2009 West Virginia Preview - Offense
West Virginia WR Alric Arnett
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - West Virginia Mountaineer Offense
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What you need to know:
After getting mostly negative reviews in his first season as the
offensive coordinator, Jeff Mullen begins his second year
without the services of QB Pat White. Oh, joy. Actually, there
are silver linings for the offense. Jarrett Brown has been one
of the nation’s top backup quarterbacks the last two years, and
Noel Devine is a dynamic playmaker coming out of the backfield.
Plus, without White to bail the offense out of every jam, the
days of relying on one player to do most of the heavy lifting
are over. The Mountaineers are sticking with the spread, but
it’ll be tailored more toward Brown, a taller passer, who won’t
have to scramble to improve his line of sight. The program needs
him to deliver in a big way after it produced its fewest points
in seven years.
Star of the offense:
Junior RB Noel Devine
Passing: Jarrett Brown
22-30, 114 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Noel Devine
206 carries, 1,289 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Jock Sanders (suspended)
53 catches, 462 yds, 7 TD
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior QB
star on the rise: Sophomore G Josh Jenkins
Best pro prospect:
all-star candidates: 1) Devine
2) Brown 3) Senior
WR Alric Arnett
Strength of the offense: The running game, team speed
Weakness of the offense:
The passing offense, overall depth, scoring in the red zone
Pat White has run out of eligibility. A moment of silence for
the folks in Morgantown, please. While impossible to replace,
West Virginia has the luxury of bringing back senior
Jarrett Brown, an
experienced fifth-year player, who knows the system. If not for
White, he most certainly would have been a starter years ago,
and if nothing else, should be lauded for his patience. At 6-4
and 221 pounds, he’s a great fit for the spread option, blending
nimble feet with a powerful right arm. Plus, he’s unflappable in
just about any situation. Over the last three seasons, he’s
earned two starts, throwing for 839 yards and five touchdowns,
while rushing for 671 yards and seven scores.
Projected Top Reserves:
There’s an interesting—and integral—battle brewing for the No. 2
job. If Brown went down right now, 6-3, 188-pound sophomore
Bradley Starks would
likely trot off the sidelines. An outstanding athlete, he’s the
closest to being ready and the most experienced reserve.
However, that experience came at wide receiver, where he caught
17 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown a year ago. In fact,
there’s a good chance he’ll be catching passes from Brown he’s
not needed behind center.
Well, Pat White may no longer
be in Morgantown, but younger brother
Coley White still is
there. The 6-0, 174-pound sophomore has great speed and
elusiveness, but has a long way to go as a passer. An
interesting option in “Wildcat” packages, the staff would rather
not have to use him on an extensive basis.
Watch Out For…
Brown to be one of the Big East’s best offensive players in his
only season as a starter. He has all of the tools needed for
success, from great size and agility to a powerful arm and a
grasp of the offense. He has one year to author his own
Mountaineer story, and the right system to flourish.
Athleticism. West Virginia sure does like its athletic
quarterbacks, huh? Brown, Starks, and White may all be
accustomed to taking snaps, nut none of them would look out of
place at running back or wide receiver. In the open field, all
three can make people miss and run forever.
backups. Assuming Brown remains upright, the Mountaineers will
be fine at the position. What if he doesn’t? With the exception
of Starks, who’s really a wide receiver wearing a quarterback’s
number, all of Brown’s understudies are untested freshmen.
Outlook: It may
be the dawn of a new era in West Virginia, but that doesn’t mean
big plays from the quarterback are a thing of the past. Brown is
a capable successor to White, who has anonymously waited four
years for this opportunity. If he winds up as a first team
All-Big East performer, it should surprise no one.
Now that Pat White is with the Miami Dolphins, junior RB
Noel Devine is poised to take over as the star of the offense. He
really came into his own a year ago, turning 206 carries into
1,289 yards and four touchdowns, while catching 35 passes for
185 yards. Lightning quick at 5-8 and 175 pounds, he’s almost
impossible to corral in the open field. He’s got blazing speed,
insane cutback ability, and a knack for hiding behind his
linemen until it’s time to burst into daylight. A home run
waiting to happen, he’s averaged almost seven yards a carry in
his first two seasons.
