West Virginia Football: Mountaineers Who Are Poised to Break out in 2012
For the Mountaineers to reach their true potential in 2012, there will have to be many players who step up this season.
With the move to the Big 12, the level of competition will be at an all-time high every week, and WVU will not be able to rely on only a few players to get the job done.
We all know about the high-powered offense that head coach Dana Holgorsen will be taking to the Big 12. Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin are among the best players in the country and have received plenty of recognition, and rightfully so.
For the Mountaineers to make a run at the Big 12 title, they will need a few more guys to step up and make plays.
Here are a few players for WVU who are poised to breakout in 2012.
A year ago, Dustin Garrison burst onto the scene for the Mountaineers, and in one play during practice, the Texas native tore his ACL just before the Orange Bowl.
Now Garrison is recovering from surgery, and one player that has stepped up in his absence is Andrew Buie.
The running back from Jacksonville, Florida had just 172 yards rushing a year ago, and in his sophomore campaign he will be looking to improve his numbers across the board.
He showed flashes of talent during the 2011 season, particularly in his acrobatic move in the Orange Bowl when it seemed that he was tackled, but rolled off the hit and ran for another 18 yards.
You can't coach that kind of athleticism, and in his second year at WVU, Mountaineer fans will be hoping for many more plays like that.
With the passing attack being so potent, the Mountaineer ball carriers will have every opportunity to make plays in the 2012 season.
Thompson is another sleeper recruit that Dana Holgorsen plucked out of Texas to play for WVU.
Thompson is out of Katy, Texas, which is in the Houston area. He is a very shifty receiver who was extremely productive in high school, gaining over 1,000 yards receiving as a senior.
The freshman receiver enrolled early at WVU and will be a participant in this weekend's Spring Game. Holgorsen and the offensive staff have raved about Thompson in spring drills, and the coaching staff feels he has the potential to have an immediate impact.
The young playmaker will add another weapon for senior QB Geno Smith this season.
Francis was heralded upon arriving in Morgantown, West Virginia. He was highly sought after coming out of junior college, where he was named a consensus JUCO All-American.
For whatever reason, it just didn't click for the linebacker a year ago, and he ended the year with just nine tackles, while playing mainly on special teams.
This linebacker will be one of the players that benefit most from the switch to the 3-4 scheme, and this will allow him to play in space, something that he excelled at in junior college.
If WVU has the season they want to this year defensively, the 6' 1", 221-pound senior linebacker needs to have a breakout year.
Barber has the potential to have a huge season in 2012, and at 6' 0" and 230 pounds, he has great size for a linebacker.
The sophomore had a very productive freshman year and surprised a lot of people in the program with his ability to contribute right away. He started two games and played in 12 games as a freshman for the Mountaineers.
Barber, like all of the other players on defense, will have to get used to playing a new position in 2012. He was slated as a middle linebacker a year ago, and this year he will play WILL linebacker, which is more of an outside linebacker position.
Barber has the talent to have a huge season defensively, and it will ultimately come down to how fast he picks up the new scheme.
Karl Joseph is another true freshman who has enrolled early and has the potential to have a big impact as a true freshman. Dana Holgorsen has praised this kid early and often this spring and has commented several times about his physicality.
Joseph had a great high-school career and was heavily recruited, picking up offers from Florida, South Carolina and Michigan State before deciding to suit up for the Mountaineers.
According to the newest depth chart released, the true freshman is currently backing up red-shirt junior Darwin Cook; but do not be surprised to see this kid on the field early and often in 2012.
Coming out of high school, he was a top-40 safety, according to Scout.
In his junior and senior seasons playing in Orlando, Florida, Joseph put up ridiculous numbers, earning 268 tackles to go along with 12 sacks and six forced turnovers.
Joseph is a WVU player to keep an eye on in 2012, and he has an advantage because he is already enrolled—the scheme switch actually helps him because he is on equal footing with everyone on defense.
Alston is another player that will see more carries while Dustin Garrison recovers from injury. This running back is a bruiser, and at 5' 11" and 225 pounds, he will be a load to tackle for Big 12 defenses.
The senior RB is currently the starter heading into the spring game and he is coming off a very impressive Orange Bowl in which he had 77 yards rushing and two TDs.
Alston is another player the coaching staff has praised this spring, and Dana Holgorsen just recently said according to The Register Herald,
Shawne Alston looked as good as I ever seen him. He is hard to tackle. Last spring, we didn’t get anything out of him, camp we didn’t get anything out of him and the first five games of the year, we didn’t get anything out of him. As the season went on, he became more healthy. He looks good.
As the senior gains confidence, the production will only increase, and in the Big 12 Alston will need to play well for the running game to improve from a year ago, particularly in the red zone.