Ten years ago, West Virginia football arrived in the Big 12, quarterbacked by Geno Smith. Smith was coming off the Mountaineers’ 70-33 rout of Clemson – a game that hastened Dabo Swinney’s hiring of Brent Venables as defensive coordinator – and soon enough was piling up Big 12 points.
WVU in Year 1 beat Baylor 70-63 and Texas 48-45; the Mountaineers lost 39-38 to Texas Christian and 50-49 to OU.
Then Smith went to the National Football League, but coach Dana Holgorsen remained, and you figured West Virginia could become a quarterback factory.
It didn’t happen. In 2017 and 2018, the Mountaineers had Will Grier, an excellent quarterback. But otherwise, WVU has been trying to win with Jarret Doege and Austin Kendall and Skyler Howard and Clint Trickett and Paul Millard.
And it shows. WVU’s Big 12 record in conference games is 44-45, as the Mountaineers have usually been well behind the quarterback curve.
Could J.T. Daniels change that? The former Southern Cal and Georgia quarterback told ESPN he would transfer to WVU.
Daniels was a ballyhooed recruit out of Santa Ana, California. As a true freshman in 2018, Daniels won the USC starting job coming out of camp. But he suffered a major knee injury in the 2019 opener, missed the entire season and Kedon Slovis took over as the Trojans’ starting QB. Daniels entered the transfer portal having quarterbacked USC to a 6-6 record as the starter.
Daniels went to Georgia, where he was 7-0 as the starter over two seasons, but Daniels suffered from some minor injuries, veteran Stetson Bennett emerged as the starter during the 2021 season and eventually quarterbacked the Bulldogs to the national championship.
Daniels has played in 21 career college games, completing 63.8% of his passes, with 32 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
Could Daniels finally find a home in Morgantown, West Virginia?
“Going up and down the roster, I feel like they have very, very good pieces everywhere," Daniels told ESPN. "It feels like a great fit for quarterback. I feel like there's a really, really, really good team that I'm going to step into and do my part to contribute."
West Virginia is coming off a 6-7 season, and head coach Neal Brown is 17-18 in his three years.
But the Mountaineers return five starting offensive linemen, and Brown has brought in an offensive coordinator, former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrel, who was Daniels’ offensive coordinator at USC.
Daniels is an example of how a player can double-dip the transfer portal. Immediate eligibility is granted to players on their first transfer, but graduates also are allowed to transfer and play immediately. Daniels is close to finishing his degree from Georgia.
WVU opens the 2022 season with the renewal of the Backyard Brawl, at Pittsburgh, which was West Virginia’s arch-rival until the Mountaineers left for the Big 12. The series hasn’t been staged since 2011.
And Pitt is expected to be quarterbacked by none other than Slovis, who transferred in December, after Lincoln Riley left OU for the USC job. Perhaps Slovis had an inkling that Caleb Williams, Riley’s quarterback with the Sooners, was headed for USC.
But West Virginia has more mountains to climb than just the Backyard Brawl. The Mountaineers have been mediocre in the Big 12 and been mediocre at quarterback. Those truths are absolutely connected.
Was wild final week good for Roby?
Isaiah Roby had a wild last week to end the Thunder season.
The Thunder went with a rotation made up almost exclusively of novices. G Leaguers Zavier Simpson, Georgios Kalaitzakis, Melvin Frazier Jr. and Jaylen Hoard, plus rookie Vit Krejci, who until Feb. 11 had played all of nine NBA minutes.
That’s five players. Roby made six.
The Thunder went with just six players during its season-ending Los Angeles trip, against both the Lakers and the Clippers. OKC used seven players against Portland on Tuesday night and eight against Utah on Wednesday night.
The Thunder used no mainstays. Of its top 12 players this season in minutes played, Roby was the only one who took the court in Los Angeles. And the two extra bodies in Utah were Lindy Waters III, signed in February on a two-league contract, and rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who had missed most of the latter half of the season with an injury.
The Thunder strategy was clear. After upsetting the NBA’s best team, Phoenix, a week ago Sunday, the Thunder hardly could afford to risk another victory, which would have dented their odds in the NBA Draft lottery.
