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2009 West Virginia Preview - Offense
West Virginia WR Alric Arnett
West Virginia WR Alric Arnett
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 5, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - West Virginia Mountaineer Offense

West Virginia Mountaineers

Preview 2009 - Offense


- 2009 CFN West Virginia Preview | 2009 WVU Offense Preview
-
2009 WVU Defense Preview | 2009 WVU Depth Chart
- 2009 CFN WVU Preview | 2007 WVU Preview
| 2006 WVU Preview 

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.
             

Returning Leaders
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

Star of the offense: Junior RB Noel Devine
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior QB Jarrett Brown
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore G Josh Jenkins
Best pro prospect: Devine
Top three 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


Quarterbacks


Projected Starter: 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.
Strength: 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.
Weakness: The 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.
Rating: 8

Running Backs

Projected Starters: 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.

Redshirt freshman 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.
Strength: 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 extra yard.
Outlook: 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 weapon.
Rating: 8

Receivers


Projected Starters: Well-traveled senior 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 zone.

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 downfield blocker.

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.
Weakness: 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 passing game.
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.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: 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.

The ‘eers’ 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 senior.

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 Levi Pardee, 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.
Weakness: 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.
Rating: 7.5