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2008 West Virginia Preview - Offense
West Virginia RB Noel Devine
West Virginia RB Noel Devine
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 6, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - West Virginia Mountaineer Offense

West Virginia Mountaineers

Preview 2008 - Offense


- 2008 CFN West Virginia Preview | 2008 WVU Offense Preview
-
2008 WVU Defense Preview | 2008 WVU Depth Chart
- 2007 West Virginia Preview
| 2006 CFN West Virginia Preview 

What you 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.                

Returning Leaders
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 offense: Senior QB Patrick White
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore RB Noel Devine
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 speed
Weakness of the offense: Proven players at the non-QB skill positions

Quarterbacks

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 defenses.   
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 level.   
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.
Rating: 10

Running Backs

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 role. 

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 backfield.

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 Devine.
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.     
Rating: 7

Receivers

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 skills. 

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 progressed. 

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 by Reynaud.   
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 box.
Rating: 6

Offensive Line

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 East. 

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 indicate.

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 in 2009. 

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 Morgantown.       
Rating: 9