MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–On Wednesday the Big 12 Media Preseason Poll came out and West Virginia was picked to finish eighth while ESPN’s Football Power Index has the Mountaineers listed as a favorite in just two games.
It’s a rebuilding year in Morgantown.
Head coach Neal Brown took the reigns over in January. Superstar players like Will Grier, David Sills V, Gary Jennings Jr., Yodny Cajuste and David Long Jr. have moved on to the NFL.
With that being said, hopes aren’t high for a successful season for WVU. However, the football team isn’t letting the lack of star power or the deprivation of respect bring them down.
Instead, the Mountaineers are using the negativity to fuel the fire.
“Having a target on your back you got to work hard but being an underdog, you know you got to fight for something,” junior wide receiver T.J. Simmons said. “You know that you got people ahead of you that you got to try and knock down. You got the big dog that you want to take out. So it gives us a chip on our shoulder, gives us an edge. It just makes us want to work harder and just play our best during the season.”
While the big names give fans the “wow factor” or give the media something to be hyped about, football is a team sport and no one person makes up a team.
“Star power is great,” senior defensive lineman Reese Donahue said. “I get that and it’s a big wow factor for the crowd but ultimately does one person win a football game? No. Does two people win a football game? No. It helps, it really does help but having one or two people that doesn’t matter. What makes a team, the reason it’s a team is that it takes multiple people to win a game.
“Ultimately, all this hype about not having this and not having star power, I don’t play into that. What it means to me is that the closer you are as a unit because in reality, if you got three of whoever you want or four of whoever you want on the d-line, coach Lesley is going to roll in 10 to 12 guys a game and you can only play 30 or 40 snaps before you are gassed and one guy might not be as talented as the other but if he is playing at 100 percent and the better guy is playing at 80, you might as well play the guy playing at 100 percent. Ultimately, this is a collective, team game. You can’t play and win with one or two people.”
One thing is certain. West Virginia is a state of hard working, blue collared men and women and so is the WVU football team.
“Everybody on this football team wouldn’t have got here without hard work and dedication,” senior offensive lineman Josh Sills said.
Hard work paved the way for the success of players of the past just as it will the future stars.
“Last year we had a lot of star power but they didn’t rely on that,” Sills added. “They relied on hard work and durability and the time they put in on the field. I wouldn’t necessarily call that star power. I call that hard work, dedication and determination.”
Despite all the new faces around the program, the Mountaineers are out to prove naysayers wrong.
“We’re putting in a lot of work this offseason,” senior running back Kennedy McKoy explained. “I see a lot of good things coming. There was a bunch of changes that went on around here and everybody is taking it well. I see a lot of good things coming. We’re going to let people say what they say.”
Believing in the coaching staff and what they are teaching is one thing WVU has going in its favor.
“I think everybody is settled in,” McKoy said. “Everybody is buying into what coach Brown is trying to turn this program into.”
Cover Photo Credit: Shanna Rose, BGS