Projected Top Reserves:
Sophomore Mark Rodgers
is making a strong push to be the No. 2 back this fall.
After logging 15 carries for 80 yards a year ago, he’s eyeing an
expanded role in his second season. A poor-man’s Devine, he’s an
elusive 5-8, 174-pounder with good speed and great moves when he
gets outside the tackles.
Jordan Roberts has
been one of the feel-good stories of the spring, traveling from
walk-on to No. 3 on the depth. Although he went berserk in high
school, scoring 48 touchdowns as a senior, it was against lesser
competition and failed to get him on anyone’s radar. At 5-10 and
204 pounds, he’s the biggest and the toughest of the Mountaineer
backs, which could create a niche opportunity.
Watch Out For…
Devine to make strides toward becoming a more complete player.
He knows what it’s going to take to get to the next level,
including improving his inside running and pass protection. He
can also become more explosive in the passing game after
averaging a mere 5.3 yards a catch in 2008.
Devine. He literally strikes fear into opposing defenses and
defensive coordinators with his speed, change of direction, and
overall incendiary qualities. With so much attention being given
to No. 7, every other Mountaineer spends a little less time
under the microscope.
Weakness: Short yardage. West Virginia lacks that
Owen Schmitt-type bruiser, who can push a pile on third-and-one
or fourth-and-inches. Devine may be tougher than his size, but
at 175 pounds, he’s not going to break tackles or drive for that
As long as Devine is healthy, West Virginia will again have one
of the most explosive running games in the country. If, however,
he gets dinged, hold your breath. The Mountaineers are
perilously thin in the backfield, lacking the depth and
experience to endure any down time from their best offensive
Alric Arnett brings momentum and considerable upside into
his final season as a Mountaineer. After sitting out 2007 with a
thumb injury and spending the previous two seasons at different
junior colleges, he debuted in Morgantown with 35 catches for
466 yards and six touchdowns. A 400-meter high school track star
in Florida, he blends great speed with a 6-2, 187-pound frame, a
dangerous deep threat combo.
When he’s not taking snaps
as the backup quarterback, 6-3, 188-pound sophomore
Bradley Starks will
be the starter at the outside “Z” position. Tremendously
versatile and athletic, he quickly adapted to being a
pass-catcher instead of a pass-thrower, finishing fifth on the
team with 17 receptions for 168 yards and a touchdown. His size
and leaping ability allow him to pluck balls out of the air and
play well above defenders.
It’s about time for the
emergence of massive senior
Wes Lyons, the team’s “H” receiver, or big slot guy. While uniquely
proportioned at 6-8 and 231 pounds, that's yet to translate into
considerable production on the field. He caught a career-high 11
passes last year for 104 yards, but is still waiting for his
first touchdown, and needs to be better utilized near the end
When the Mountaineers employ a tight end, they’ll
dial up No. 89, 6-5, 244-pound sophomore
Tyler Urban. The
program’s Rookie of the Year in 2008, he caught four passes for
79 yards and two touchdowns, and has considerable upside as a
seam-buster. If given a chance to make plays, he has the size
and quickness to be a vertical threat in the middle of the field
for Jarrett Brown.
Projected Top Reserves: At least for now, 5-11,
192-pound senior Carmen
Connolly will be on the field when West Virginia makes use
of a second slot receiver. A try-hard type, he has one career
reception and has mostly been used on special teams and as a
Because depth at receiver is a
concern, two true freshmen, 6-2, 192-pound
Logan Heastie and
5-9, 170-pound Tavon
Austin are going to be asked to contribute right away. Both
were heavily recruited in high school and are already listed No.
2 on the depth chart on the outside and in the slot,
respectively. Heastie already took part in spring drills,
showing off some of the strength and explosiveness that earned
him offers from the likes of USC, Alabama, and Florida.
Austin is more of that prototypical Mountaineer scatback, who
gets to top gear in a hurry and is dangerous in space. His
change of direction is Noel Devine-like, and he has the vision
and cutback ability to turn short hitches into long gains.
Watch Out For…
the progress of junior
Jock Sanders. The Mountaineers need him, but he’s currently
serving a suspension for a DUI in February, his second arrest in
under a year. Last season’s leading receiver, he’s a gamebreaker
out of the slot. Head coach Bill Stewart, however, is in no rush
to reinstate him.