So what does all that mean for Roby? Is that a good sign that the Thunder trusted him to play with all the yearlings, bringing some stability? Or is it a bad sign, that maybe the Thunder brass doesn’t think highly enough of Roby to believe he could help deliver an unwanted win?
Probably somewhere in between. I don’t know if Kareem Abdul-Jabbar could make a difference in a lineup of Simpson, Kalaitzakis, Frazier, Hoard and Krejci. But I’m not sure that OKC sees Roby as a keeper, especially after he played sparingly most of the season. Even spent a good chunk of the season with the OKC Blue in the G League.
In the last 10 games of the season, Roby averaged 17.0 points and 6.6 rebounds, while shooting 52.6% on 3-pointers. In his 35 other games, Roby averaged 8.1 points and shot 39.3% from 3-point shooting.
Roby called the final weeks “definitely a fun experience. Obviously, I played with those guys in the G League, so I had a small sample size of playing with them already, and those guys, they loved the opportunity. It was fun to be out there with them.
“They kind of took on the character of our team. There was no backdown, they weren't out there playing timid. They were out there attacking the game, and those guys are great players, also.”
Well, let’s settle down. The G Leaguers aren’t great players. Simpson, Kalaitzakis and Frazier aren’t NBA players.
“It was exciting to see those guys play 40 minutes,” Roby said. “I don't think they saw that happening earlier this year. But … they earned that opportunity.”
Roby made the most of his opportunity, too, with productive basketball down the stretch. But did that opportunity mean the Thunder doesn’t believe in Roby? I’m not sure.
Tramel's ScissorTales: Russell Westbrook goes to battle against his own team, the Lakers
Kershaw gem shows baseball’s curse
The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw threw 77.8% of a perfect game Wednesday afternoon. Twenty-one Minnesota Twins came to the plate. Twenty-one Minnesota Twins were retired.
Then Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled Kershaw from the game, after he threw 80 pitches on a chilly afternoon.
Good-bye perfect game.
The Dodgers won 7-0 – the Twins finally got a hit in the eighth inning, off relief pitcher Alex Vesia – and I fully understand Roberts’ decision.
Pitching arms must be protected. Too much is invested in pitchers to risk their health. Especially pitchers like Kershaw.
And modern training methods demand that pitchers be protected, especially early in the season, in this kind of weather.
But the loser is baseball. Baseball has lost its magic when a perfect game is cast aside. In the old days, a pitcher who sniffed a perfect game would have had to be dragged off the mound.
Now the game has changed. For the worse. More of the magic is gone.
ESPN reported that Twins fans booed when Vesia jogged in from the bullpen. One of the fans yelled, “He had a perfect game!"
That once mattered. No longer.
The List: Baseball name changes
The Cleveland Guardians name debuted last week. Cleveland’s American League franchise was the Indians for 107 seasons, until the change last off-season.
Will the Guardians become an iconic brand? Too early to tell. Some name changes work. Some don’t. Here are the 10 most prominent name changes in baseball history, ranked by effectiveness.
1. Yankees: New York’s American League franchise began in 1903 and was called the Highlanders, because their Hilltop Park was on elevated land in north Manhattan and as homage to the noted British military unit, the Gordon Highlanders. The franchise’s president was Joseph Gordon. Like many of the AL franchises that shared a city with a National League, the team also was referred to as the New York Americans. But as early as 1904, New York Times sports editor Jim Price referred to the team as the Yankees, again for headline reasons, and in 1913, the name became official. For most of the 100-plus years since, Yankees has been the most powerful name in American sports.
2. Dodgers: Brooklyn’s National League franchise switched names frequently. Atlantics, Grays, Grooms, Bridegrooms, Superbas, Dodgers (1911-12), back to Superbas and Robins. Finally, in 1931, the Dodgers name was adopted permanently, a knockoff of the line that Brooklynites were a bunch of “trolley dodgers.” For 90 years, in both Brooklyn and Los Angeles, Dodgers has been a glorious name.
