Preview 2008 - Offense
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need to know:
Even after delivering the best season of a brilliant career,
West Virginia might need more production from QB Pat White.
Without playmakers Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt, and Darius
Reynaud, who caught 12 touchdown passes, the Mountaineers are
searching for complements to its dynamic two-way quarterback.
The most likely candidate to step up is RB Noel Devine, who
erupted for 627 yards and six touchdowns on only 73 carries as a
rookie. The line, always a constant in Morgantown, returns five
starters and will be among the toughest units in the country.
Although new coordinator Jeff Mullen will stick with the spread
offense, he does plan to add a few new wrinkles to the playbook,
particularly in the passing game.
Passing: Pat White
144-216, 1,724 yds, 14 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Pat White
197 carries, 1,334 yds, 14 TD
Receiving: Dorrell Jalloh
24 catches, 272 yds, 1 TD
Star of the
Senior QB Patrick White
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore RB
Unsung star on the rise: Junior T Selvish Capers
Best pro prospect: Junior G Greg Isdaner
Top three all-star candidates: 1) White 2) Senior T Ryan
Stanchek 3) Isdaner
Strength of the offense: White, the offensive line, team
Weakness of the offense: Proven players at the non-QB
Projected Starter: All of the question marks
facing the West Virginia program don’t seem so bad because
Patrick White is back for one final year in Morgantown. The
two-time Big East Offensive Player of the Year and most dynamic
two-way quarterback in the country (no, Tebow really isn't
dynamic) just keeps getting better as the Mountaineers’
do-everything catalyst. As a junior, the 6-2, 185-pound White
ran for a career-high 1,335 yards, threw for a career-high 1,724
yards, and accounted for 28 touchdowns in another Heisman-contending
season. A game-breaker in the open field, he’s also been ninth
nationally in passing efficiency over the last two seasons as he
has become a lethal and unstoppable combination of talents.
Projected Top Reserves: If disaster strikes and
White gets injured, the staff has faith in junior Jarrett
Brown, a steady backup who has proven to be more than just a
mop-up guy. At 6-4 and 220 pounds, he’s a terrific athlete with
a powerful arm and an improving grasp of the spread. In two
seasons, Brown has played in 16 games, going 59-of-95 for 725
yards with four touchdown passes and three picks, gaining the
experience that’ll serve him well as the 2009 starter.
Redshirt freshmen Bradley Starks and Charlie Russell
got plenty of reps in the spring, and will spend the year trying
to get an edge for next year’s No. 2 role. While the 6-3,
210-pound Russell was one of the top-rated pro-style
quarterbacks of 2007, the 6-4, 190-pound Starks is a dangerous
athlete in the White mold.
Watch Out For…White to do even more than the last
two years, especially in the passing game. Yeah, it sounds
incomprehensible, but with Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt, and
Darius Reynaud gone, the quarterback’s role is expanding, and
the playbook will provide a few new options for torching
Strength: White’s quick-strike ability. No
quarterback in the country frightens a defense or ignites an
offense faster than White, a game-changing play waiting to
happen. In three years, he’s had a hand in 30 plays of 40 yards
or more, a degree of explosiveness that’s unmatched at this
Weakness: Durability. There’s nothing not to like
about White, other than the fact that he’s rather slight, takes
a fair amount of contact, and is easily the most valuable player
on the Mountaineer roster.
Outlook: Stay healthy. As long as White is
upright, all of the individual and team goals that existed
during the Rich Rodriguez remain intact. Ultra-comfortable in
this offense and continually improving as a thrower, he’ll be in
the hunt for the Heisman once again.
Projected Starters: After three outstanding
seasons in Morgantown, Steve Slaton opted for the NFL Draft,
passing the torch to sophomore Noel Devine, another
Mountaineer meteor. He had a scintillating debut, rushing for
627 yards and six touchdowns on just 73 carries averaging a
healthy 8.6 yards a carry. Not very big at 5-8 and 170 pounds,
he relies on blazing speed, elusiveness, and the kind of balance
that conjures up memories of Barry Sanders. As a complement to
Slaton, he was a devastating weapon in the West Virginia
arsenal. As the feature back without much help on the roster,
he needs to show maturity and durability to handle the expanded
Not only is Slaton gone, but so is Owen Schmitt, the dominant
lead blocker and change-of-pace in the running game. Although a
number of players will try, there's just no filling Schmitt's
shoes. The early favorite at fullback is 6-1, 240-pound junior
Maxwell Anderson. A former walk-on with a try-hard
mindset, he knows his to strictly open holes for Devine.
