Football season is drawing near in Morgantown, and the Mountaineers are gearing up for what will surely be an exciting year. But there’s something different about this team. Something that’s missing that used to be with teams past.
What could it be?
Oh yeah that’s right, Pat White isn't with the team anymore. For the first time in what seems like a quarter of a century, the Mountaineers have gone through the offseason without their fearless leader.
Day in and day out, White gave his all leading the team to four bowl game victories, becoming the first starting QB ever to do so. He also became the NCAA’s most prolific rushing QB, running for 4,480 yards.
But White is now a Miami Dolphin and the Mountaineers are moving forward. Good luck to the “Chief.”
Let’s take a gander at what the post Pat White Mountaineers will look like this coming season.
The man that will be under center this coming fall is redshirt senior QB Jarrett Brown. It has been a long wait, but the time has finally come for Brown to show off his skills.
Standing 6’4” and weighing in at 221 pounds, he passes the eye-ball test for sure and has a big time arm. He may not be as fast as Pat White, but he’s got good enough wheels to break off 50+ yard runs, and when he has a full head of steam it takes more than a couple of defenders to bring him down.
Brown is 2-0 as a starter, and has proved that he is more than capable of leading the offense. One can’t forget the outstanding poise he showed during the triple overtime win against Rutgers, putting up 244 yards and a TD through the air, and a long TD run of 40 yards (doing this as a freshman mind you).
The transition from White to Brown should be a smooth one.
Coming back for his third year will be Junior RB Noel Devine, who is a hassle to tackle. Devine has unbelievable balance reminiscent of Barry Sanders, and rare acceleration. He can also stop on a dime and change direction virtually whenever he wants.
As the starting RB for the Mountaineers last year, Devine performed well rushing for 1,289 yards and averaging 6.3 yards a carry. However, he only scored 4 TDs.
Here’s another interesting stat to think about. Devine surpassed 20 carries once throughout the whole season last year. When you have talent like this, why not use it as much as possible? Expect every single stat category that pertains to RB to increase for Devine.
The backup RB is Mark Rodgers, who showed flashes of brilliance running the ball last season and also did a fine job returning kicks. Look for Rodgers to play a bigger role in the offense this season. Another back that has shown promise is Jordan Roberts. He pulled off a huge run in the spring game and he looks to input his two cents into the offense as well.
Incoming RB recruit Tavon Austin looks to join into the mix on offense and special teams this year. The do-it-all back from Maryland is very quick, and from watching film, all you can do is give head coach Bill Stewart and the crew props for pulling in this kid.
The receiving corps consists of veterans in Alric Arnett and Jock Sanders (who will hopefully return to the team this fall from a suspension). Super tall WR Wes Lyons (6’8”) had a breakout spring and will be one heck of a redzone target for Jarrett Brown. Bradley Starks is another weapon Brown has at his disposal.
Stew and the crew also pulled in highly touted WR Logan Heastie and he looks to be a good one.
“HOWEVA” (as Stephen A. Smith would say), if Mountaineer fans want to see a sniff of this potentially scary offense, the offensive linemen have to bring their “A” game. Last season, the big guys up front were the Achilles heel of this West Virginia team. Numerous times you would see a defensive lineman get all up in the grill of Pat White and Noel Devine before they could do anything.
But that is what happens when a whole new offensive scheme is put into place, and you have an offensive line that is full of young and inexperienced players. Senior lineman Selvish Capers is practically the only one with game experience.
Sophomore Josh Jenkins got a taste of the game, but got sidelined with an injury. Center Eric Jobe also saw some playing time when then starter Mike Dent got injured. Don Barclay, Jeff Braun, and the rest of the starting O-lineman will be playing with chips on their shoulders to prove that they can get the job done.
West Virginia’s defense looks to be very good this year as they return seven starters, which includes the heart and soul of the defense in Reed Williams.
The 2008 Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP definitely affects play whenever he is in the game. Last season, he was limited to only two games due to injuries in both of his shoulders, but performed exceptionally well.
J.T. Thomas returns also, and is an athletic specimen at linebacker. He’s quick, and when Jeff Casteel tells him to blitz, look out. Thomas finished last season with 65 tackles, three sacks, and a blocked punt. He has the potential to be one of the best Big East Linebackers.
Another playmaker on the defensive side of the ball is CB Brandon Hogan, who converted from offense. What a project this turned out to be as he turned in 60 tackles and three INT’s.
That’s impressive, especially considering that last year was his first time playing corner. Hogan is basically a mini linebacker/safety playing corner. He tackles really well and can lay the wood.
D-Lineman Scooter Berry and Chris Neild anchor the defensive front. Both are expecting to put up big numbers. Julian Miller rounds out this impressive line as the defensive end. He can come off the edge with quickness and put pressure on the QB in a hurry.
Safety Sidney Glover patrols the defensive backfield and hits hard. Last year he played a vital role in the win against USF as he picked off QB Matt Grothe and forced a fumble.
He has All-Big East written all over him.
An area which could cause this Mountaineer football squad some trouble, as their do everything kicker/punter Pat McAfee is gone. Fans hope that Kicker Tyler Bitancourt and Punter Scott Kozlowski will be able to keep the ball rolling.
Kickoff coverage for this team was awful last year as it seemed like any team could return a kickoff at any point. The Mountaineers finished 117th out of 119 teams in kickoff coverage, giving away around 28 yards a return. Hopefully the staff and players addressed this problem during the offseason—as it cost them a couple of games.
The Mountaineers are a very strong team once you overlook the loss of Pat White. A lot of publications and analysts don’t have WVU winning the Big East and that’s a fair assessment. After all, Pat White won a bunch of games by himself and now he’s not there anymore.
Plus, who knows what will happen with so much parity in the Big East. Every team lost a significant piece of their puzzle and there is no clear cut winner in this conference. I believe West Virginia will turn out with a 9-3 record, with losses coming to Cincy and USF in the Big East. Auburn will be the other loss, because this time it won’t be in Morgantown.
Who knows what will happen this year? All I can say is get ready for another wild and unpredictable finish. Not just in the Big East, but all of college football. The beginning is almost ‘Eer.