With the top 3 finishers in the Big 12 from 2017 — Oklahoma, TCU and Oklahoma State — all putting a new starting quarterback on the field this fall, it might just be time for West Virginia to shine.
The Mountaineers are set to boast the most experienced and perhaps the most prolific passer in the conference during the 2018 season as quarterback Will Grier returns to Morgantown, W.Va., for his senior season. Grier, who turns 23 on Tuesday, passed for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns in his first season as the team’s starter last fall before a finger injury derailed his season in November.
Grier isn’t the only valuable weapon on offense that coach Dana Holgorsen will welcome back for another year in 2018. David Sills V, the team’s leader in touchdown catches during the 2017 season, will return alongside Grier for his senior season.
If all goes according to plan, West Virginia’s passing attack could just be the best in the Big 12. So, is that is enough for the Mountaineers to capture their first conference title since joining the Big 12 in time for the 2012 season?
At least one expert panel says yes.
Three Dallas Morning News sports writers, in a roundtable discussion of six, wrote that the Mountaineers — while there are no guarantees — certainly have what it takes on offense to finish on top, given all the circumstances across the Big 12.
One of those writers, columnist Kevin Sherrington, wrote that West Virginia’s offense alone could negate any issues on defense:
“Grier gives [West Virginia] the best returning QB in the league. Certainly the most experienced. And the Big 12 is still a QB league above all else. They’ve got defensive issues, but they can score on anybody, and that’ll carry them a long ways.”
That last sentence about scoring holds particularly true, if 2017 was any indicator. After scoring 24 points in a season-opening loss vs. Virginia Tech, West Virginia tallied at least 30 points on seven occasions. The Mountaineers eclipsed the 50-point mark in the three games immediately following the loss to the Hokies.
It was a different story without Grier, however, as the Mountaineers only mustered 14 points against Texas — the game which Grier exited — before posting just 14 points once again in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Utah. West Virginia did score 31 points vs. Oklahoma in between but surrendered 59 points in a lopsided defeat.
The Mountaineers will kick off the 2018 regular season with a neutral-site contest vs. Tennessee on Saturday, Sept. 1 in Charlotte, N.C. Before then, fans can see West Virginia back in action when the team holds its annual spring scrimmage on Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown.