With camp opening in a few weeks, it is time to look forward to what the season could hold for the Mountaineers this year. There is no question that the Mountaineers have some questions on both sides of the ball.
The offense is where most people think the Mountaineers will struggle the most; that may not be true. The team is now in its second year under both head coach Bill Stewart and offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen. The offense is also returning 13 lettermen and eight starters.
The unit did lose quarterback Patrick White to the National Football League. Taking his spot will be redshirt senior Jarrett Brown. Brown has already shown that he can lead this team; last year he stepped in and started the Syracuse game and earned the win. In the game, he went 14-of-20 for 52 yards and a touchdown.
Brown is a better fit in Mullen’s pro style passing game. He will be able to make all the throws and then some.
At running back, Noell Devine returns. Devine is in his third year now and will be looking to make more of an impact. Last season he finished with 1,289 rushing yards. Devine will be likely joined in the backfield by incoming true freshman Tavon Austin out of Baltimore, Maryland.
With White's running ability no longer in the Mountaineer backfield, look for increased production from the running back unit.
The one upgrade the offense will have this year is in the wide receivers unit.
Senior Alric Arnett will be counted on more than ever this year. He is joined with Bradley Starks, a wide out that will be a big surprise this year.
Wes Lyons will be in one of the slots this year, which could lead to big match-up problems for opposing teams. He is 6-foot-8 and can run; there not many teams that can match up to him out of the slot. The other slot will be Jock Sanders, a very quick receiver. He will be able to beat man coverage by most linebackers and safeties will have a hard time covering him as well.
Joining that unit will true freshman Logan Heastie. He will start the season as a back up to Arnett, but will see plenty of playing time this year. Heastie has big time potential and it could be hard for the coaching staff to keep him on the sidelines this year.
Another receiver that could make an impact is redshirt freshman Ryan Nehlen; the grandson of Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen. At 6-foot-2, he is a big target. Nehlen can run and has good hands. He will be able to go up and get a lot of balls that are thrown his way.
The offensive line may be the biggest question mark going into the season. Losing three starters is always hard to recover from, but the Mountaineers do have good young linemen looking to earn starting spots this year. The coaching staff could use the first game or two to decide on a set offensive line.
Contrary to other years, defense will be the strong side of the ball. The defensive unit returns eight starters and many key parts to one of the most dominating defenses in the country.
The defensive line will be anchored by redshirt juniors Scooter Berry and Chris Neild. They will be joined by Julian Miller, who is looking to have a break out season on the line this year. Tevita Finau will also be trying to make an impact in this first year with the team.
West Virginia's linebackers will be lead by All Big East Reed Williams. After playing only two games last season because of injuries, he will look to rebound and become the rock in the middle that the team needs.
Reed will be joined by J.T. Thomas, a player with big time playmaking abilities.
The one weak part of the defense is the defensive back core. They are all young but very talented. Bandon Hogan and Keith Tandy will be called on to lock down opposing teams' best wide outs. The safeties will be Sidney Glover, Robert Sands, and Francot “Boogie” Allen.
The most over looked position on the team is the kicker. The Mountaineers lost possibly the best kicker in school history in Pat McAfee.
This year, the team will kick by committee until they find the right one for the rest of the season.
West Virginia will look to build on the success the team had last year. There will be some true freshman who will try to make an impact this year, which could make this team that much better.