neal brown.jpg

West Virginia University football coach Neal Brown speaks to the media Wednesday during a press conference for National Signing Day at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown in February.

The outlook on the West Virginia University football team’s season, at least in the Big 12 Conference media’s eyes, has changed drastically over one year.

Last year, the Mountaineers were picked to finish second in the conference. This year, voters see WVU in eighth place, ahead of only Kansas State in ninth and Kansas in 10th.

Oklahoma, the defending conference champ, was the overwhelming favorite among the 77 media voters. Sixty-eight of them voted for the Sooners, while the other nine voted for Texas, which was picked to finish second. It’s the seventh time since 2011 that Oklahoma was picked first in the preseason poll.

As for WVU, a slew of new faces, including on the coaching staff, are among the likely reasons for the low preseason rating. Neal Brown arrived in the offseason from Troy to replace current Houston coach Dana Holgorsen and brought many of his former Trojan assistants with him.

Brown won’t have in his first year many of the offensive weapons that Holgorsen enjoyed in his final year. Quarterback Will Grier, who finished fourth in last year’s Heisman Trophy race and was a third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, is gone.

Also to the NFL went offensive lineman Yodny Cajuste, receivers Gary Jennings and David Sills and tight end Trevon Wesco. Receiver Marcus Simms originally entered the NCAA transfer portal, but now looks like he’ll enter the NFL supplemental draft.

Defensively, linebacker David Long, the 2018 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, went to the NFL, while both starting safeties also have departed. Kenny Robinson has yet to find a new home, but Derrek Pitts Jr. has moved to Marshall.

Iowa State was picked to finish third, with TCU fourth, Oklahoma State fifth, Baylor sixth and Texas Tech seventh. The four teams with new coaches — Brown, Matt Wells at Texas Tech, Chris Klieman at Kansas State and Les Miles at Kansas — were picked in the bottom four in the preseason poll.

Contact Derek Redd at 304-348-1712 or derek.redd@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.