Projected Top Reserves: For the time being, the
sparse Mountaineer depth chart is being headed by junior
Michael Poitier. A former offensive scout team player of
the year, he’s 5-11 and 165 pounds, using his small frame to
squeeze through tight spaces. Poitier also used to be a wide
receiver, which is evident when he’s catching passes out of the
Battling Anderson for the starting fullback job will be junior
Thor Merrow, a 6-1, 240-pound converted nose guard that
loves contact. A fierce competitor and no-nonsense player, he’s
got the right mentality to succeed a Mountaineer like Schmitt.
Watch Out For…incoming freshman Terence Kerns.
Kerns couldn’t be coming to Morgantown at a more opportune time
for both the rookie and his new school. He’s got the 6-1,
215-pound frame and acceleration to ascend to No. 2 on the depth
chart shortly after arriving on campus. Kerns is the bigger,
north-south type runner that would be an ideal counterpart to
Strength: Fear factor. Like Slaton before him and
Pat White at quarterback, Devine has the jets to strike fear
into opposing defenses. He’s one of those rare offensive gems
that can change the tenor of a game with one timely block or one
sliver of daylight.
Weakness: Depth. The Mountaineers are in
desperate need of backs that can give Devine occasional
breathers. And if the starter misses any amount of time, it’s
asking of a true freshman like Kerns, or a journeyman like
Poitier to carry the load.
Outlook: Not long ago West Virginia was concerned
about spreading the ball around and keeping everyone in the
backfield well-fed. Times have changed. Graduations, early
departures, and suspensions have seriously thinned the program’s
depth at running back. Devine is destined to be special, but
still needs help from his mates, including a fullback capable of
doing a decent impression of Schmitt.
Projected Starters: The departure of Darius
Reynaud, the group’s front man for the past two seasons, signals
a need for new playmakers in the passing game. The top
returning receiver is senior Dorrell Jalloh, who caught
24 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown. While no gamebreaker
from his X position, the 6-0, 195-pounder is a dependable,
experienced receiver with good hands and perimeter blocking
At the Z spot, the Mountaineers will rely on Tito Gonzalez,
another heady senior who does things for the offense that’ll
never show up in a box score. A big, physical target at 6-2 and
210 pounds, he had 10 catches for 219 yards and a score, showing
the burst to occasionally get behind the secondary.
In the slot, West Virginia is very excited about the futures of
sophomores Brandon Hogan and Jock Sanders, who
both made contributions a year ago. A nightmare to contain in
space, the 6-0, 175-pound Hogan flashed the quickness and top
end speed to be a natural successor to Reynaud. In ten games,
he had 12 receptions for 67 yards, numbers he could trump before
the end of September.
Sanders is a Noel Devine clone that’s capable of squeezing
through tight spaces and exploding for big chunks of yardage.
Also a candidate to bolster the depth in the backfield, the 5-8,
185-pound jackrabbit caught 12 passes for 102 yards in his
debut, adding 16 carries for 105 yards and two scores.
On the rare occasion that the Mountaineers use a tight end,
senior Sam Morrone is the favorite to be in the huddle.
A former walk-on that can also be used at fullback, the 6-2,
250-pounder will be utilized more as a sixth linemen than a
downfield threat in the passing game.
Projected Top Reserves: While sophomore Wes
Lyons remains a work-in-progress, he has the size and
wingspan to be, at worst, a dangerous option for Pat White on
jump balls near the goal line. At 6-8 and 220 pounds, he caught
seven passes for 111 yards, showing improvement as the season
There’s hope that junior Alric Arnett will develop into
the type of deep threat on the outside that the program has been
missing since Chris Henry left school. The 6-2, 195-pound
Arnett used last season to redshirt, getting better acclimated
with the speed of the game in his first year out of Butler
(Kan.) Community College.
Sophomore Will Johnson is a 6-2, 200-pound playmaker
behind Gonzalez, but can also be used in the slot or as a tight
end. One of the risers in spring, he wowed the coaching staff
with his hands and ability to deliver blocks downfield.
Watch Out For… Hogan and Sanders. The Mountaineer
passing game requires the receivers to take short slants, burst
through a seam, and run for a mile. Hogan and Sanders have the
right combination of size and acceleration to fill the void left
Strength: Blocking. While the Mountaineer
receivers won’t scare anyone with their ability as pass
catchers, they all know that if you can’t block downfield,
you’re a liability in a run-first offense. Jalloh and Gonzalez,
in particular, do a nice job of getting a hat on a defender and
locking on to him until the play is over.
