2007 West Virginia Preview - Offense
West Virginia Mountaineer Offense
Preview 2007 - Offense
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need to know:
Unlike most schools that run the spread offense, West Virginia
aims to open lanes for its prolific ground game, rarely putting
the ball in the air more than 20 times a game. The Mountaineers
want the ball in the hands of its two junior Heisman candidates,
quarterback Patrick White and running back Steve Slaton. Along
with receiver Darius Reynaud, they form the fastest offensive
trio in America, and are threats for six with even a hint of
daylight. White is an underrated passer that rarely misses his
target, but needs more help from a receiving corps that’s
suspect after Reynaud. Few schools rebuild on the offensive
line better than West Virginia, but how will the unit react
without its long-time quarterback Dan Mozes and long-time coach
Passing: Pat White
118-179, 1,655 yds, 13 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Steve Slaton
248 carries, 1,744 yds, 16 TD
Receiving: Darius Reynaud
30 catches, 813 yds, 1 TD
Star of the
Junior QB Patrick White
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior C
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman G Eric
Best pro prospect: Junior RB Steve Slaton
Top three all-star candidates: 1) White 2) Slaton 3) LT
Strength of the offense: The backfield
Weakness of the offense: Proven receivers
Projected Starter: Junior Patrick White is
back for his third year as the catalyst of the high-powered
Mountaineer spread offense. The reigning Big East Offensive
Player of the Year raced for 1,219 yards and 18 touchdowns on
the ground a year ago, displaying game-breaking wheels whenever
he found a sliver of daylight. More than just a scrambler,
White is also developing into a better pocket passer, making him
downright lethal in play-action. He threw for 1,655 yards and
13 touchdowns in 2006, and would have been No. 9 nationally in
passing efficiency with one more attempt.
Projected Top Reserves: The coaching staff has
confidence in backup Jarrett Brown which is a good thing
considering how often the fragile White absorbs hits. In his
only start of 2006, the 6-4 sophomore engineered a
triple-overtime win over Rutgers, showing off his tremendous
athleticism and strong arm.
For now, senior Adam Bednarik’s ailing shoulder is
allowing him to throw, which gives West Virginia a veteran on
the depth chart, while allowing Nate Sowers to moonlight at wide
Watch Out For…Brown. White’s job is plenty safe
until he graduates, however, Brown showed he’ll be ready when
that time comes. No longer an unproven rookie, don’t be shocked
if Rich Rodriguez looks for openings to get him a little more
seasoning in 2007.
Strength: Quick-strike ability. No quarterback in
the country frightens a defense or ignites an offense quicker
than White, a 50-yard play waiting to happen. As his touch and
reads improve, he’ll become even tougher to corral.
Weakness: Durability. The one player West
Virginia can ill afford to lose, White, was dinged up for most
of 2006, and has a slight frame that’s not constructed for
Outlook: The more comfortable White becomes in the
pocket and in Rodriguez’s complex system, the more dangerous
he’ll become on Saturdays. He’ll electrify his way to another
1,000-yard season on the ground and a serious push for the
Projected Starters: Coupled with White, junior
Steve Slaton gives West Virginia the most dynamic backfield
tandem in America. A consensus All-American and Heisman
finalist a year ago, he’s a scoring machine with the jets to go
the distance whenever he gets into space. Slaton was second
nationally with 162 all-purpose yards a game in 2006 and added
pass-catcher to his repertoire, pulling in 27 receptions for 360
yards and a pair of touchdowns. He had off-season surgery on
his right wrist, but will be fine by the start of the season.
Senior Owen Schmitt is part fullback and part cult-hero
around Morgantown. He’s Slaton’s trusted lead blocker, but also
has the balance and good feet to take handoffs and throw a
change-up at opposing defenses. Schmitt ran for 109 yards after
Slaton was hurt in the Gator Bowl, and could take some snaps at
tight end in certain formations this fall.
Projected Top Reserves: First in line to fill the
all-important backup job to Slaton is junior Ed Collington
who only had eight carries last year, but possesses a nice blend
of power and speed, and began this year in the best shape of his
career. While he was bothered by injured ankles last season,
he’ll be at full strength to begin 2007.
Collington is getting pushed hard by redshirt freshman Eddie
Davis, a shifty cutback runner who was in the mix last year
before injuring his ankle and sitting out the season as a
Despite being the smallest of the three at 5-11 and 185 pounds,
sophomore Jetavious Best can pack a punch and might be
the fastest of the reserves. Depending on need, both Davis and
Best could get some work at slot receiver before September.
Watch Out For… Slaton to be in the slot a lot more
this season. Rich Rodriquez wants to find new ways to get his
star in space, and motioning him put of the backfield is one
very dangerous option.
Strength: Balance. While Slaton is one of the
premier homerun-hitting backs in the country, Schmitt is a
slugger who can soften a defense and pick up the tough yards
near the goal line and in short yardage. They’re an odd couple,
but it certainly works.
Weakness: Depth. The Mountaineers are in dire
need of backs that can give Slaton occasional breathers, but
behind the franchise is a wave of question marks with little or
Outlook: Even without two of his best blockers,
Dan Mozes and Jeremy Sheffey, Slaton will be Slaton, slicing
through opposing defenses on a weekly basis. However, unless a
reliable reserve or two emerges, he could be gassed by the time
Projected Starters: Senior Darius Reynaud
is back in the slot as West Virginia’s most dangerous and
experienced pass receiver. He’s not very big, but has the track
speed to take short hitches and run for a long time. Last year,
he led the Mountaineers with 39 receptions for 520 yards and a
pair of touchdowns, while averaging almost 16 yards on 14
carries, a testament to his big-play potential.
