Football back on the field

It’s here. Football is back.

And if you, like millions of Americans around the country, the wait has been far, far too long.

For fans of the Mountaineers from West Virginia University, the countdown to what, according to the oddsmakers in Las Vegas, should be a 28-point blowout at the hands of perennial national championship contender Alabama in one of two Chick-fil-A Football Classic contests, has started.

But for one day, at least, every fan of every college football team in the country can dream of conference titles, undefeated seasons and berths in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

No team has lost a game, and no official has blown a call. All is perfect.

The next hours, days and weeks will be spent analyzing every aspect of our favorite team as well as the 12 programs that will make up its regular-season slate of games. Looking for any deficiency that will allow us to explain to anyone who will listen why our favorite team will be victorious when it takes to the field.

Mountaineer fans are already pointing to the fact that Dana Holgorsen’s fourth team has apparently found some stability at quarterback following a season which witnessed three different athletes earn starting roles during WVU’s 4-8 campaign. They will also point to an improved running game as well as an improved, but yet to be tested, defense now under first-year defensive coordinator Tony Gibson as reasons to believe the old gold and blue will rebound from its first losing season since 2001.

And why not?

Fifth-year senior Clint Trickett, when healthy, has displayed the skills that could make WVU’s offense return to the form that put up an amazing 70 points against Clemson in the Orange Bowl while the return of Dreamius Smith, Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison as well as the addition of University of Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell should give the Mountaineers more than enough depth, and talent, to rush the ball successfully.

Defensively, the team returns 15 players that all saw action at linebacker a year ago and a secondary anchored by preseason All-Big 12 first-team selection Karl Joseph.

The unit also appears to be integrating more and more of the 3-3-5 stack alignment that former defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel made so effective before he departed to join former WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez in Arizona.

Sure, there are many, many potholes ahead for Holgorsen and his players. But opening day is about being positive, enjoying the start of America’s favorite game. There will be plenty of time for negatives as the season plays itself out.

* With the start of college practice, that means that high school practices will be gearing up very, very soon.

That also means that the staff here at The Parkersburg News and Sentinel will be making its annual trips out to football camps around the Mid-Ohio Valley in preparations for the upcoming 192-page football edition that will come out days prior to the opening-day games on Aug. 29.

Contact Jim Butta at