As the final seconds ticked off the clock in the Heart of Dallas Bowl the focus couldn’t help but shift away from the current scene to the future for West Virginia.
Not far off in the future either, just a couple months from now.
It wasn’t hard because several of the departing seniors wanted to drive home the point.
“A couple of those guys stepped up and said ‘remember how this feels right now because 2018 we want it to be a more successful season,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “And we understand that.”
But there’s a lot of work to do first to get there. Still, the reasons for the optimism are obvious as the opening date with Tennessee looms in the future.
The Mountaineers will return the centerpiece to the offense in quarterback Will Grier who announced he would be back for his final year of eligibility which also prompted the same announcements from wide receiver David Sills and offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste.
Not only Sills, but the Mountaineers also will return the leading wide receiver from this past year in Gary Jennings and two of the top three rushers as well as an almost in-tact offensive line.
On the defensive side, the Mountaineers will lose only four players heavily used in the rotation something that hasn’t happened for coordinator Tony Gibson in several seasons.
“We’ve got to fix a lot of things. But we’ll get some things fixed, we’ll recruit positions of need,” Gibson said indicating a defensive linemen and a pair of cornerbacks as that. “I like where we’re at.”
Grier is expected to receive clearance in the coming weeks to begin throwing the football after missing the final two plus games of the year due to a broken finger. The team will reconvene in Morgantown Jan. 9 and the players are already excited for the potential of this team.
“We had a pretty good offense this year, but we’re going to fine tune some things and be really good next year. So I’m excited for the entire process because it is a process,” Grier said. “We’ve got some tools to be very good but we’re going to build off of it and get a day better each day. I’m really looking forward to the product we’re going to put on the field next year.”
There is a reason that many of the players opted to come back. As Holgorsen has put it in the past there is simply unfinished business after a 7-6 season that saw the Mountaineers lose three straight to close.
“I’m very excited for next season. We’re going to take this little break from football and get right back after it. We’re very hungry for next season,” Sills said.
But in order to accomplish those goals, this team has to come together and address some of the issues that caused this team to fall short of what it wanted to do this past season.
Just don’t expect the close to this group of seniors careers to not have an impact on the next.
“It’s a learning experience and something we can use going into next year,” Jennings said.