Juniors Tito Gonzalez and Dorrell Jalloh are two
of last year’s lettermen that’ll be counted on to replace the
production of Brandon Myles. At 6-2 and 205 pounds, Gonzalez
has the size West Virginia likes in its receivers and one big
57-yard touchdown reception in the Gator Bowl to catapult his
career. Now he needs to improve his route-running to become a
bigger factor in this offense. Jalloh is a dependable,
experienced receiver with good hands and solid fundamentals.
Although not a game-breaker, in an offense that leans so heavily
on the run, his perimeter blocking makes him too valuable to
keep off the field.
Converted quarterback Nate Sowers is another example of
how few schools are better than West Virginia at recruiting
talent and fitting it into the right slot. The sophomore is
such a terrific athlete that Mountaineer coaches have decided to
make him a receiver, provided the defense doesn’t get him
When West Virginia uses a tight end, former defensive lineman
Michael Villagrana will be back to provide the equivalent of
a sixth offensive lineman in the running game.
Projected Top Reserves: Wes Lyons is still
rough around the edges as a receiver, but at 6-8, the rangy
sophomore has the size and wingspan to be, at worst, a very
dangerous option for Patrick White on jump balls.
After catching five balls for 72 yards in 2006, shifty junior
Jeremy Bruce will once again back up Reynaud in the slot.
Following a redshirt season a year ago, coaches are hoping
freshman John Maddox has gotten bigger, stronger and
faster so that his raw ability can rise to the surface.
Watch Out For…newcomer Alric Arnett. Other
than when Chris Henry was a Mountaineer, West Virginia has
lacked an outside receiver that could stretch the field and open
up underneath routes for the slot guys. Arnett, a Butler (Kan.)
Community College transfer, has the wheels to address that
Strength: Blocking. This young group of
Mountaineer receivers has a lot to prove as pass catchers, but
they all know that if you can’t block downfield, you’re a
liability in a run-first offense.
Weakness: Proven talent. Reynaud is a real nice
complement in the slot, but ideally not the kind of receiver
that a corps is built around. Behind him is a group of untested
kids, none of whom has ever caught more than seven balls in a
Outlook: West Virginia would like to step up its
passing attack in 2007, but that won’t happen unless at least a
couple of reliable targets emerge out of a mass of uncertainty.
Without question, this is the Mountaineers’ biggest area of
concern heading into the season.
Projected Starters: This year’s anchor of the
offensive line will be junior left tackle Ryan Stanchek,
a versatile lineman who earned all-Big East honors in his first
season after switching from guard in last year’s opener. A
mentally and physically tough player with a non-stop motor,
he’ll only get better as he learns the nuances of playing tackle
for a second straight year.
The other tackle is junior Jake Figner, who
started all 13 games in 2006, addressing a problem area before
the season began. Surprisingly quick at 6-5 and 300 pounds,
he’s able to get to the next level in a hurry and destroy
smaller linebackers and defensive backs.
There’s a gaping hole at the pivot where Rimington Award winner
Dan Mozes used to dominate that’ll be filled by last year’s
understudy, Mike Dent. A one-time tight end and
defensive end, the junior is athletic, technically sound and has
some of the best feet of any Mountaineer lineman. If he can
physically handle the position at 285 pounds, the potential
exists for Dent to be a fixture on this line for the next two
The guard positions will be manned by sophomore Greg Isdaner
and redshirt freshman Eric Rodemoyer. A big,
physical guard, Isdaner responded to being pressed into action
last September by earning Freshman All-America honors. He got
pulled at times last year for missed assignments, needing to
tighten up his consistency in year two as a starter. Rodemoyer
nudged past junior John Bradshaw in the spring in a
battle that’ll continue in August. One of the most improved
linemen during the off-season, he’s 6-4 and 300 pounds with
nimble feet and good athletic ability.
Projected Top Reserves: When Isdaner got the
hook last year, it was Bradshaw that took his place. Now that
Jeremy Sheffey has graduated, he looked to be closing in on a
starting assignment on the right side until Rodemoyer stepped up
his game. The 6-6, 290-pounder Bradshaw will be a guard in
2007, but is versatile enough to play any of the five positions
on the Mountaineer line.
If not the center of the present, redshirt freshman Eric Jobe
will absolutely be the center of the future for the
Mountaineers. A heady leader with crisp technique, he’ll learn
behind Dent in 2007.
At 6-7, sophomore Jon Walko has the size to be the first
tackle off the bench, but needs to become more physical and add
some bulk to his frame.
Sophomore Frank Carduff has a real bright future in
Morgantown. He fits the mold of the athletic, intelligent
Mountaineer lineman and can play multiple positions.
Watch Out For… junior Selvish Capers. The
Mountaineers have flourished at molding imports from other
positions into top linemen, which bodes well for Capers, a 6-6,
275-pound specimen making the switch from tight end to tackle.
His athleticism for a big man is first-rate, but now he has to
show he can get physical and learn an entirely new role.
Strength: Run blocking. Few lines in America do a better
job of opening holes in a variety of ways than the
Mountaineers. This is an athletic group that sometimes foregoes
size and strength for quickness, smarts and technique. It’s not
for every program, but it sure works in Morgantown.
Weakness: Proven depth. The first line is solid,
but the second-stringers have a lot to prove and almost no
experience to fall back on. Although Bradshaw, Jobe and Carduff
have loads of potential, you don’t want them pressed into action
before their ready to contribute.
Outlook: After losing Mozes, Sheffey and
zone-blocking guru Rick Trickett, the line will be in
transition, but not for very long. The Mountaineers perennially
do a bang-up job of plugging in new starters here, and as this
group spends more time playing together, it’ll once again evolve
into one of the Big East’s best units.