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2012 West Virginia Preview - Defense
West Virginia LB Terence Garvin
West Virginia LB Terence Garvin
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 29, 2012


CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - West Virginia Mountaineer Defense


West Virginia Mountaineers

Preview 2012 - Defense


- 2012 West Virginia Preview | 2012 West Virginia Offense
- 2012 West Virginia Defense | 2012 West Virginia Depth Chart
 
What you need to know: It’ll be a tougher year all-around with nasty Big 12 offenses to face, but the D should be solid. With defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel joining Rich Rodriguez at Arizona, the Mountaineers had to change things up a bit with co-defensive coordinators Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson implementing a 3-4 scheme, even if it won’t be that much different than the 3-3-5 of last year. The pass rush will struggle a bit without Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller, but Will Clarke is a rising star on the end and there’s decent quickness across the front three. The linebackers will be the stars with four veterans ready to get into the backfield and be disruptive, while the secondary is loaded with experience and talent led by playmaking safety Darwin Cook and corner Pat Miller. It’ll be an aggressive defense that makes plenty of plays, but it’ll be a whole new world outside of the Big East.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Darwin Cook, 85
Sacks: Terence Garvin, 3.5
Interceptions: Darwin Cook, Brodrick Jenkins & Pat Miller, 2

Star of the defense: Junior S Darwin Cook
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DE/DT J.B. Lageman
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DE Will Clarke
Best pro prospect: Cook
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Cook, 2) Clarke, 3) LB Jewone Snow
Strength of the defense: Athleticism, Linebacker
Weakness of the defense: Sure-Thing Pass Rush, Veteran Reserves
 
Defensive Line

The Mountaineers have to find pass rushing production with Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller gone. Enter Will Clarke, who spent last year as the understudy behind Irvin and now appears ready to bust out. The 6-6, 269-pound junior has great size and a good first step making 34 tackles with two sacks and five tackles for loss in a limited role. He has breakout potential after being turned loose.

While the ends are a question mark after losing so much production, the middle is solid with the return of veteran Jorge Wright, who came back after being suspended indefinitely and anchored the line making 38 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. At 6-2 and 289 pounds he’s a not huge, but he gets great leverage and is strong at holding up when getting beaten on. Extremely quick, he could do more to get into the backfield, too.

Working on the end will be 6-2, 244-pound junior Tyler Anderson, an active and quick defender who has served as a career backup making 17 tackles with four tackles for loss. Can he be a high-octane pass rusher? He'll be asked to be the new star who can get to the quarterback on a regular basis.

Ready to take over at tackle/end in the 3-4. Is 6-3, 272-pound senior J.B. Lageman, a versatile lineman who has seen a little bit of time over the last few years making four tackles in seven games last season. He might not be a pass rusher, but he has good size and a nice motor. He’ll work in a rotation with redshirt freshman Kyle Rose, a 6-4, 270-pound pure 3-4 end with tremendous upside. A pass rusher who can fight his way into the backfield, he’ll be a solid producer every time he gets his chances in the rotation.

Adding more size in the middle is Shaq Rowell, a 6-4, 310-pound true tackle who came in from Iowa Western CC and has the size and strength to hold up. He could be a nose but he’d work even better as a 4-3 tackle. For now he’ll be a key part of a rotation after making eight tackles in his limited time.

Eventually, somewhere in the end mix will be 6-6, 250-pound sophomore Trevor Demko, a smallish defensive tackle who’ll be at a far more natural 3-4 end position. While he might not be a superior pass rushing prospect, he should more than hold his own against the run.

