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Florida State football schedule preview: West Virginia Mountaineers

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The ‘Noles start the season with a foe in familiar circumstances

Konica Minolta Gator Bowl - Florida State v West Virginia Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

Over the next few weeks, Tomahawk Nation is previewing Florida State football’s currently scheduled 2020 season. While questions still surround how exactly the football season will look when it’s played out, we’re proceeding with the status quo. First up, Florida State’s season opener, a non-conference, neutral site game against West Virginia.

West Virginia struggled to a 5-7 record in 2019 due to a new coaching staff inheriting a roster that wasn’t very talented. FSU fans might see a lot of similarity between 2019 West Virginia and 2018 Florida State.

A look at West Virginia as a program over the last few years:
West Virginia Wins, 2015-2019 | Figure: @SaiemGilani
West Virginia Wins, 2015-2019

West Virginia Offense

West Virginia struggled mightily to move the ball in 2019 and most of that was due to issues up front. As Football Outsiders notes the Mountaineers were dead last in offensive line yards as they struggled to block anybody.

For better or worse, most of that line is gone either to the NFL or transferring to other teams. Eight offensive linemen started at least one game for West Virginia so there is at least a modicum of experience left over, just not a lot of production.

The line was able to pass block well enough as they kept quarterbacks upright but even when they did the WVU offense struggled to find a way. Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall started the season as the Mountaineers signal caller but was never healthy and didn’t start the last three games of the season. Bowling Green transfer Jarret Doege and finished the year 2-1 but wasn’t much better from a production stand point. As to who is starting in 2020 is anybody’s guess.

The play makers at West Virginia are kind of a mixed bag. The running backs did not produce much but they also didn’t have much of an opportunity because of the difficulties the offensive line had all year. Leddie Brown is expected to get the start in the backfield but if the offensive line can’t stand up it might not matter who’s back there.

The receiving unit was slightly better in both success rate and explosive rate but didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Unfortunately they lost their most explosive receiver in former Florida State transfer George Campbell and will be looking for their returning cast to step up in terms of both consistency and explosion. Sam James and T.J. Simmons will likely get the starts outside and could cause issues for secondaries if they can take a step forward.

West Virginia Defense

The Mountaineers were better on defense but just barely. While they looked good at times they struggled with consistency. If the defense could get teams into passing downs they did a solid job of shutting down offenses but they struggled mightily to get to that point.

The defensive line could take a leap forward in 2020. The unit returns most of it’s production in brothers Dante and Darius Stills in the middle and Jeffery Pooler on the end. Both VanDarius Cowan and Taijh Alston return after injury shortened seasons and could give the unit a lift off the edge.

The same cannot be said for the back of the defense though. The Mountaineers only return two players from the secondary that got any starts in 2019. The unit wasn’t great last year so maybe an influx of change will be good. The lack of production also allows new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning to build his unit from the ground up.

Final word on the Mountaineers

2019 West Virginia was not a good team but that didn’t really come as a surprise. Neal Brown took over a program that was struggling mightily — he’ll likely get them heading in the right direction eventually but can he do so in 2020? The goal has to be to climb out of the Big 12 basement and finish the season with a bowl and that should be attainable. The Mountaineers could go a long way towards that goal with a win against Florida State to start the season.

West Virginia Wins, 2015-2019 | Figure: @SaiemGilani
West Virginia Wins, 2015-2019