Bold Prediction Number One for the West Virginia Mountaineers

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bold prediction number one for the West Virginia Mountaineers
MANHATTAN, KS - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Will Grier #7 of the West Virginia Mountaineers throws a pass against the Kansas State Wildcats during the first half on November 11, 2017 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas. (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

The Mountaineers open the 2018 football season against Tennessee in Charlotte this Saturday. Patience wears thin and the hype continues to build. This series, broken into three parts, makes five bold predictions for the Mountaineers’ season. Bold predictions five through three are in Part One. Bold prediction number two is here, in Part Two. The last installment of this series covers the last bold prediction. And the boldest.

Bold Prediction Number One: Will Grier Will Be Invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy Ceremony

Year Two under Dana Holgorsen

A quarterback himself in college, Head Coach Dana Holgorsen has a proven track record at developing signal callers. Will Grier is entering his second season as the starter in Holgorsen’s offense. As a result, it is worth considering the first and second years for other quarterbacks Holgorsen has led in Morgantown. The three quarterbacks that have had continuous experience in Holgorsen’s system are Geno Smith, Clint Trickett, and Skyler Howard. Here is how they break down.

First, Geno Smith:

Completion % Y/A TD TD % INT INT % TD:INT Rating
Year 1 65.8% 8.3 31 5.9% 7 1.3% 4.4:1 152.6
Year 2 71.2% 8.1 42 8.1% 6 1.2% 7:1 163.9
% Change +8% -2% +37% -8%

 

Second, Clint Trickett:

Completion % Y/A TD TD % INT INT % TD:INT Rating
Year 1 52.8% 6.9 7 3.0% 7 3.0% 1:1 114.6
Year 2 67.1% 7.8 18 4.3% 10 2.4% 1.8:1 142.3
% Change +27% +13% +43% -20%

 

Now, Skyler Howard:

Completion % Y/A TD TD % INT INT % TD:INT Rating
Year 1 54.8% 7.8 26 6.5% 14 3.5% 1.8:1 134.7
Year 2 61.1% 8.2 26 6.5% 10 2.5% 2.6:1 146.6
% Change +11% +5% N/C -29%

 

On average, quarterbacks have improved their stats as follows in their second year under Holgorsen.

Completion % Y/A TD% INT%
+15% +5% +27% -19%

 

Will Grier’s Year One under Dana Holgorsen

Grier had a superb year in his first year in Morgantown last season. Here are his statistics, which compare most favorably to Geno Smith.

Completion % Y/A TD TD % INT INT % TD:INT Rating
64.4% 9.0 34 8.8% 12 3.1% 2.8:1 162.7

 

Grier had not played in a college football game in nearly 23 months before opening the season against the Virginia Tech Hokies last season. Grier also suffered a broken finger early in the Texas game that kept him out the last three (3) games of the year. Bearing those things in mind, those numbers are extremely impressive. The question, then, is whether they can really improve that much.

What Will Happen in Year Two?

The answer is mixed. As noted in Part One, in bold prediction #4, Holgorsen and Offensive Coordinator Jake Spavital are incorporating tight ends into the offense. The coaches hope to cure the offense’s two worst statistics from a season ago: low third down conversion percentage and imbalanced time of possession in favor of opponents. Coaches also want to reduce Grier’s reliance on the long ball. Spavital and Holgorsen both have specifically said that they need to put Grier into a better position on third down to avoid his need to heave the long ball.

Based on this, one can expect that Grier’s yards per passing attempt will remain flat this season. That said, one can also expect that Grier’s efficiency numbers, particularly completion percentage and interception percentage will improve. Touchdown percentage should also improve as Grier now has several added weapons for red zone situations. In addition to the tight ends (who average 6’5, 258 pounds), Grier has Dominique Maiden, who stands at 6’5, 204 pounds, and David Sills, who stands at 6’4, 210 pounds, as potential red zone targets

The predicted changes for Grier all fall below the average improvement figures for quarterbacks in Year Two under Holgorsen.  Nonetheless, these also represent reasonable minimum expectations for Grier’s 2018 season.

Completion % Y/A TD% INT%
+10% 0% +5% -25%

 

Where does this put Grier’s numbers? Based on Holgorsen and Spavital’s historical quarterback usage, Grier can expect to throw 500 passes this season. So let’s apply the improvements and determine what Grier’s season will look like.

Completion % Y/A TD TD % INT INT % TD:INT
70.8% 9.0 46 9.2% 11 2.3% 3.5:1

 

This translates to 354/500, 71% completion, 4,500 yards, 46 touchdowns, 11 interceptions. Grier will also rush for 150 yards and 3 additional touchdowns.

How Does That Compare to Prior Heisman Seasons

Looking at the last several seasons and the statistics of five most recent quarterbacks to win the Heisman trophy, this season would compare favorably.

Att/Comp % Yds TD INT Rush Yds Rush TD
Johnny Manziel, 2012 295/434 68.0% 3706 26 9 1410 21
Jameis Winston, 2013 257/384 66.9% 4057 40 10 219 4
Marcus Mariota, 2014 304/445 68.3% 4454 42 4 770 15
Lamar Jackson, 2016 230/409 56.2% 3543 30 9 1571 21
Baker Mayfield, 2017 285/404 70.5% 4627 43 6 311 5
Will Grier, 2018 354/500 71% 4500 46 11 150 3

 

If Grier simply makes modest improvements compared to the average second-year starter in a Holgorsen offense, Grier’s number would exceed those of Baker Mayfield in total touchdowns and completion percentage. Grier’s numbers would also exceed those of Jameis Winston in completion percentage, total yardage, and total touchdowns.  Grier would also exceed Johnny Manziel’s total touchdown and completion percentage numbers.

By posting anywhere close to these numbers, which are on the low side of expectations, Grier would certainly be invited to New York for the 2018 Heisman Trophy presentation.

Bonus:  The Mountaineers Play in the Big 12 Championship Game

The predictions in Part One, Part Two, and Part Three are big.  They are bold. But they also coalesce available information and make reasonable conclusions from that information. And if only three of these predictions hold true, the West Virginia Mountaineers will have a special season. The Mountaineers would be relevant in December.

Standing by these five bold predictions for the Mountaineers, then, one can conclude that West Virginia will play for a Big 12 Championship this year. And, if they make it that far, there is an excellent chance that they win that game.

Main Photo:

Embed from Getty Images

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