Watch Out For …
Clarke. Can he be the terror that Irvin was? Maybe. He’s nowhere near as quick or as athletic, but he’s bigger and he has the pass rushing talent to get to the quarterback on a regular basis.
Strength: Pass rush – from the linebackers. The line wasn’t quite as dominant as expected with Irvin coming up with 8.5 sacks and Miller making six, but the coaching staff is going to make sure the front three can be aggressive and can get to the quarterback. Everyone will be turned loose.
Weakness: Sure-thing pass rushers. Clarke should be a star, but Anderson hasn't done it yet and Lageman isn’t exactly built to be a speed rusher at tackle.
Outlook: The pass rush will be worse but the run defense will be better. Yes, the line will be allowed to pin its ears back to get into the backfield, but that will mostly be the job of the linebackers to make things happen behind the line. There isn’t a ton of bulk up front, but it’s a strong group that should be fine at times against the weaker running teams.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Linebackers

Can Jewon Snow become a top-shelf playmaker and a pass rusher? He’ll work in a hybrid Buck position with the ability to work in the middle if needed after starting seven times last year. At 6-1 and 245 pounds he’s think and strong with big hitting ability and good range. He made 43 tackles with 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss, but he has to be healthy after having surgery on his shoulders.

6-3, 223-pound senior Terence Garvin will be back after having his knee worked on and now he’ll start at the Star on the outside after finishing fourth on the team with 72 tackles with 3.5 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss and two picks as a big safety. He has worked in a hybrid role before and he’s physical and productive no matter where he plays with 158 career stops. He’ll be backed up by sophomore Wes Tonkery, a 6-2, 214-pound athlete who made four tackles and got a start in place of Garvin in the Orange Bowl. While he’s built like a safety, he can hit.

6-0, 230-pound sophomore Jared Barber started a few games and saw time in almost every game making 23 tackles with two tackles for loss. A middle linebacker who’ll work inside at the strongside, he has mostly been a great special teamer while growing into a role for the defense. 

6-0, 242-pound junior Doug Rigg is athletic and aggressive at the weakside position, which is an inside spot on this defense. Bulked up over the last year, he should be able to handle himself well after making 30 tackles with a sack and four tackles for loss. 5-11, 230-pound sophomore Troy Gloster made five tackles last season and has the build and the tackling ability to step in and make things happen against the run if needed, while 6-1, 226-pound redshirt freshman Isaiah Bruce is a big-hitting prospect with track speed. A potential guided missile, he was a Florida state champion hurdler.

Watch Out For … Snow. It’ll be interesting to see how the coaching staff tries to use the outside linebackers in the new system, but Snow and Garvin should be in for big seasons as top pass rushers. They’ll get every chance to shine.
Strength: Tacklers. Everyone can hit and everyone can move. This is an athletic, physical group that should be able to put up big numbers and get all over the field. There won’t be too many plays made down the field.
Weakness: Rocks against the run. No, this group won’t be gashed, but it’ll give up a few yards against the power running teams. The linebackers did a good job against LSU and Louisville, and oddly enough, one of the worst performances of the year came early against Clemson. This group should give up about 180 rushing yards a game.
Outlook: The Mountaineers should be good here with four linebackers instead of three. It’s a question of semantics with Garvin being more of a linebacker than a safety, but everyone can run and it’ll still be an aggressive group. It took a year to rebuild the position, and now it should be solid.
Unit Rating: 7

Secondary

The secondary is coming off a tremendous year and it should be solid again if the veterans come through with big seasons. Senior Pat Miller got nine starts and will get the call at the boundary corner after finishing fifth on the team with 66 tackles with two picks. At 5-10 and 191 pounds he’s not small and he hits well, but he needs to make more big plays when the ball is in the air like he did against South Florida with a key pick-six.

Back on the other side is junior Brodrick Jenkins, a 5-10, 184-pound veteran who started four times but has been a big part of the mix over the last few years making 27 tackles and two picks with eight broken up passes last season. He came on late in the year and turned into a key producer, and now the job on the field side is his over the next few years.

5-11, 204-pound junior Darwin Cook is a former receiver who has grown into a nice strong safety, finishing second on the team with 85 tackles with two picks. However, he’ll be forever known for his game-changing 99-yard fumble return for a score against Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Last year he played in a bandit position, but now he’ll do even more against the run and he should be a great all-around producer in a more traditional role.

