The biggest question that remains with this year's West Virginia University football team is the young and inexperienced defense.
As Sept. 1 rapidly approaches, every side of the ball must come together in order to have a promising season. The guys continue to practice, work hard and improve, but will it be enough in a conference with some of the best receivers and quarterbacks in the nation?
According to WVUSports.com, West Virginia's co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said there could be as many as eight true freshmen playing on defense this upcoming season. This is quite a stretch for the Mountaineers, who hope to see a top-10 ranking within the first couple of weeks.
With these young guys trying to learn the system, practices tend to be more rigorous and the learning is gradual. The returning starters have to get back in football mode, while the young guys have to make the quick transition from high school to college football.
WVU wants to get back to the defense it saw two seasons ago. While there are many freshmen who are ready to make some noise such as safety Karl Joseph, guys such as Pat Miller, Brodrick Jenkins, Doug Rigg and Darwin Cook are also ready to make some impact for the Mountaineers.
The best part for the young guns is that they have the opportunity to work with one of the best offenses in the country. In practice, these guys will be able to go up against a fast, high-octane offense led by quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin.
With the Big 12 Conference, everyone is well aware of how fast and athletic some of the receivers and quarterbacks are. It's a very pass-friendly conference in that way, but the run game can still hurt you. West Virginia must be able to control the pace and make sure that the deep ball is not hurting it on the path to another 10-win season.
The new league that WVU is about to enter consists of teams who will put up a lot of yardage and a lot of points. The offenses are tremendous, but in the end, defenses win championships.
Forcing turnovers is something the Mountaineers look to improve on. While the Orange Bowl saw some incredible moments with a Darwin Cook 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown, those type of plays didn't happen all season.
In fact, the Syracuse Orange put up 49 points against the WVU defense last season. The competition and offenses in the Big 12 are light years ahead of Syracuse. A consistent defense must be present for West Virginia to have success.
Last season the Mountaineers gave up nearly 27 points a game. However, in losses against Syracuse, LSU and Louisville, they scored at least 38 points. This young WVU defense must be aggressive, physical and force turnovers.
With this new group of freshmen, there are questions with the West Virginia defense that can only be answered as the season progresses.
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