The 2022 WVU football team will look very different than previous years under head coach Neal Brown. After a disappointing 2021 season that saw the Mountaineers go 6-7 with a bowl loss, Neal Brown made some moves.
First, he went out and got former star quarterback Graham Harrell to control the offense. Harrell thrived as a college quarterback at Texas Tech under head coach Mike Leach, and since then has succeeded in coaching while keeping the same scoring mentality that Leach had.
On Tuesday, Coach Brown was asked about what he’s observed about Harrell’s offense after 13 spring practices.
“I think within the pass game, I think he’s got answers,” Brown said. “His teaching of the quarterback within the pass game, I’ve been impressed with. It’s simple for the offensive players, but it’s complex defensively.”
Next, Brown got Georgia transfer quarterback J.T. Daniels to commit to WVU for the 2022 season. Daniels was a former five-star recruit that started his career at USC with Graham Harrell as his quarterbacks coach.
While Daniels is not yet on campus, the general thought is that he will be the starting quarterback for the Mountaineers when they take on Pitt on September 1st.
Daniels is an experienced quarterback that has the talent to get a team over the hump. Daniels has thrown for 4,840 yards and 32 touchdowns despite battling multiple injuries throughout his time in college.
During the Neal Brown era, WVU fans have not seem many flashes at the quarterback position. Assuming Daniels stays healthy, they can expect some exciting plays from the most important position on the field.
To help Daniels behind center, the WVU offensive line will need to be a strong piece for this new offense. On the line, WVU is returning virtually all of their starters from last season, with second-team All-American Zach Frazier leading the bunch. The line also features the likes of Doug Nester, James Gmiter, Brandon Yates, and Wyatt Milum.
Coach Harrell gave praise to the WVU offensive line when he addressed the media on Thursday.
“I think that having an offensive line that’s played as many snaps as they’ve played, that’s been fun to be a part of,” Harrell said. “If you have a quarterback and some guys up front, you’ve got a chance to be successful. If you really get up front, it makes everything else easier, in the run game and the pass game.”
The run game should be another part of the offense that does not hinder the Mountaineers. Even though Leddie Brown has graduated, the running back room is still deep. It will feature redshirt junior Tony Mathis, sophomore Justin Johnson, redshirt freshman Jaylen Anderson, and Clemson transfer Lyn-J Dixon.
The annual spring game on Saturday will show fans who is getting the most snaps at the running back position, but there is talent across the board. In the final two games of the 2021 season, Mathis rushed for 174 yards to emerge as the favorite to take the starting job in 2022.
Dixon has put up stats himself, racking up 1,420 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground in four seasons at Clemson.
Lastly, we move to the wide receivers and tight ends. The wide receiver room may be the thinnest among the main positions on offense, but that’s not to say it’s inadequate.
The Mountaineers return both Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Sam James, who both have multiple years of playing experience. Ford-Wheaton recorded 575 yards receiving and three touchdowns in 2021, while James recorded 505 yards receiving with five touchdowns.
WVU will also look to sophomore Kaden Prather, redshirt sophomore Reese Smith and possibly true freshman Jarel Williams.
For tight end play, WVU hopes to get redshirt junior Mike O’Laughlin healthy as soon as possible, but until then, Colorado State transfer Brian Polendey will get reps.
Polendey is a strong blocker in the run game and is working to become more versatile and effective in the passing game.
WVU tight ends coach Sean Reagan spoke on Polendey on Thursday.
“I’m very pleased with Brian (Polendey),” Reagan said. “He’s got a lot of good football knowledge.
Polendey played behind Trey McBride at Colorado State, who won the Macke Award for the nation’s top tight end in 2021.
“He’s had a lot of people to learn from,” Coach Reagan said about Polendey. “He’s brought that with him. I’m very pleased with where he’s come from, and he’ll help us this fall.”
While there is still improvements to be made, it seems that the 2022 WVU offense has more potential than prior years. In a conference like the Big 12, the Mountaineer offense will need to step up and prove themselves to hang with some of the nation’s top teams.