unusually fast recovery from off season knee surgery. He was a walking highlight reel in game two of the trip with multiple no-look passes. Expect him to continue the improvement you saw late last season.
 
Emmitt Matthews is a guy poised for a breakout season. The sophomore has added size and continues to show his versatility. Derek Culver was a beast. 
 
The standout of the trip for WVU, however, was Logan Routt. Often the tallest player on the floor, Routt displayed nice touch around the basket and ran the floor extremely well. I thought Routt looked so good (averaged 17 points and 7.7 rebounds per game) he could have just stayed in Spain and signed a professional contract with a club there.
 
Were there bright spots? Yes. A bunch of them. But, this team still has a long way to go before it is Big 12 ready.
 
Remember, the core of this team is still extremely young. McCabe, Matthews and Derek Culver (who put up 26 points and 12 rebounds in the third game in Spain) are ultra-talented, but still just sophomores.
 
The trio has started just 41 games combined in their careers. For comparisons sake … Jevon Carter started 37 games in his SENIOR SEASON (and 112 for his career).
 
Improvement is on the horizon for this group. How much improvement will be the question?
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows WVU offensive lineman Josh Sills, while Kennedy McKoy is shown scoring last year vs. TCU. Jordan McCabe, third photo, and Emmitt Matthews, bottom, are shown from action last year. Top photo courtesy of WVU Sports Communications, while bottom three photos by Ben Queen of www.benqueenphotography.com.


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