Also on the rise is 5-10, 196-pound true freshman Karl Joseph, a top safety prospect who took over the starting free safety job this spring and might not move for the next four years. A big-time tackler and all-around playmaker out of Orlando, he was wanted by a slew of SEC and Big Ten teams, but West Virginia got him.

Veteran backup Travis Bell has mostly been a special teamer but he finished with ten tackles last season and should be ready to shine at free safety. At 6-2 and 201 pounds he’s big and can move, but the pressure will be on to be one of the team’s leading tacklers and a playmaker when the ball is in the air. He’ll be backed up by Matt Moro, a 6-0, 192-pound former JUCO transfer from College of the Desert and El Camino College who made six tackles in a limited role.

It’s just a question of time before redshirt freshman Terrell Chestnut becomes a major factor. A star recruit last year as either a safety or a corner, he’ll start out as a backup behind Miller at the boundary corner spot with 5-11 and 185 pound size and tremendous skills. He could end up as a nickel and dime defender early on if he doesn’t grab a starting job.

Watch Out For … Jenkins. He has done enough to show he’s ready to do far more at a starting corner spot. He has the speed and quickness to grow into the job over the next few years.
Strength: Production. West Virginia didn’t play against many teams that could throw, but it still did a nice job not giving up a 300-yard day and allowed just 15 touchdown passes with four coming against Syracuse. However …
Weakness: The Big 12. West Virginia, welcome to a whole new world. The Big East only had one team ranked in the top 40 in passing offense last year – West Virginia. The Big 12 had five teams ranked in the top 18, but No. 18 was Texas A&M. Texas and Kansas will throw better and Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas Tech will be among the best in the nation at bombing away.
Outlook: West Virginia won’t be 35th in the nation in pass defense and won’t be 11th in pass efficiency defense – the pass rush won’t be as good and the passing games will be far better – but it’ll still be a terrific secondary. Cook is going to be an All-Big 12 star while Miller and Jenkins will be fine on the outside.
Unit Rating: 7

Special Teams

Back again after a decent year is senior Tyler Bitancurt, a veteran who bounced back from a down year – after earning All-Big East honors as a freshman – nailing 16-of-22 field goals with two of the kicks blocked. While he missed a few makeable kicks, he has a decent enough leg to connect from around 45 yards. Now he has to bounce back again hitting 12 of his first 13 attempts in the first half of the year.

The punting game used a combination of senior Corey Smith and Michael Molinari trying to find some semblance of production. Smith averaged 39.7 yards per try putting six inside the 20, while Molinari averaged 37.2 yards per attempt with 11 going inside the 20. Smith will get the first crack but he has to bang out more big yards.

Star receiver Tavon Austin is one of the best all-around returners in college football averaging 14.1 yards per punt return and 26.1 yards per kickoff return with two scores. Brodrick Jenkins and Stedman Bailey will be in the mix for both spots, but Austin will be the star.

Watch Out For … the punting game. The Mountaineers had to punt more often than you’d think considering the high-octane attack, and the production was just mediocre. Smith and Molinari combined to average just 38.4 yards per kick with 17 put inside the 20. In the Big 12, the longer fields the great offenses have to go, the better.
Strength: Austin. He has an NFL future as a return man. Devastating, he came up with a huge kickoff return for a score against South Florida and returned one back to the house in the opener against Marshall. While he didn’t get much work late in the season a punt returner, teams started to stay away from him.
Weakness: Coverage teams. The punting game was bad but the coverage teams were worse allowing 23.8 yards per kickoff return and two scores and gave up 10.6 yards per punt return with a score.
Outlook: The special teams were supposed to be shaky going into last year, and they were. Bitancurt is fine and Austin is special, but the other areas need a ton of work and Bitancurt needs to overcome a rough back half of 2011.
Unit Rating: 5
 
- 2012 West Virginia Preview | 2012 West Virginia Offense
- 2012 West Virginia Defense | 2012 West Virginia Depth Chart