Football is back.
Well, not entirely, but at least fanatics of the game can relish in the fact that college campuses are fueling up for the beginning of spring drills.
West Virginia University head coach Bill Stewart enters his final spring with the old gold and blue having to deal with nearly as many off-the-field-distractions as ones which will impact the success, or failure, of the 2011 Mountaineers.
Whether fans agree or disagree with the method Director of Athletics Oliver Luck utilized following the end of the 2010 season.
Stewart will constantly have to field questions surrounding his impact on his final team in Morgantown and just how his relationship with head-coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen is affecting the program.
Knowing Stewart and his love for his alma mater, one can bet he will choose his words wisely when asked about his working relationship with the new coaching staff and what his role has become since their arrival in early January.
Then, there will be the questions surrounding the team.
Obviously, the return of veteran defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and his entire staff will make the loss of starters Scooter Berry, Sidney Glover, Brandon Hogan, Pat Lazear, Anthony Leonard, Chris Neild, Robert Sands and J.T. Thomas easier since the reserves that will be expected to step in and take their places have all learned from the same group.
Will the defense equal last year's accomplishments?
While some would say no. One must keep in mind that these were the same players who provided the much needed depth which allowed players like Neild, Thomas and Sands-as well as the rest-to spend some time on the sidelines resting while they worked on the skills they would need to develop in order to fill their shoes this coming fall.
Offensively, in addition to having to replace its two biggest weapons-running back Noel Devine and wide receiver Jock Sanders-those players who will be expected to put points on the scoreboard in 2011 will have to learn an entirely new scheme.
Not an impossible task, but Mountaineer fans remember the painful transition that took place in Morgantown when players left behind by legendary head coach Don Nehlen had to adjust their talents to handle the new "play like your hair is on fire" spread attack of Rich Rodriguez.
While it is difficult to believe that the talent level remaining on this team will allow the program to drop to a 3-8 mark like the one in 2001, there will be some "growing pains" which will accompany the advent of a new system. And there may be times when fans might clamor for the return of the old because the new isn't resulting in wins.
Molinari, who will also compete for the vacated punting job, joins Josh Jenkins, Matt Lindamood and Cody Nutter as locals who are expected to earn starting berths this spring.
Contact Jim Butta at firstname.lastname@example.org