2010 West Virginia Preview - Offense
West Virginia RB Noel Devine
West Virginia RB Noel Devine
Posted Jul 12, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - West Virginia Mountaineer Offense

West Virginia Mountaineers

Preview 2010 - Offense

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What You Need To Know: Coordinator Jeff Mullen and the offense got a huge break when RB Noel Devine and WR Jock Sanders both opted to return for their senior year. Replacing them, especially Devine, would have been grueling. Now all the Mountaineers have to do is surround them with the right mix of talent to make those decisions look wise. The big question revolves around quarterback, as second-year Geno Smith takes his first steps toward becoming the franchise at the position. After showing flashes as a rookie, he hopes to bloom now that Jarrett Brown has graduated. He should be well-protected by a line that returns four starters, though replacing Selvish Capers at right tackle will require some heavy lifting. On a macro level, Mullen wants his unit to become more consistent on a weekly basis and less prone to turnovers.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Geno Smith
32-49, 309 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Noel Devine
241 carries, 1,465 yds, 13 TDs
Receiving: Jock Sanders
72 catches, 688 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Noel Devine
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore QB Geno Smith
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Tavon Austin
Best pro prospect: Devine
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Devine, 2) Senior WR Jock Sanders, 3) Junior LT Don Barclay
Strength of the offense: The running game, the left side of the line, speed at the skill positions
Weakness of the offense: Inexperience at quarterback, overall depth, turnovers, right tackle


Projected Starter: With Jarrett Brown graduating , the Mountaineers will have a virtual unknown behind center for the first time since Pat White was a freshman five years ago. The likely successor is 6-3, 210-pound sophomore Geno Smith, who rose to the No. 2 spot in his first year out of high school. Injuries afforded him some valuable reps in five games, allowing him to go 32-of-49 for 309 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. With a terrific arm, poise in the pocket, and a high football IQ, it's no wonder he attracted offers from the likes of Alabama, LSU, Clemson, and Michigan. While he was limited in the spring by a broken bone in his foot, he'll be fine by the summer.

Projected Top Reserves: The only other scholarship player at the position in April was 6-0, 175-pound sophomore Coley White, Pat's younger brother. While he has all of the speed and elusiveness that you'd expect from this family, he still has a long way to go as a pure passer. An intriguing option in "Wildcat" packages, he could eventually switch positions in order to maximize all of his athletic potential.

Watch Out For .... the battle for the No. 3 spot. As thin as West Virginia is at quarterback, incoming freshmen Jeremy Johnson and Barry Brunetti are going to lock horns, with a chance for some playing time in blowouts and emergencies. If either excels in August, he could emulate Smith by being the backup as a rookie.
Strength: Athleticism. Make no mistake about, Smith is a drop-back passer. However, flush him from the pocket and he'll make you pay with his long stride and light feet. White and the first-year players are all good athletes, a prerequisite for earning a scholarship to this school.
Weakness: Inexperience. Four Mountaineer quarterbacks have zero starts and one touchdown pass between. That's going to be a problem for a school that'll face a lot of tough defenses this fall and perennially expects to be in the Big East title hunt. After Smith, there's almost no safety net at the position.
Outlook: This is a big year for Mountaineer football. Now is when the program will develop its future at quarterback with two sophomores and two freshmen competing for playing time. Smith appears to be the real thing in so many facets, but as a first-time starter, mistakes and inconsistencies will be unavoidable. If West Virginia can begin building depth now, it'll reap the dividends for the next few years.
Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Noel Devine surprised a lot of people when he chose to return for his senior season, foregoing the NFL Draft. And made a lot of Mountaineer fans ecstatic about the upcoming season. Forget that he's just 5-8 and 180 pounds. He's proven to be a workhorse over the last two years, rushing 241 times for 1,465 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2009, while adding 22 catches for 177 yards and a score. One of the nation's most explosive players and an All-America candidate, he has warp speed and the cutback ability to make defenders look silly. Averaging 6.5 yards for his career, he's a unique weapon wrapped in a modest package.

Thanks to the emergence of 6-0, 247-pound sophomore FB Ryan Clarke, West Virginia was able to solve the short-yardage problems that plagued it in 2008. The antithesis of Devine, he's a north-south plower, with good balance and a nose for the goal line. Not your typical one-dimensional blocking back, the team's Rookie of the Year carried 60 times for 250 yards and eight touchdowns.