Strength: Outside playmakers. With Arnett at the “X” and
Starks at the “Z”, the Mountaineers have a pair of tall,
fleet-footed athletes, who can exploit the perimeter of exposing
defenses. Provided they get cooperation from the quarterback,
both have the skills to bring the deep ball back to Morgantown.
Proven players. On a team that would like to throw the ball a
little more frequently, there aren’t many sure-things at
receiver, especially if Sanders remains in dry dock. Alric has
just one season of experience, Starks is a converted
quarterback, and the true freshmen will play a vital role in the
Outlook: Last season, West Virginia had to replace
Darius Reynaud. This year, it’s facing the prospect of not
having Sanders. If so, those are two big blows for a program
that rarely attracts blue-chippers at wide receiver. While
Arnett is a nice opening act, he’ll need help, especially from
the two talented rookies.
After enjoying a high degree of stability in 2008, the line is
adjusting to the loss of four starters and six members of the
two-deep. The vacancies will clear a path for 6-3, 298-pound
sophomore Josh Jenkins
to become the leading man a year earlier than expected. A
can’t-miss recruit from a year ago, he played in five games
before injuring his knee and being lost for the season. For such
a young player, he’s even shocked teammates with his technique,
footwork, and insight into the position. It’s just a matter of
time before he’s an all-star.
As long as he can make it
back from a broken fibula suffered in the spring, 6-4, 298-pound
sophomore Don Barclay
is slated to join Jenkins on the left side. A self-made,
blue-collar blocker, he’s the next coming of Ryan Stanchek, the
versatile Mountaineer All-American. Tough and hard-nosed at the
point of attack, he laid a foundation for his career by playing
in all 13 games as a freshman.
When Mike Dent injured his
neck last November, 6-2, 284-pound junior
Eric Jobe became the
starting center a year
ahead of schedule. Those five starts at the end of the season
will serve him well over the next two years. A
fundamentally-sound take-charge leader, he’ll have a chance to
be an All-Big East performer before he’s done.
most experienced tackle is 6-5, 298-pound
Selvish Capers, a starter since the mid-point of his sophomore
season. A converted tight end and a nice athlete for his size,
he continues to get better as a blocker, especially in pass
protection. West Virginia has made a living out of molding
imports into solid linemen, which bodes well for the future of
The freshest face among the linemen is 6-4,
307-pound redshirt freshman
Jeff Braun, who’s
used a solid offseason to rise to the top of the depth at right
guard. A plugger with good size and strength, he’ll be at his
best when not forced to stray too far outside the box.
Projected Top Reserves:
Veteran depth will come at a premium this fall. In fact, not one
of the projected reserves even earned a letter in 2008. Two
tackles, who’ve at least been around the program for a while are
6-3, 282-pound junior Matt Timmerman on the left side and 6-6, 289-pound senior
Jon Walko over on the
right. Timmerman is a scrapper, especially as a run blocker,
getting reps with the first unit after Barclay was injured.
Walko looks the part and has a strong upper body, but hasn’t
been able to translate that into significant playing time. He’s
gotten spot duty throughout his career, and will be vulnerable
to some of the younger Mountaineers.
Watch Out For…
the freshmen. Regardless of your class, if you can play, you’ve
got a legitimate shot of elevating up the West Virginia depth
chart. In the summer, kids, like
Nick Kindler, Joe Madsen,
and John Bassler,
will be one strong summer from a spot in the rotation.
Strength: Run blocking. The players may change and the
numbers are different, but in Morgantown, they always know how
to drive block and open holes for the backs. Although West
Virginia doesn’t always attract the flashiest linemen, it never
has a problem signing big, physical hosses, who can move a pile
when confined to a zone.
Depth. This area is as sketchy as it’s been in years. A number
of last year’s reserves are now regulars, which means the new
wave of backups are very young, untested, and vulnerable if
pressed into action.
Outlook: You don’t get better by losing Stanchek,
Greg Isdaner, and Mike Dent. Still, the Mountaineers won’t fall
too far, provided Jenkins and Capers blossom, as expected, and
the unit doesn’t have to delve too deep into the depth chart.