As Maryland prepares for West Virginia, CSN collaborated with Craig Meyer (@CraigMeyerPG), West Virginia beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, for a Q&A to get a look Saturday's game from another perspective. The conversation will be in two parts, with Part Two published Friday morning.
CSN: With guys like Clint Trickett, Mario Alford, and Kevin White gone from the team that came to College Park and got a win last season, how is this team the same or different than what Maryland saw last year?
Meyer: There are a lot of similarities between the two, mostly because it's still a Dana Holgorsen-coached offense that's going to want to play at a certain pace and utilize a certain, pass-happy style. The obvious difference is that all of the faces in it, at least from a passing standpoint, are new. While there isn't a wide receiver with a prototypical NFL build like they had with White last season, the Mountaineers seem to have found a promising new tandem in sophomore Shelton Gibson and freshman Jovon Durante. Both players are ranked in the top 40 in FBS in receiving yards per game and though those numbers didn't come against the stiffest competition, that production has been a surprising development from a position that entered the season as a major question mark.
Schematically, the biggest offensive difference is at quarterback with Howard. As opposed to Trickett -- a traditional, drop-back passer -- Howard is more of a running threat, someone who excels when a play breaks down and he can ad lib. It's a Holgorsen offense, so most everything will still center around the passing game, but he clearly has a quarterback who is more mobile than any other starter he's had at West Virginia.
CSN: As far as the perceived rivalry goes, is there anything that Dana Holgorsen or any players have said this week that indicates to you that this still means a lot to that program?
Meyer: They've stressed the importance of this game quite a bit. Part of that could be coach speak -- hyping up any team that you play so it doesn't appear like you're looking past them -- but Maryland is undoubtedly a natural rival for them. The game has taken on a greater importance the past three of four seasons as their series with Pitt has been dormant and though there's going to be a four-year hiatus until Maryland and WVU play again, Holgorsen and others have been vocal about wanting to continue playing the Terps. WVU only has three non-conference games per season, but leadership at the school seems committed to continuing as many regional rivalries as possible, including Maryland.
For the program as a whole, there's also an important recruiting aspect to the game. West Virginia's a state with very little top-flight high school talent, so they have to rely on neighboring states like Maryland to provide that. Six players on WVU's current roster are from Maryland. Two players in its 2016 class, including four-star recruit Steven Smothers, are from there and in the past, the state has given it standouts like Tavon Austin. Playing this game, even if it's just in a small way, gives WVU a presence in Maryland and if it can regularly beat the Terps, they see it as a way to sell themselves to recruits in the state.