2008 West Virginia Mountaineer Preview
West Virginia QB Pat White
West Virginia QB Pat White
Posted May 6, 2008

It's been an interesting off-season in West Virginia, to say the least. Can Bill Stewart really keep the momentum rolling? With a Heisman-caliber star like Pat White, it's possible. Check out the CFN Preview for a West Virginia Mountaineer team that should be in the thick of the national title chase again.

West Virginia Mountaineers

Preview 2008

By Richard Cirminiello

- 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 

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Head coach: Bill Stewart
1st year: 1-0
3rd year overall: 8-25
Returning Lettermen
Off: 19, Def. 20, ST: 3
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best WVU Players
1. QB Pat White, Sr.
2. OT Ryan Stancheck, Sr.
3. RB Noel Devine, Soph.
4. LB Reed Williams, Sr.
5. LB Mortty Ivy, Sr.
6. G Greg Isdaner, Jr.
7. C Mike Dent, Sr.
8. DT Scooter Berry, Soph.
9. P/K Pat McAfee, Sr.
10. S Quinton Andrews, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 Villanova
Sept. 6 at East Carolina
Sept. 13 OPEN DATE
Sept. 18 at Colorado
Sept. 27 Marshall
Oct. 4 Rutgers
Oct. 11 Syracuse
Oct. 23 Auburn
Nov. 1 at Connecticut
Nov. 8 Cincinnati
Nov. 22 at Louisville
Nov. 28 at Pitt
Dec. 6 South Florida

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 10-

Sept. 1 Western Mich W 62-24
Sept. 8 at Marshall W 48-23
Sept. 13 at Maryland W 31-14
Sept. 22 East Carolina W 48-7
Sept. 28 at South Florida L 21-13
Oct. 6 at Syracuse W 55-14
Oct. 20 Mississippi St W 38-13
Oct. 27 at Rutgers W 31-3
Nov. 8
Louisville W 38-31
Nov. 17 at Cincinnati W 28-23
Nov. 24 Connecticut W 66-21
Dec. 1 Pitt L 13-9
Fiesta Bowl
Jan. 2 Oklahoma W 48-28

The tumultuous resignation of Rich Rodriguez last December marked an end of an era in Morgantown, but did it mark the end of the good times at West Virginia?  New head coach Bill Stewart is determined to make sure the fun keeps on rolling.

Initially, Stewart wasn’t even on AD Ed Pastilong’s short list of replacements for Rodriguez, but then the kids starting speaking up and the Mountaineers rolled over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.  And voila, a head coach was born at the age of 55.  While Stewart has done well in the early going, assembling a nice staff of coaches and keeping most of the recruiting class intact, he can’t allow the bowl win to become a one-game phenomenon.         

Despite all of the changes that have taken place since the end of the regular season, West Virginia remains hopeful for one main reason:  QB Patrick White still has a year of eligibility left.  While the Mountaineers have endured severe hits at the skill positions and on the defensive line, White is so electrifying he can transcend many of the problems that the program will face.  Sure, he’ll get help from jackrabbits Noel Devine and Jock Sanders, but now more than ever, he’ll be carrying the school on his pads.  Prone to getting nicked up, it’s non-negotiable that White is available for all 13 games.  On defense, the Mounties will have a hard time matching last year’s sterling results, largely because of the departures of their two best linemen, Keilen Dykes and Johnny Dingle.  

West Virginia remains the class of the Big East, but that’s no longer enough for a program that’s been on the fringe of national title contention the last couple of years.  Stewart and his assistants need to keep the Mountaineers in the national discussion, or else the unflattering comparisons to Coach Rod will become inevitable.  It won’t be easy, considering the inexperience of the head coach and the top producers that must be replaced. 

What to watch for on offense
: Even after rushing for 1,335 yards, passing for 1,724 yards, and accounting for 28 touchdowns, the Mountaineers might need more from QB Patrick White this season.  Without playmakers Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt, and Darius Reynaud, who caught 12 touchdown passes, West Virginia is searching for reliable complements to its dynamic 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 offensive line, always a constant in Morgantown, returns five starters and will be among the best units in the country.

What to watch for on defense
: Coordinator Jeff Casteel was retained, good news considering how well the Mountaineers performed in 2007.  The defense was air-tight in all facets, allowing just 300 yards and 18 points a game, while finishing ninth nationally in turnover margin.  Maintaining that level of play, however, is about to get tougher.  Even without Marc Magro, the linebackers will be fine, but the defensive line must be rebuilt, and there’s a depth issue in the secondary.  While Casteel will continue to lean on undersized athletes that fly to the ball, he’s going to need help from a few newcomers and redshirt freshmen.

The team will be far better if
… Devine is able to handle the load as an every down back.  Although Steve Slaton will certainly be missed, his production really tailed off last season, and injuries always seemed to be an issue.  West Virginia believes it might do better with Devine taking carries, provided he can withstand the punishment that comes with 20 or 25 carries a game.  A game-changer when he gets in space, he’s also only 5-8 and 170 pounds, a big concern if he becomes the go-to guy out of the backfield.

The Schedule: The schedule looks harder than it actually should be. The Big East slate isn't bad early and gets tough late with road trips to Louisville and Pitt in the span of six days, but remember, those two didn't go to a bowl last year. South Florida comes to Morgantown on December 6th; a perfect time to catch the warm-weather team. After a warm-up against Villanova to kick things off, the non-conference schedule gets nasty the rest of the way with trips to East Carolina and Colorado along with the mid-season showdown against Auburn. Win those three and a national title shot will likely be there for the taking.

Best offensive player
: QB Pat White.  No matter what happens in 2008, White will go down as one of the greatest to ever wear the old gold and blue.  Virtually unstoppable when he gets outside the tackles, he’s an open field blur that’s rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons.  More impressive, he continues to grow as a passer, finishing a crisp 29th in the country in passing efficiency, while throwing for a career-high 14 touchdowns and 1,724 yards.

Best defensive player
: LB Mortty Ivy.  Ivy came out of nowhere as a junior to become a perfect fit in Jeff Casteel’s fast, attacking defense.  As a first-time regular on the outside, he had 89 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and six sacks.  At 6-3 and 235 pounds, he’s instinctive, accelerates quickly to the ball, and explodes on impact.  A bit of an unknown outside the Big East, Ivy is poised for substantially more recognition in his final season. 

Key players to a successful season
: The defensive line.  The offense will eventually be fine.  The defense, on the other hand, could be a work-in-progress.  Part of West Virginia’s defensive success a year ago was attributable to the pressure created by DE Johnny Dingle and DT Keilen Dykes.  Both are headed to the NFL, leaving big holes that must be filled by unproven players, such as Zac Cooper, Larry Ford, and Chris Neild.  If this group can’t get penetration, a suspect secondary will be exposed.

The season will be a success if
...West Virginia doesn’t regress from a year ago.  Basically, what that means is an outright Big East championship and another BCS bowl victory.  The Mountaineers can’t give up any ground in their first campaign without Rich Rodriguez, especially since this is their final season with Pat White under center. 

Key game: Oct. 23 vs. Auburn.  Are the Mountaineers still one of the nation’s top 10 teams?  We’ll all learn the answer to that question when the Tigers visit Morgantown for an intriguing Thursday night match up on national television.  West Virginia will also learn plenty about itself before venturing into the teeth of a tough second half of the schedule.  

2007 Fun Stats
- Rushing touchdowns: WVU 49 – Opponents 13
- Third down conversions: WVU 83 of 173 (48%) – Opponents 71 of 197 (36%)
- First half scoring: WVU 250 – Opponents 112