The No. 15 Virginia Tech Hokies make the trip to Morgantown on Saturday to face the West Virginia Mountaineers. The Hokies (2-0) meet the Mountaineers (1-1) in an important game for both teams.
West Virginia was best known for its high-powered offense for years, however, this group is much different. The Mountaineers will present a unique challenge to a Virginia Tech offense with plenty of talent, but hasn’t quite found its footing yet. Things were made more difficult this week when it was announced All-ACC tight end James Mitchell would miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
There’s no better way to get to know your opponent than talk to an expert on the other side. I recently spoke with Matt Kirchner from The Smoking Musket, our sister site on the SB Nation Network that does an outstanding job covering WVU.
Matt gave us some terrific insight. Here’s our chat.
1. Jarret Doege is your starting QB, how do WVU fans feel about him? I hear a lot of criticism but his numbers look solid.
Doege is the ultimate game manager quarterback. He’ll generally go out and not lose you games straight up, but he’s also shown himself to not really be capable of elevating a team and winning games by himself.
I think he’s capable, but there’s definitely a sense that he’s capped and that he’s not in a position to improve his weaknesses at this point in his career, which is the driving force behind the QB malaise in Morgantown. He is what he is, both good and bad. You can do worse, but you can also do much better.
2. Garrett Greene seems like a fun change of pace. How much of him will Virginia Tech see on Saturday?
This is the interesting wrinkle that could be a deciding factor in Saturday’ s game. Greene covers Doege’s weaknesses and definitely is worth seeing in a package going forward and I expect him to get a few scripted series. The only limiting factor would be Neal Brown’s distaste for Greene’s improvising and the risk that the young kid will be amped up to play in a rivalry game and try to do too much.
3. Tell Virginia Tech fans about RB Leddie Brown and WR Winston Wright.
Winston Wright is starting to become an x factor that West Virginia hasn’t had since Tavon Austin—a true threat to flip field position every time he touches the ball and how he fares against Virginia Tech’s elite KO coverage unit (seriously your return numbers are insane) may be the deciding factor in the game.
Leddie Brown is a great back with a nose for the end zone who will definitely get an NFL shot. That being said, he’s currently being limited by the WVU’s substandard run blocking. They will get creative in ways to get him the ball but it wouldn’t shock me if WVU goes away from the traditional run game early to avoid the run blocking matchup with the Hokie D Line.
4. Bryce Ford-Wheaton looks like a physical presence on the outside. How involved in the passing game will he be?
BFW is a mixed bag. He has all the measurables but hasn’t really put it fully together. He will definitely get his chances and can definitely make plays, but piggybacking off your next question, he’s about to have major competition.
5. Kaden Prather was a big-time get for WVU. How is he looking through two games?
Prather is, in my opinion, is about to force the issue in terms of getting on the field. You can’t pass on playing the talent, but he is currently making some freshman mistakes like giving up on routes when the ball isn’t coming to him. I think the talent wins out eventually and gets him major snaps, it just may not be this weekend.
6. Doug Nester spent two years at VT. How has he looked early on? How about the offensive line as a whole?
West Virginia’s line has probably been the biggest overall disappointment of the season which I am sure is music to Hokie ears. However, I don’t think it’s a long term disaster. They’re a young unit that’s gelling together who have a chance to still be playing together in 2-3 years which is great for an O Line.
That doesn’t change the fact that they struggled to run block against Long Island last week but is what I tell myself to cope with the short term struggles.
7. Defensively, Dante Stills is a stud. Akheem Mesidor is also good. What’s their strengths and weaknesses?
Defensive line is absolutely WVU’s deepest position led by two NFL guys in Stills and Mesidor. They can rotate in 6-7 deep with guys who are capable of making plays in the backfield. If I had to focus on a weakness it would be that sometimes they focus *too much* on quick penetration and leave themselves open to screen plays.
8. How do you feel about the WVU defense as a whole?
It’s how West Virginia will win games. We’re really the polar opposite set up from the Dana Holgorsen era in that the defense is forced to—and is capable of—covering up offensive issues.
If I had to single out an issue, it’s that they haven’t forced a game changer turnover yet which they will need to if they want to win on Saturday.
9. Finally, what’s your expectations/predictions for Saturday’s game?
I think it’s an old school, Big East, Nehlen vs Beamer throwback. Both defenses are good and will fly around. I’m taking the homefield (both Mountaineer Field and Apparel) advantage and trusting Vegas and calling a 20-17 WVU win but it could go either way. It should be a fun return of a game that needs to be played every year.