CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In this space on Thursday, WVU athletic director Oliver Luck spoke of his school's football program.He called the season disappointing and said he and football coach Dana Holgorsen were addressing the issues.The bottom line: They'll need many, many stamps to address all the Mountaineers' issues.In one year, the perception of Holgorsen within the state has gone south. The coaching staff as a whole has gone from revered to questioned and criticized. There have been rumblings of team discord and a lack of spirit. The talent base and level of recruiting have been questioned.
So, on Thursday, Holgorsen attempted to address concerns - to a point. For now."Changes are coming," he said. "We will address some things in regard to coaches and players."The coach said by this time next week many of the moves will be made public. He's called a team meeting for Sunday "to lay the foundation."He's heading to the American Football Coaches Association convention in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday "to talk to some people." So more coaching changes appear in the offing.Overall, he said the team "better be prepared to work harder than ever.""There's nothing like rolling up your sleeves and working harder," he added.The statements are at least something for Mountaineers fans to chew on. Wait, he seems to be saying, because more change is on its way.
Luck knows it's needed. And he must have insisted on it.Debate any of the takes, rumors and failings you wish, but know the No. 1 issue for the athletic director is his football program's immediate future and the financial ramifications.After spending $20 million to exit the Big East, oodles on Holgorsen and his staff and more on new coaches in other sports, facility improvements and increased travel budgets, the bell cow - football - suddenly looks gaunt.Graze the team's depth chart and you'll understand what I mean.
All WVU fans know their team's three stars - Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey - have burned their eligibility. But the offense as a whole is being decimated.Gone are - deep breath - Ryan Nehlen, Josh Jenkins, Joe Madsen, John Bassler, Jeff Braun, J.D. Woods, Ryan Clarke, Donovan Miles and Shawne Alston - exhale - from the depth chart.
Returning are no stars for the school to promote. None.WVU will have a new quarterback. Running backs Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison have not established themselves. The only returning starting receiver from the Pinstripe Bowl is Connor Arlia. And along the offensive line the returners are Quinton Spain, Pat Eger and Curtis Feigt.On defense, many are returning. But it's a unit currently ranked No. 109 in total defense after allowing an average of 472.77 yards per game.Oddly, there are more bright spots on defense for the Mountaineers. Linebacker Isaiah Bruce, a redshirt freshman this season, returns. In the secondary, safety Karl Joseph, a fine true freshman this season, is back. The defensive backfield, in fact, should return Joseph, Darwin Cook and Brodrick Jenkins.
Kickers Tyler Bitancurt and Corey Smith are out the door.Some help could be on the way. In the defensive backfield, cornerback Vernon Davis, a transfer from Miami, Fla., will be eligible. But that still leaves just four reliable DBs. Along the offensive line, current freshmen Adam Pankey and Tyler Orlosky, as well as injured Tony Matteo, could help a bit.The word is a couple freshmen are hoping to be in school and ready for spring drills.And then there are the four mid-year junior college transfers - running back Dreamius Smith, safety Terrell Pinson and receivers Ronald Carswell and Kevin White. There's also a chance of signing four-star JC QB Tanner McEvoy, who is visiting Oregon on Jan. 11 and then deciding between the Mountaineers and Ducks. The signing period for transfers runs through Jan. 15. (Of course JC transfers could pan out anywhere from Bruce Irvin to Josh Francis to Mark Glowinski to Terrance Moore. In other words, star to bust.)Boiled down, Luck has a tough sell to his fans for next season. The stars are gone. Preseason magazines and polls will undoubtedly place WVU near the bottom of the Big 12 for 2013-14.There will be no ESPN commercials starring Holgorsen. There will be no Heisman Trophy hype for the team's quarterback. There will be no preseason Top 25 ranking.The only ace Luck currently has up his sleeve for next season are the Big 12 opponents hitting Morgantown: Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Texas and Iowa State.Holgorsen, though, seems to understand."There's nobody more unhappy about this than I am," he said. "And our guys better prepare for a tough offseason. We need to do what's necessary to get better."Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.