Weakness: Playmakers on the perimeter. While Pat
White has developed as a downfield passer, the outside receivers
haven’t exactly matched his growth. Jalloh and Gonzalez will
make an occasional grab, but lack the speed to force opposing
corners to really pay attention to the boundaries.
Outlook: Reynaud will be sorely missed in the
passing game, unless Hogan or Sanders makes a quantum leap from
his freshman season. Although this remains an offense that
favors the running attack, West Virginia still wants to have the
threat of a vertical game to keep defenses from stacking the
Projected Starters: With all five starters and
nine letterwinners back from last season, West Virginia will be
home to one of this year’s most imposing offensive lines. Back
for a third season as the starting left tackle is senior Ryan
Stanchek, a mentally and physically tough lineman that plays
until the whistle. Built more like a guard than a tackle at 6-4
and 300 pounds, he’s an outstanding drive blocker and especially
nasty when working in small spaces. He earned some All-America
recognition as a junior, despite being overlooked by the Big
At right tackle, junior Selvish Capers is about to begin
his first full season as a regular. Now 6-6 and 285 pounds, the
former tight end moved into the lineup last October, staying
there for the rest of the season. The Mountaineers have
flourished at molding imports from other positions into top
linemen, which bodes well for Capers, an outstanding athlete
that could eventually develop into a pro prospect.
In his first attempt at stepping out of Dan Mozes’ shadow,
senior Mike Dent was terrific, earning a spot on the
All-Big East. A one-time tight end and defensive end, the 6-4,
285-pounder is athletic, fundamentally sound, and has some of
the best footwork of any Mountaineer lineman. A concern a year
ago, the pivot is now a strength for West Virginia.
If left guard Greg Isdaner continues to improve, he’ll
wind up being an All-American before leaving Morgantown. A big,
physical blocker at 6-4 and 315 pounds, he racked up 57
knockdowns, earning First Team All-Big East honors a year after
being tabbed a Freshman All-American. Already on the Lombardi
watch list, Isdaner moves well for his size and can destroy
defenders on running downs.
After beginning the season at right tackle, senior Jake
Figner has found a home at right guard. A better fit at his
new position, the 6-5, 305-pounder plays with crisp technique
and gets to the second level faster than his size might
Projected Top Reserves: Stephen Maw is back
for his senior year, providing much-needed depth at tackle. In
his first season out of Erie Community College, the 6-6,
300-pound transfer quickly scaled the depth chart, playing in
eight games and starting one.
Unlike at tackle, the Mountaineers are loaded with depth at
guard. Sophomore Eric Rodemoyer started six games a year
ago before being the odd man out when Capers was inserted into
the lineup. While still an unfinished product, even at 6-4 and
300 pounds he has the nimble feet and agility to replace Figner
As a fifth-year senior, John Bradshaw brings a wealth of
knowledge and experience to the reserves. The 6-6, 290-pounder
is most comfortable at guard, but is versatile enough to play
any of the five line positions.
Bradshaw will be battling with 6-3, 280-pound sophomore Derek
Hayes for the right to back up Isdaner on the left side.
Athletic and explosive off the snap, he played in seven games as
a freshman, starting against Western Michigan.
If not the center of the present, sophomore Eric Jobe
will absolutely be the center of the future for the
Mountaineers. A 6-4, 300-pound take-charge leader with great
technique, he’ll learn behind Dent for one more season before
taking over the job next fall.
Watch Out For… the development of Capers. The
least experienced of the linemen, he might actually have the
biggest upside beyond Morgantown. Capers held up well in the
second half of the season, but still needs to add more weight
and get more physical before getting a stamp of approval from
the coaching staff.
Strength: Run blocking. Not unlike the past few seasons,
West Virginia has a physical, experienced offensive line that
can line up and simply knock the opposition off the ball. Other
groups are bigger, but few lines in the country do a better job
of creating running lanes for their playmaking teammates.
Weakness: Lack of true tackles. Aside from
Capers, who’s still a work-in-progress, the Mountaineers are
essentially a collection of guards, including Stanchek. The
unit is fantastic when working in tight spaces, but can get
exposed by speed rushers that can jet around the edge.
Outlook: Everything is lining up for this to be
the next in a growing line of really nasty Mountaineer front
walls. While not loaded with national star power, the unit is
seasoned, deep, and an ideal match for the offense being run in