WVU Football: Hot Offense Leads To Risk-Taking, Play-Making Defense

Tim McGheeCorrespondent IIISeptember 3, 2010

West Virginia's Robert Sands and Ellis Lankster make Tar Heel Hakeem Nicks' day miserable
West Virginia's Robert Sands and Ellis Lankster make Tar Heel Hakeem Nicks' day miserableStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

I'd love to take credit for this phrase, but it was the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant who first said he wanted defensive players who were (cue in the Southern drawl) "mo-bile, a-gile, and hos-tile."

Southern, Northern, Eastern, Californian.  Say it however you want say it.  Mo-bile, a-gile, and hos-tile, and you have a great description of West Virginia's 2010 defense. 

Bill Stewart, defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, and their lineup of 11 angry men  -- 12 if you include Branko Busick on the sidelines furiously pawing the turf  --  are going to carry the team until the passing game makes tracks.

Makes sense.  With Geno Smith as the new quarterback, he'll need time to figure it out.

Ideal is offensive firepower along with a risk-taking defense.  It's symbiotic.  Everybody's making plays.  Everybody's happy.  So, you can see that an aerial attack along with Noel Devine popping off blockers, is critical to the tone of the entire game.  

I'm not divulging any secrets here.  It's basic to football that if every aspect is in balance, wins appear on the schedule and we all have fun.

If West Virginia runs and passes, coach Casteel can take more chances.  He can put his charges in position to make more big defensive plays than he would if the Mountaineers were limited to the rushing from Noel Devine and Ryan Clarke. 

Granted, Devine and Clarke together are among the best running back tandems in FBS.  With a major emphasis on the rushing game, the defense would then have to play straight up, play to not make mistakes, and get off the field for offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen to utilize his "grind it out" strategy.

I hope that grind-it-out alone doesn't happen.  Surely that's how Scooter Berry and Chris Neild feel.  Those two men, 6-1 and 287 for Berry and 6-2 301 for Neild, want to throw their weight around and clear it out for linebackers Pat Lazear and JT Thomas.  Lazear and Thomas, as well as the young Branko Busick, want to fly sideline to sideline with abandon, as linebackers are born to do.

With Geno Smith directing the air game, and if he does it well, you will see more north/south action from the safeties.  You'll see robo-defender Robert Sands greeting ball carriers at the line in his "special way."  You'll see both Sands and Sidney Glover on the blitz, not playing it safe by rolling over to help out Brandon Hogan and Keith Tandy on the corners.

A balanced offense puts in play the new guys.  Folks have talked a lot recently about how an accurate quarterback can get the best out of fast wideouts like Ivan McCartney. 

That's obvious.  Now look at JUCO All-American defensive end Bruce Irvin.  He's sized as a linebacker at 6-3 235, and knows how to play defensive end.  Irvin is strong with speed as an edge rusher, a perfect complement to sack artist Julian Miller.  Bookend pass rushers, like South Florida's George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul, will work up here on the Mason-Dixon Line, too.

It takes a larger-than-life offense to allow a defense to gamble and do things, like step out of the 3-3-5 and line up Irvin and Miller end-to-end. The Mountaineers have a great opportunity to really take command of the BCS race, but the coaches have to attack on both sides of the ball. 


West Virginia has a busload of big-time major college defensive football players wanting to get on the turf and hit like cement trucks. Ultra-talent on defense doesn't come along to West Virginia that often.

Let's put them to work.