2009 WVU Preview: Several Solid Reasons for Optimism

Frank AhrensSenior Writer IJuly 1, 2009

MORGANTOWN, WV - DECEMBER 1:  Backup quarterback Jarrett Brown #16 of the West Virginia Mountaineers rushes in for a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the first half at Milan Puskar Stadium December 1, 2007 in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
I will say this up front: I am strangely optimistic about WVU's 2009 season, which begins only nine weeks from Saturday at Mountaineer Field against the I-AA Liberty Flames.

Sure, WVU lost its greatest player ever—all-time college football rushing leader and WVU's only four-time starting quarterback bowl-winner—in Pat White.

Big deal, who'll miss him? Don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out, Pat. 

I am just kidding. We kid because we love.

I think I will miss White more than the team. He's probably the best college football player I'll ever get a chance to see in person. Every down was a privilege to watch. And yes, I'll probably buy the NFL Sunday Ticket to watch White with the Dolphins.

WVU also lost its all-time leading scorer in kicker Pat McAfee. Equally bemoaned with his loss is the loss of the lovable video of SpongeBob displayed on the JumboTron while Mountaineers fans said, "Good one, Patrick!" after each made field goal and PAT.

So, WVU has lost its best player ever and greatest scorer ever. Why should I be optimistic?

A number of reasons, in no particular order:

White's replacement is fifth-year senior Jarrett Brown. By all accounts, Brown is, like White, a solid citizen and a diligent film-watcher. He's taller than White and has a stronger arm, and he is only slightly slower. 
Plus, he has a full year in offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen's system, which White had to learn on the fly.
He is the clear-cut quarterback heading into the season and has Coach Stewart's full confidence. He is 2-0 as a starter and has allowed himself to be used as a third-down back in desperate situations last season, which tells you a lot about his character.

Noel Devine is back, and as the coaching staff says, he finally knows how to play running back at WVU, which is very promising considering he gained more than 1,200 yards last year without knowing how to play running back.
Bonus: The team appeared committed to developing a bruising blocking/third-down back in the spring and has at least one good-looking contender, Ryan Clarke, with a couple of promising freshmen incoming.

The receiving corp is big, tall, fast, and deep: Alric Arnett, Wes Lyons, Bradley Starks, Jock Sanders (back on the team) and freshman Logan Heastie (pronounced "hasty.")

The defense returns most starters from last year, including Chris Neild, Scooter Berry, Pat Lazear, J.T. Thomas, Robert Sands, and Brandon Hogan.
Bonus: This season will see the return of the defense's most important player—Reed Williams—who missed all but two games last season with shoulder injuries. He was the defensive MVP of the 2008 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.

The coaching staff has had a full season to gel.

The recruiting class has been top-drawer, including running back Tavon Austin and quarterback Eugene Smith.

WVU is not laboring under high expectations for the first of many seasons. It has been picked to finish as low as fifth in the Big East and makes almost no preseason Top 25 rankings.

These are my reasons. Did I miss any?

To help get you ready for the season (starting next Friday), I'll begin a weekly analysis of each of the 2009 team's units.

I'll start with the unit that has the most question marks—the offensive line.


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