With all the preseason hype around the high-octane offense of the West Virginia University football team, there still lies questions on the defensive and special teams units.
So, with the offensive unit ready for touchdowns, is the secondary ready to create problems for the Big 12 offenses? While that is certainly unpredictable right now, there are experienced players who are ready to make their mark in this first season in the Big 12 Conference.
While head coach Dana Holgorsen bleeds excellence in the offensive unit with his various schemes, there will be some question marks regarding new Defensive Coordinator Joe DeForest and the 3-4 defense.
The Mountaineers have lost some key elements on the defensive side from last year's Orange Bowl team. The likes of Bruce Irvin, Julian Miller, Keith Tandy and Najee Goode will hurt. However, there are some guys that can step it up and make a name for themselves.
Here are some guys on the secondary that will be of high importance this upcoming season.
Arguably one of the most important pieces on the defense this year, Pat Miller is an experienced guy who can make plays.
Miller has dealt with criticism for his play in the past, but improved in 2011. He made a very crucial play against South Florida in the last game of the 2011 campaign. That victory would secure the Orange Bowl game against Clemson.
Even in the Orange Bowl, Miller was able to pick off Tigers' quarterback Tajh Boyd. Now, in his senior year, there's no denying how crucial Miller's playmaking abilities will be.
In his 2011 campaign, Miller played in 13 games, and started in nine at right cornerback. He had 66 tackles, two interceptions and three pass break-ups.
Against Louisville, Miller had eight tackles in total, with seven being solo tackles. Even more impressive, he had 11 tackles against Maryland.
Miller's position is very important in a pass-friendly conference such as the Big 12. Every week, Miller will need to be able to make life difficult for receivers. And we all know how good some of these receivers are in the Big 12.
Miller can have a break out year in 2012. He will have many looks at interceptions, but he has to make plays in order for the Mountaineers to have advantages in some of these shootout games.
The senior will have the difficult task of being the next Keith Tandy—a now NFL corner who was highly mentioned around the Big East Conference.
It was the play that changed everything. The turning point if you will. Yes, we all remember how junior safety Darwin Cook somehow was able to run back a 99-yard fumble after it looked as if Clemson had another touchdown.
At the West Virginia goal line, it looked as if Clemson rushed into the endzone, only to see Cook scoop up a loose football and run it back for another WVU touchdown.
The Cleveland, Ohio native started all 13 games in the 2011 season as a safety. He was ranked No. 14 in the Big East in total tackles.
Cook was second on the team in tackles with 85. He also added two interceptions for the Mountaineers.
What makes Cook such a great asset to the team is his ability to make tackles and his keen awareness on the field. He's always looking for the ball and attempting to make a play.
Cook will be looking to light some players in the Big 12 up, and welcoming them officially to hard-nose, West Virginia football.
He's definitely earned the right to do so with his productivity through three seasons.
Senior Terence Garvin has been one of the biggest keys to the Mountaineer success defensively since 2010.
The Baltimore native has had 158 tackles in his career. In 2011, as a junior, Garvin had some key stats throughout the season.
He started in all 11 games he played in, but missed Cincinnati and Clemson due to injury. He ranked No. 4 on the team in sacks.
Against Maryland, Garvin had his first career interception. That interception turned out to be a pick six. Of his career 158 tackles, Garvin recorded 72 in 2011.
Under DeForest, Garvin will have a large role in the safety/linebacker position. The 6'3", 220-pound senior is a pure athlete, so the adjustment may not be that difficult for a guy like Garvin.
Brodrick Jenkins is a guy who is capable of making plays. Towards the end of last season, Jenkins has truly come about as a starter.
Jenkins has played in 26 career games, starting in four. In the 2011 season, Jenkins started the final three games. Against Clemson, the Fort Myers, Fla., native tied a career high of five tackles.
The cornerback will have to step up this season and join Pat Miller as one of the more consistent players in the secondary.
Jenkins and Miller will have to step up and become corners that WVU has been accustomed to in the last few seasons with the likes of Brandon Hogan and Keith Tandy.