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2009 CFN West Virginia Mountaineer Preview
West Virginia QB Jarrett Brown
West Virginia QB Jarrett Brown
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 5, 2009


West Virginia has gotten to the point where 9-4 isn't good enough, but this year's team is good enough to get back to the BCS if Jarrett Brown can be an adequate fill-in for Pat White. Check out the CFN Preview for another strong West Virginia Mountaineer team.

West Virginia Mountaineers

Preview 2009


By Richard Cirminiello

- 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 

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Head coach: Bill Stewart
2nd year: 9-4
4th year overall: 17-295
Returning Lettermen
Off: 13, Def. 19, ST: 2
Lettermen Lost: 18

Ten Best West Virginia Players
1. RB Noel Devine, Jr.
2. LB Reed Williams, Sr.
3. DT Scooter Berry, Jr.
4. LB J.T. Thomas, Jr.
5. WR Alric Arnett, Sr.
6. CB Brandon Hogan, Jr.
7. QB Jarrett Brown, Sr.
8. SS Sidney Glover, Jr.
9. G Josh Jenkins, Soph.
10. NT Chris Neild, Jr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
9-3
2009 Record: 0-0

9/5 Liberty
9/12 East Carolina
9/19 at Auburn
9/26 OPEN DATE
10/1 Colorado
10/10 at Syracuse
10/17 Marshall
10/24 Connecticut
10/30 at USF
11/7 Louisville
11/13 at Cincinnati
11/21 OPEN DATE
11/27 Pitt
12/5 at Rutgers

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
10-2
2008 Record: 9-4

8/30 Villanova W 48-21
9/6 at East Carolina L 24-3
9/13 OPEN DATE
9/18 at Colorado L 17-14 OT
9/27 Marshall W 27-3
10/4 Rutgers W 24-17
10/11 Syracuse W 17-6
10/18 OPEN DATE
10/23 Auburn W 34-17
11/1 at Conn.W 35-13
11/8 Cincinnati L 26-23 OT
11/15 OPEN DATE
11/22 at Louisville W 35-21
11/28 at Pitt L 19-15
12/6 South Florida W 13-7
Meineke Car Care Bowl
12/27 No. Carolina W 31-30

Aw shucks. Gee wiz. It’s almost impossible to dislike head coach Bill Stewart, one of the really good guys in the sport. He’ll test the allegiance of Mountaineer fans, however, if he produces another season without a BCS berth.

West Virginia began last season as the heavy favorite to win the Big East title, but lost four games for the first time in four years and lost its grip on the conference crown. In Pat White’s final season in Morgantown, a 9-4 mark and Meineke Bowl appearance just didn’t cut it. And Stewart and his offensive staff, namely Jeff Mullen, felt the brunt of the criticism in the first year in a post-Rich Rodriguez world.

Although expectations are as modest as they’ve been in a while, the Mountaineers will still enter this season as one of a small handful of favorites to win the Big East championship. Life after White surely doesn’t promise to be easy, but the program has the luxury of welcoming back fifth-year QB Jarrett Brown, electrifying RB Noel Devine, and top WR Alric Arnett. It’s a start for an offense that was a microcosm for last year’s disappointments. Jeff Casteel’s defense, on the other hand, has few flaws and a bunch of players, who’ll be vying for all-star recognition.

The further the program moves away from the Rich Rod era, the darker Stewart’s imprint becomes. This is his team, but that comes with a lot responsibility, such as keeping the prosperity rolling after so much success and after being heartbeat away from a national title shot in 2007. West Virginia fans have grown accustomed to championships and marquee bowl games, and if Stewart can’t deliver them, he won’t be quite as charming in 2010.

What to watch for on offense: The adjustment of the offensive line. It used to be that the Mountie linemen would be insulated by zone blocking schemes that masked their modest size and athleticism. Not anymore. This is a new era in the trenches in Morgantown, which requires the blockers to be far more versatile and mobile. West Virginia has been recruiting accordingly, but was a touch sporadic last fall, and still has some wrinkles that need to be ironed out in the offseason.

What to watch for on defense: Blitzes. Lots of blitzes. Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel would like to bring pressure from all angles as long as it doesn’t jeopardize a pass defense that’ll be somewhat green at the corners. He certainly has the requisite athletes at outside linebacker and safety to create havoc and confuse offenses with a variety of different looks. J.T. Thomas, Pat Lazear, Sidney Glover, and Robert Sands all cover a lot of ground, and will be turned loose liberally.

The team will be far better if… starting QB Jarrett Brown excels in Jeff Mullen’s offense. He does not have to be Pat White, but he does have to good if West Virginia is going to trade last year’s December bowl invite for a January game. Brown certainly has the experience and the arm strength to be a good fit in an offense that’s become increasingly reliant on the forward pass. Succeeding a legend might be a bigger challenge than anything he does with his arm and his legs.   

The Schedule: It's an interesting non-conference schedule with home games against East Carolina, Colorado, and the rivalry battle with Marshall sure to get plenty of attention, while the road game at Auburn is tougher on paper than it will be when the Mountaineers arrive. There are four Big East road games, but they're nicely spread out with no killer stretches of time without a home game. However, going to South Florida and Cincinnati will be rough, while there's an off week before the showdown against Pitt.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Noel Devine. Over the last two years the Mountaineers have lost Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt, and Pat White, opening the door for Devine to be the newest sparkplug of the offense. A 5-8, 175-pound lightning bolt, he’s averaged just under seven yards a carry for his career. If the West Virginia blockers, both linemen and receivers, can get him into the open, he’s as combustible as any player in the country. 

Best defensive player: Senior LB Reed Williams. In many ways, he’s your prototypical Mountaineer player, smart, hard-working, and very productive. No, he doesn’t have next-level measurables, but he’s the glue of the unit, chasing down anything that moves from his middle linebacker spot. After missing most of 2008 to recover from shoulder problems, he’ll be looking to pick up where he left off in 2007, finishing the season as the Fiesta Bowl Defensive Player of the Game.

Key players to a successful season: The offensive line. Whenever West Virginia has been dominant it’s had an offensive line that consistently protected the passer and opened holes for the playmakers. This year’s edition is a little vulnerable, having to replace four starters and lean on a more anonymous group. If the offense is going to get beyond last year’s inconsistency, it’ll need the likes of Josh Jenkins, Selvish Capers, and Don Barclay to clear the path to prosperity.  

The season will be a success if ...West Virginia climbs back to the top of the Big East. After unexpectedly slipping from its perch a year ago, the Mountaineers are determined to make it back to a third BCS bowl game in the last five years. They have as much talent as anyone in the league, so shooting any lower would go against everything the program has achieved this decade.

Key game: Nov. 27 vs. Pittsburgh. Lose a game to the rival Panthers, and there’s tension in Morgantown. Two straight, and you better guard the ledges. The Mountaineers have lost the last two Backyard Brawls, creating a sense of urgency to get back on track. The last time these two schools met in West Virginia, Pitt dealt a stunning upset to the home team, ending its hopes of playing in the national championship game.

2008 Fun Stats
- Third Quarter Scoring: West Virginia 101 - Opponents 21
- Penalties: Opponents 77 for 662 yards - West Virginia 59 for 535 yards
- Rushing touchdowns: West Virginia 15 - Opponents 15