A significant downgrade at the quarterback position.
A kicking game that appears shaky at best.
A young, untested offensive line that has little time to grow up.
The lack of a hammer back who can virtually assure getting that tough yard when it is needed.
A coaching staff that must significantly improve its performance when the lights go on.
There are plenty of reasons for West Virginia University football fans to be concerned about their beloved Mountaineers in 2009.
The return of running back Noel Devine, who may be ready for a breakout year.
A defense that could be one of the nation's best.
A recruiting class that should keep WVU stocked with future talent and also may offer some immediate help.
A schedule composed of a dozen teams, all of whom the Mountaineers are capable of beating.
There are plenty of reasons for West Virginia football fans to be excited about their beloved Mountaineers in 2009.
And therein lies the dilemma for those of us trying to determine in which direction this program is headed.
On the one hand, the sky very well could be falling. Many outside observers, who look at WVU with much less emotional attachment than do we, believe it already has fallen. That West Virginia has fallen from national grace and the national rankings. That when Rich Rodriguez left, WVU's elite status went with him.
On the other hand, the Mountaineers have won four straight bowl games, including two under the direction of head coach Bill Stewart. They'll be led by a senior quarterback who has proven his mettle when called upon in previous years. They've recruited better athletes than anybody else in the Big East, so there's no reason WVU can't win the conference championship and earn a third BCS bowl in five years.
It comes down to a matter of personal choice. In whether or not you believe what is taking place in Morgantown is going to work.
Most of my West Virginia colleagues are optimistic about the Mountaineers. I've read all those 9-3 predictions that seem to be the consensus in the Mountain State with great interest, but also with great skepticism.
I love my alma mater and I really like the guy who is its head coach. If there's a finer representative for a school in college football, I haven't met him.
But I'm deeply concerned about the direction of this program, which seems to be at a crossroads.
It seems like every time there is a big game, we call it the biggest game in the history of the program.
That's simply too much hype for the Sept. 12 game against East Carolina, but it is indeed going to be the best indicator of where this program stands.
If WVU can't beat East Carolina at home, then the sky is falling crowd may well be right.
If the Mountaineers win that game, the mountains will still be standing and the skeptics will at least temporarily be silenced, at least long enough to allow the 2009 season to play itself out.
What we won't know on Sept. 5, we will know come Dec. 5, when WVU ends the regular season at Rutgers.
It may be the most interesting three months in West Virginia football history.
Contact Dave Poe at