The end of August is upon us.
We bleacher creatures have read and written and commented and returned comments. Then we read more, slept on it and awakened, only to do it all over again.
We have spoken. Now it's the players' turn to talk, to talk in that commanding language, with their legs and their pads.
Here's what we in West Virginia think they're going to say.
In 2009, true freshman quarterback Geno Smith attempted 49 passes in his backup role, filling in twice for the injured senior Jarrett Brown. Smith led the Mountaineers to a win against Marshall but presided over a disheartening loss in the Gator Bowl to Florida State.
Forty-nine passes does not tell anyone much of anything. A season and a spring later and all we know for certain is Geno's a sophomore.
A broken foot kept him away from most of the imperative spring drills. So, you had the 2009 season. Even if you judge that by extrapolating from those games, Geno Smith has remained more of a mystery.
It's so obvious that quarterback is the most crucial position on the field. West Virginia coaches can get just a glance at what it means to them from the three weeks of two-a-days, and they still know just a little more than Coastal Carolina and Marshall.
With regard to quarterback, it's good we know any more than any of our opponents.
The job is Geno's, but backup Barry Brunetti is, by Barry Brunetti's own admission, breathing down Geno's neck. Geno Smith was recruited because as a prep he was a great passer; not particularly mobile, but a great passer. Brunetti, a true freshman, was signed because he was one of the best dual threat QBs in the country.
So, all that says is all the coaches have is tape of Geno and Barry playing in high school.
That's not a comfortable feeling.
Count the number of social media pages and blogs dedicated to Mountaineer tailback Noel Devine, sites like "Devine for Heisman", the "I'm the future Mrs. Devine" site, the "4.0 Forty" site. And why not? He was game-planned last season by every opponent, yet rushed for 1,465 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Noel Devine is back with his special brand of running.
Quick? As in lightning, able to make superhuman cuts off an offensive lineman's block and get into space pronto.
Durable? Carried the ball more than you'd think. He's better as he gets warmed up at 20 carries. So slippery few linebackers can get a solid hit on him. Benches 405, just in case they do.
Fast? That's a problem. Devine's 40 times are blinding, but his 50s and 60s start to fade away. Who was that Florida State corner who caught a breakaway Noel Devine from behind in last season's Gator Bowl? NFL scouts weighed in: Devine has one year to work on his speed. That's why he came back.
We welcome him with open arms.
Other Running Backs
Noel Devine will be the mailman, but last season the coaches discovered the value of throwing a change-up.
Ryan Clarke, the 6'0", 247 lb sophomore fullback lines up in the tail position, especially in the red zone. If that's not enough, another sophomore, 6'0", 234 lb Matt Lindamood, got some reps during two-a-days.
Matt's huge. Ryan is huge and can smell the goal line.
Not bad backups.
Four starting offensive linemen return for the 2010 season. That's a great situation.
Still, according to a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, the left side is ready but the right side needs more work.
Could be better.
Let's take notice of the meaning of the Post-Gazette reporting. Four starters are back. However, the three-deep on the line is comprised of:
- Starting: two juniors, Don Barclay and Josh Jenkins; two sophomores, Joe Madsen and Jeff Braun; and one redshirt freshman, Cole Bowers.
- Second team: two seniors, one junior, one sophomore, and one redshirt freshman.
- Third team: four linemen listed, two juniors, one redshirt freshman, one freshman.
Consider this: three deep at center includes two sophomores and one redshirt freshman.
Looking at it this way, the four starters statistic carries some baggage, although two seniors and a junior as backups is a fine state of affairs.
And, here is a good news stat: The average starting offensive lineman is 6'4', 298 lbs. That's heavy enough to pass block yet nimble and agile enough for run blocking for an extremely quick scatback.
Rich Rodriguez. Despise him as you will. I'm not going to take that away from you, but he started it all. He, in his Good Rich Rod days, put in the framework to build the Mountaineer program around speed, speed, and more speed.
Rich did it. West Virginia was faster than Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and streaked by Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. You don't have to like him, but he recruited those guys. Jeez Louise, Owen Schmitt, a 260-lb fullback, blew by the Sooner linebackers and d-backs like he was Steve Slaton!
Now, Bill Stewart has taken it to even loftier heights.
Mountaineers are getting faster and faster at the skill positions, especially at wideout.
Jock Sanders can go under, around, and by, as in bye-bye. Jock sets up robo-wideout Brad Starks and Tavon Austin, a receiver who never met a stopwatch he didn't like. Even Steadman Bailey, West Virginia's possession receiver, can flat out fly. Coley White, whose speed we know is genetic, will get his share. And, tight end Tyler Urban, at 6'5", 249 lbs, can do it.
That brings us to wideout Ivan McCartney. This true freshman...and it may be tempting to redshirt him, but if the quarterback finds a way to engineer a passing game, Ivan McCartney at 6'3", 180 lbs has the athleticism to go up and get it just about anytime he wants to.
If you have to worry about a unit from West Virginia's offense, don't let it be the Mountaineers' receivers.
Next, West Virginia defense and special teams.
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