Photo Credit: Dale Sparks | All-Pro Photography | Via WVUSports.com
The 2012 West Virginia defense will look a lot different from the one we saw in 2011.
Gone is coordinator Jeff Casteel and his 3-3-5 scheme, along with defensive ends Bruce Irvin and Julius Miller. Starting corner Keith Tandy and linebacker Najee Goode are also gone.
In now is the new defensive coordinator Joe DeForest, who will bring with him a 3-4 defensive alignment featuring three down linemen, four linebackers and two safeties.
Former safety Terence Garvin—one of the most talented players on this defense—will move down to the "star" linebacker position. Sophomores Jared Barber and Shaq Petteway will likely share time as the "will" linebackers.
Two experienced juniors, Tyler Anderson and Doug Rigg, are expected to hold down the "buck" and "sam" linebacker slots. Also, keep an eye on redshirt freshman Isaiah Bruce and senior Josh Francis. Francis came to Morgantown from junior college with high expectations and fans and coaches are still hoping he'll turn into a Bruce Irvin-type outside rusher.
Junior Taige Redman and sophomore Wes Tonkery also figure to be part of the linebacker rotation this year, in what is a deceptively deep group. Finally, keep an eye on sophomore Jewone Snow, who has been out with injury this spring but could figure into the mix at linebacker or on the defensive line.
The boys up front have a huge task of replacing Irvin and Miller, as only Jorge Wright returns from last year's starting group. However, the cupboard is far from bare, as this year's starting line has a combined 61 games of experience.
Wright was moved from nose tackle to the outside, where he'll play opposite of the 6'7" junior Will Clarke, who may prove to be the catalyst for the 2012 pass rush. Taking Wright's place on the inside is 6'4" 308-pound junior Shaq Rowell.
Despite the loss of Tandy at corner, WVU will still be confident on the outside, at least with its two starters senior Pat Miller and junior Brodrick Jenkins. Miller has nearly a full season of starting experience to his name, while Jenkins came on and proved to be a serious playmaker late last year.
The safety group will be led by perhaps the biggest hero of the Orange Bowl, junior Darwin Cook, who was also WVU's No. 2 tackler last year. Joining him will be only the second starting true freshman this season, Karl Joseph out of Orlando, Florida. Sophomore Ishmael Banks and an extremely athletic true freshman, K.J. Dillon, may also figure into the mix.
Many opposing Big 12 fans and national analysts are quick to discount this defensive unit as a whole, so they are certainly set out to surprise in 2012. The Mountaineers have the talent to be one of the better defenses in the conference, but it is tough to predict how quickly the new scheme will catch on. The good thing is, if the offense performs near its potential, the defense won't have to be great.