2007 RECORD: 11-2; ACC: 5-2
Won Fiesta Bowl vs. Oklahoma 48-28
LOCATION: Morgantown, West Virginia
STADIUM: Mountaineer Field (60,000)
HEAD COACH: Bill Stewart
OVERALL: 9-25 (3 seasons)
AT WEST VIRGINIA: 1-0 (0 seasons)
WVU enters the season having won 11 games for three straight years, including two Big East Championships and a pair of BCS upsets—over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Not only have they overcome traditional powers from the big bad SEC and the Big 12, but doubters from sea to shining sea as well. Now they must conquer what may be their biggest challenge—replacing Rich Rodriguez, the man who brought WVU to the mountaintop.
WHEN THE MOUNTAINEERS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Jeff Mullen (1st Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 8
KEY LOSSES: Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt, Darius Reynaud
The architect of WVU’s spread offense may be gone, but the Mountaineer faithful remain calmly in their seats because the captain of their ship returns. It’s no coincidence that the Mountaineers’ run has coincided with Pat White’s tenure as quarterback. White may be the most dynamic player with the football in his hands, regardless of position. When he is on the field, the Mountaineers are capable of wracking up points against any defense in the nation. Making this backfield a dynamic duo is sophomore TB Noel Devine, an absolute blur in the open field. Devine figures to put up monster numbers, however how many times can the 170-pounder carry the pigskin? While the focus is on speed, the Mountaineer playmakers will benefit from a stellar offensive line, which features All-Big East candidates OT Ryan Stancheck and OG Greg Isdaner. White has improved his skills as a passer, but they will have to replace Darius Reynaud who caught 44 percent of White’s completions and 86 percent of his touchdown passes. Don’t be surprised if Mr. White catches a touchdown pass or two with Jarrett Brown triggering the offense sometime this season.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) QB Pate White (SR), 2) RB Noel Devine (SO)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Jeff Casteel (7th Season/8th at West Virginia)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 7
KEY LOSSES: Marc Magro, Ryan Mundy, Eric Wicks, Antonio Lewis, Johnny Dingle, Keilen Dykes
They return three players who can hit and stop the run in a pair of senior backers, MIKE Reed Williams and SAM Mortty Ivy, and junior Bandit Quinton Andrews. Williams and Andrews were their top two tacklers last season, but they must replace eight of their top 11 tacklers from a year ago. On the defensive line, the player they need to step up the most is sophomore DT Scooter Berry. Andrews is the lone returning starter in a secondary that features five players in West Virginia’s base defense. The troika of Ryan Mundy, Eric Wicks and Antonio Lewis has moved on—each had three interceptions while no other Mountaineer posted even two in 2007. Their pass rush is also depleted with their top two sackers Johnny Dingle (9 sacks) and Marc Magro (6 sacks) having moved on as well. Ivy did have six sacks, but Andrews’ 1.5 is the second most among the returnees.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) SS Quinton Andrews (JR), 2) DT Scooter Berry (SO)
The Mountaineers play a couple of intriguing out of conference games on Thursday nights. First they fly out to Boulder in September to take on the Buffs and take a closer look at the Rockies. Then, the Auburn Tigers come to the highlands of West Virginia for a rare late October inter-conference battle between what should be ranked foes. If they get by the SEC West giant, WVU’s national title hopes could come down to their final two games as they make a trip north over the border to face rival Pittsburgh, the club that spoiled their chances last season. If they get past the Panthers, WVU must then overcome South Florida, who has handed them two of their last three losses.
Reload: As long as Pat White is in shotgun, they are in win now mode, but is there enough talent for the Mountaineers to simply reload? Steve Slaton led WVU running backs in rushing three years in a row. Reynaud has led the team in receptions the last two years and receiving touchdowns in two of the past three. Their losses on the defensive side of the ball have already been documented. If the Mountaineers are to continue their run of 11 wins and take home another Big East title, they will need several players to step up and make an impact.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
From an individual talent perspective, WVU has not been overly impressive…one only needs to check the last couple of NFL Drafts—it’s not loaded with players from the Mountain State. They have been the ultimate team—better than the sum of their parts—and isn’t that what college football is all about? With so many players gone from last season, the Mountaineers need everyone to play their part more than ever. The base is there with White, Devine and the offensive line, the other pieces will decide whether they reach their peak.
Photo Credit: WVU Sports Communication
Thursday, August 21, 2008
2007 RECORD: 11-2; ACC: 5-2