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West Virginia Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
West Virginia Mountaineers
Posted Aug 1, 2006

West Virginia Mountaineers Preview 2006 Further Analysis

1st and Ten – The Right Pieces, the Right Offense – Maybe because it’s the Big East.  Maybe it’s because Morgantown isn’t as fancy a place as Salt Lake City or Gainesville (that’s tongue in cheek, folks).  So many ‘people’ were convinced that the spread option offense couldn’t work at the major college level.  Utah’s spread was so good in 2004, but you know, it was only the MWC, as the critics suggested.  After Urban Meyer’s version of the spread bit the dust against Tennessee early in the season (although they won), the talk throughout the nation was that offense would never be successful at this level of football.  But, the problem was that the West Virgina spread option offense never stopped working; however, similar to what happens in Vegas, what happened in the Big East was staying in the Big East.  No team would ever have success against the SEC speed with an offense like that.  SEC defenses are way too fast.  In that case, then how fast are the defenses in the Big East that actually slowed down Rich Rodriguez’s Mountaineers?  Because WVU’s charges exploded past the Georgia Bulldogs, from the same SEC that the critics hailed would eat this offense for breakfast, in the Sugar Bowl as though they were standing still, in particular, QB Pat White and RB Steve Slaton.  And, therein lies the rub, with that young, precocious duo.  It is the only out that the ‘spread offense’ naysayers have – Slaton and White make that offense go.  They could make any offense go.  If the Mountaineers ran ‘old school’ wishbone triple option, they would still carve up defenses like your local butcher slices up genoa salami.  Many think White is the straw stirring the drink, and the command that he has of this offense is quite impressive.  But, Slaton is so explosive when he has the ball in his hands, he takes this offense up another complete notch.  When he got into the secondary against Georgia, quite frankly, the film looked to be going in fast forward.  The problem was that he was moving at a pace that the red and black wasn’t.  But, once White started feeling more comfortable with the passing game and the reads within this offense, that’s when this offense got scary.  So, who’s more important?  Does it really matter?  Maybe the better question is who’ll stop them if they can handle adversity that they couldn’t handle in 2004.  Then, people can understand once and for all – it’s never about the scheme, it’s about the pieces.  And, West Virginia’s ‘pieces’ are exceptional.  End of story. 

2nd and Seven – A big piece in the middle – This Mozes won’t walk on water or offer any commandments, all Dan Mozes does is control the middle of the Mountaineer offensive line, doing it well enough to be one of the best centers in all of college football.  Similar to his West coast counterpart USC’s Ryan Kalil, Mozes isn’t a huge 300 pound ‘fat guy’, but when it comes to coming off the ball and technique, he’s tremendous.  He maintains a low base and gets leverage on most every defensive lineman that he faces.  He won’t wow you with 5 yard drive blocks, but he doesn’t miss guys either.  Mozes has good feet and if he has to be a position blocker on the backside to eliminate any backside pursuit from DTs, he’ll do that.  With having to find two new offensive tackles, Mozes is that much more valuable in the middle to keep that quintet together and focused.  They don’t have to do much to open holes for Slaton, White and Owen Schmitt, but Mozes’s first commandment, oh shoot, sorry, no commandment comments.

3rd and Three – A piece of Boo – Nicknamed “Boo’, Kevin McLee was one of the guys that had to step up in 2005, if the Mountaineers were to have a big season.  Hmm, seems as though, he took care of his responsibilities.  McLee was a big-time play maker throughout the season, registering 78 tackles, along with 7 tackles for a loss.  With his speed and his ability to be in the right place at the right time, McLee is invaluable to this defense.  The ability to step up and play against the run, as well as blitz the corner gives McLee his ‘role’ on this defense.  Jay Henry also returns at the linebacker position and will put a hat through you as a ball carrier, but McLee gives West Virginia the dynamic presence that is needed to stop the offensive attacks in this league.

4th and One – New pieces in key places – Two key losses on defense in the secondary are safeties Mike Lorello and Jahmile Addae.  Okay, maybe using the label safety on Lorello isn’t exactly 100% on point, but that’s what made him great – he could morph into a weakside linebacker role just as much as he could play in coverage.  Addae didn’t have the best 2005 season, but he was a physical presence in the middle who hammered anyone who ventured into his area.  But, with those two out of eligibility, the onus falls on Eric Wicks to take over the leadership role in the secondary this year.  Wicks played throughout the year at strong safety and had a solid 61 tackles and 6.5 tackles for a loss.  However, Wicks is a known commodity, but Quinton Andrews and Ridwan Malik, potential free and bandit safety starting candidates, are not.  The good news is that Andrews has the coaching staff licking their chops about what he can bring to the defense.  With the new pieces in place, the secondary will be on the spot throughout the season, especially when they visit Papa John’s late in the year – and it won’t be for pizza.

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