3. Cardinals: St. Louis stumbled around with a trio of dubious names – Brown Stockings 1882, Browns 1883-1898, Perfectos (1899; guess you had to be there) — before adopting the Cardinals. The Cardinal marks have been among baseball’s best.
4. Astros: In 1965, the Houston Colt .45s became the Astros. Colt .45s was sort of a cool name, and though it likely would have faced much scrutiny over the decades, it might fare well in 21st-century Texas. Still, Astros became a great brand, with Houston’s space industry.
5. Pirates: Pittsburgh’s NL franchise started in 1882 as the Alleghenys. I love me some Pittsburgh and I love me some mountains, but Pirates, adopted in 1891, is a much better name.
6. Red Sox: In 1908, the Boston Americans changed their name to the Red Sox. Americans is a little broad and was used by a variety of clubs. Red Sox has become a classic brand and a cool play off the older White Sox. When I was a 6-year-old kid, just discovering baseball, I thought the Red Sox and White Sox were the coolest terms I ever had heard.
7. Phillies: Philadelphia’s National League team began in 1883 as the Quakers, clearly for the religious connection. But in 1890, the Phillies name was adopted. Only the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Giants have longer-lasting brands in baseball.
8. Giants: New York’s National League franchise was born in 1883, as the Gothams. Two years later, they became the Giants, and that name endures 137 years later. Even when the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958, the New York Giants name remained, courtesy of the National Football League franchise that adopted it (talk about confusion) in 1925.
9. Cubs: In 1903, newspapers started transitioning the Chicago Orphans to the Chicago Cubs, in large part because the word fit headlines better. The franchise originally had been the White Stockings, then the Colts, but when patriarch Cap Anson cut ties with the team, “Orphans” was adopted, since it was without its “Pop.” Cubs has become a worldwide symbol.
10. Braves: Boston’s National League franchise went through a variety of uneven names from 1876 through 1911 – Red Stockings, Beaneaters(!), Doves and Rustlers. What were people rustling in Boston circa 1910? Anyway, they became the Braves in 1911, but an ownership change in 1936 prompted a new name, the Bees. It didn’t catch on, and another ownership change in 1941 sent the name back to Braves. Braves has become problematic over the years, as Natives rightly point, but the imagery is more offensive than the names.
Tramel's ScissorTales: Can Baker Mayfield repeat Jim Plunkett or Michael Vick scripts?
Mailbag: Baker Mayfield’s destination
Three weeks have passed since the Cleveland Browns traded for embattled quarterback Deshaun Watson, which put Baker Mayfield in limbo. Some Sooner fans are worried.
Keith: “So, I keep watching for some kind of news to break on Baker Mayfield. There’s no way he’s staying at the Browns, right? Is there a window sometime where he’s most likely to finally be traded? After the draft? What a crazy situation. Kinda feel sorry for Baker. I’m sure he’s not all peaches and cream to deal with, but he doesn’t strike me as the worst jerk out there, either. Sure seems like a weird situation to me.”
Tramel: I agree that there’s no way he’s staying with the Browns. Two timing issues are involved.
The first is the NFL Draft, which starts April 28. Franchises that might need a quarterback will have more clarity after the draft. They might find a QB in the draft. They might not. No reason to get in a hurry on Mayfield until you have as much information as possible.
The other timeline is the pressure on the Browns. Why trade for Mayfield, when Cleveland might just release him? Mayfield is set to make $18 million, and the Browns don’t want to eat that salary, but they also don’t want Mayfield on the roster. Cleveland signed Jacoby Brissett as a backup quarterback.
Prospective Mayfield suitors know the pressure is on Cleveland. It’s a game of poker, if you’re interested in Mayfield. If you’re Seattle or Houston or Carolina or whoever, why give up something and take on that $18 million salary, when you might be able to get him for free and sign him for a fraction of $18 million?
So we’re playing the waiting game on Mayfield. The draft will help, but not necessarily end, the Mayfield saga.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Does Georgia transfer J.T. Daniels solve West Virginia's QB problem?