The WVU Mountaineers are getting ready for another year of football. Coming off two consecutive 9-4 seasons, coach Bill Stewart looks to lead his team to the promise land in his third year. As they say... "three is a magic number".
Stewart has done a good job getting the Mountaineers to where they're at today, even though some might not like the way he's done it, but he's got it done. Fans have to be happy with where the team is headed.
With that said, let's look at this team's makeup:
For the third year in a row, WVU will have a different QB starting in OC Jeff Mullen's system.
Pat White was the guinea pig in 2008, and he had career highs for passing. Then you had Jarrett Brown handling the reigns for 2009, a year filled with ups and downs. Now you have sophomore Geno Smith taking on the responsibility of leading the Mountaineers for 2010.
In limited action last year, Smith completed 32 out of 49 passes for 309 yards. He also added a touchdown and an interception. Smith showed that he can be depended on, when he saw significant action against Marshall. He completed 15 out of 21 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown including two very clutch passes that helped the Mountaineers win the game.
Smith's offseason this year for the Mountaineers has been limited though. With a broken foot, head coach Bill Stewart held Smith out for the majority of spring drills.
QB Coley White (yes, Pat White's brother) took most of the snaps this spring and has improved each day. Don't be surprised to see some wildcat this year as Coley has great athleticism.
The other quarterbacks for the Mountaineers are incoming freshman Barry Brunetti and Jeremy Johnson. Brunetti has a strong arm and is able to run when necessary. Johnson is a playmaking QB that can take it the distance any time.
Running the ball for WVU will be none other than the exciting Noel Devine. Many people were surprised when the senior announced his return, but now the Big East will have to deal with him yet again.
Devine rushed for 1465 yards and 13 TD's last year while averaging 6.1 ypc. With each year in WVU's offense, he has shown improvement. Expect to see a monster year from the diminutive back.
FB Ryan Clarke looks to be an even bigger factor this year after bruising defenses for 250 yards and 8 TD's, most of which came near the goaline. Clarke is a tough runner and gives WVU short yardage capabilities.
At WR, the Mountaineers return their go-to-guy in Jock Sanders. WVU plugs him everywhere on the field. Once he gets going in open space, he's hard to bring down. Sanders led the team with 72 receptions and could have an All Big East caliber season this year.
A player who could potentially come into his own this season is Tavon Austin. Last year Austin showed flashes of what he could do when the ball was in his hands scoring touchdowns by running, catching, and returning kicks.
This year the coaches decided to move him to outside receiver from running back to get him on the field. Austin has too much talent to be second fiddle to Devine. He's extremely quick and can break down anybody near his vicinity of space. Watch out for that stiff leg stop and go move that he throws out.
Other receivers that look to figure into the mix are Bradley Starks, Stedman Bailey, and incoming freshman recruit Ivan McCartney.
For WVU to have any type of success, the offensive line has to step up. Josh Jenkins, Don Barclay, and Eric Jobe have a ton of games under their belt now. Look for them to improve their play as the season gets underway.
The Mountaineer defense looks to be very solid this year, starting down in the trenches with NT Chris Neild. Neild has been a force for the Mountaineers, taking on multiple offensive lineman and freeing up his teammates to get sacks.
Julian Miller had a terrific year, pulling in nine sacks, and hopes to add to that number this year. Scooter Berry also joins his fellow lineman and can plug up space.
JT Thomas heads the linebacking crew and will look to put up some good numbers. The coaches have been stressing the importance of leadership all throughout the offseason and Thomas definitely has the qualities to be one.
Cornerbacks Brandon Hogan and Keith Tandy return to lock up opposing receivers while safeties Sidney Glover and Robert Sands serve as the last line of defense.
Speaking of Robert Sands, look for him to have a great season. Standing in at 6'5'' Sands has the ability to chase down anybody he sets his sights on. He can also knock heads off shoulders.
Sands had a breakout season last year picking the ball of five times and being named a 1st Team All Big East player. Quite simply, if a QB overthrows his receiver, Robert Sands will have the chance to pick it off.
Field goal kicking will be in great shape with Tyler Bitancurt, who had an outstanding freshman season, making 13-15 field goals. Punting will be a question as Scott Kozlowski is gone. Greg Pugnetti or Corey Smith will have to step up into that role.
Kickoff coverage for the Mounties last year was "turrible." Fans hope that this re-occuring theme gets taken care of when the season begins.
This WVU team looks to have one of the best defenses in the Big East this year. The offense will probably take some time to get going as Geno Smith gets acclimated to the game.
What better way to settle down than to hand the ball off to your playmakers? Noel Devine and Jock Sanders will serve as Geno Smith's security blanket until he gets rolling.
Coastal Carolina - W
(Should be an easy win.)
@ Marshall - W
(WVU has the upperhand against Marshall even though the Thundering Herd came close last season until a late rally by the Geno Smith-led Mountaineers.)
Maryland - W
(WVU convincingly beat Maryland in 2007 at Maryland. Expect to see the same outcome.)
@ LSU - L
(Inexperienced QB Geno Smith thrown into death valley. LSU isn't the same as it used to be, but playing there is very difficult. LSU's defense is athletic and quarterback turned WR Russell Shepard could cause havoc against the Mountaineer defense.)
UNLV - W
(The Rebels finished last season 5-7. I don't expect them to come into Morgantown and beat the Mountaineers.)
South Florida - W
(USF seems to have WVU's number as they can defend the Mountaineers well. However, this game won't be at South Florida.)
Syracuse - W
(WVU seems to have the upperhand no matter where they play.)
@Uconn - Tossup
(Connecticut has come so close to beating the Moutaineers. It's a just a matter of time and it might happen this year. Plus they're home.)
Cincinnati - W
(Collaros, Pead, Binns, and Woods form a scary offense, but I like WVU's chances against the Bearcat defense, and they're home.)
Louisville - W
(Gotta like what Coach Strong is doing for the Cardinals, but I like WVU's chances in this one.)
@Pittsburgh - L
(Backyard Brawl is always exciting. You also have the best backs in the Big East duking it out. If memory serves me right, Pitt beat WVU at Pittsburgh while Pat White was the QB. I forsee the same thing happening.)
Rutgers - W
(Yes Rutgers is improving, but Savage and Sanu won't be enough.)
Realistic Scenario : 10-2 or 9-3
Best Case Scenario : 11-1
Worst Case : anything lower than 8-4