Projected Top Reserves: Providing the occasional breather to Devine will be 5-11, 222-pound sophomore Shawne Alston, who played sparingly and had just six carries for 18 yards in his first year. One of the program's top recruits of 2008, he won't frighten defenses with his elusiveness, but has the size, vision, and leg drive to do a lot of damage between the tackles.

Also seeking snaps now that Mark Rodgers has transferred is redshirt freshman Daquan Hargrett. At 5-6 and 188 pounds, he'll draw comparisons to Devine for more than just their similar size. Like a jackrabbit, he gets through the hole in the blink of an eye, runs with tremendous leverage, and is tougher in traffic than he might look.

Watch Out For .... an even bigger role for Clarke. Sure, he's almost 250 pounds, but he has tailback qualities and experience with the ball in his hands. Although listed as a fullback, the lack of proven depth could create occasional opportunities for him to line up in one-back sets.
Strength: Balance. After a brief lapse in 2008, the Mountaineers have their best combination of thunder and lighting since Owen Schmitt and Steve Slaton were still amateurs. In Devine and Clarke, they have access to one of the game's premier homerun hitters and a knockout puncher for short-yardage situations.
Weakness: Proven backups. Rodgers didn't log too many carries, but he did bring a veteran presence to the backfield. Now that he's gone, the Mountaineers will rely on two little-used second-year players to provide relief when Devine needs a blow.
Outlook: As long Devine continues to be durable, the Mountaineers will once again have one of the most prolific and dangerous ground games in America. Provided the passing game can keep opponents from stacking the box, he could be in the Heisman hunt for the long haul. Clarke is an important complement, especially as the team continues to develop young backups.
Rating: 8.5


Projected Starters: The Mountaineers return two of last year's top three receivers and both primary options at tight end. Senior Jock Sanders is to this group what Noel Devine is to the backs, coming back for one more year unexpectedly. The team's leading receiver, he stayed out of trouble away from the field to catch 72 passes for 688 yards and three touchdowns. He also carried the ball 35 times for 175 yards and a touchdown, evidence of the team's desire to get the ball in his hands. Much tougher than your typical 5-7, 179-pound, he'll be back in the slot, commanding at least 10 touches a game.

While still learning the "X" receiver position, 6-3, 190-pound junior Bradley Starks took a big step forward in his maturation last year. A quarterback when he arrived, he's done a solid job of making the transition from pass thrower to pass catcher, making 29 grabs for 405 yards and two touchdowns. He has the size, big hands, and bounce in his step to become the deep threat on the outside that the offense needs now that Alric Arnett has graduated.

If you listen to those close to the program, 5-9, 173-pound sophomore Tavon Austin is about to become Percy Harvin 2.0. A prototypically compact Mountaineer playmaker, he's on the tarmac and preparing for lift-off. Give him even a hint of daylight and he'll scorch a defense with his acceleration, sudden change-of-direction, and vision in the open field. The favorite at "Z", who could supplant Devine at running back in 2011, he debuted with 15 catches for 151 yards and a score, a rushing touchdown, and a kickoff return for six.

The coaching staff is hoping to do a better job of getting the ball in the hands of the tight ends, namely 6-5, 249-pound junior Tyler Urban. West Virginia feels he was a little underutilized a year ago, catching just 10 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. A long-strider, who brings it on every down and leads by example, he has the skills to be a weapon on intermediate routes.

Projected Top Reserves: When West Virginia uses four wide receivers, 5-10, 195-pound redshirt freshman Stedman Bailey will get an opportunity for the first action of his career at the "H" or second slot receiver. Heavily recruited coming out of high school, he could have played in the SEC or Big Ten, choosing instead to become a Mountaineer. He shows tremendous awareness for such a young player, catching everything in sight and always knowing the down and distance.

In 6-2, 238-pound senior Will Johnson, the passing game has a capable veteran backup at tight end. Somewhat of a hybrid between a fullback and an H-back, he'd played a lot of football over the last three seasons, starting six career games and making six grabs for 78 yards and a touchdown a year ago.

Watch Out For .... the fate of former star recruits Logan Heastie and Deon Long. Are these two really done in Morgantown? Bill Stewart was disgusted with their offseason work ethic, but he also didn't completely shut the door on a return. A couple of can't-miss prospects from 2009, it would help if even one can get back in the good graces of the coach.
Strength: Athleticism. Rarely an issue at the skill positions for this program, West Virginia has enough flash to turn short hitches into bursts through the secondary. Sanders and Austin are legitimate game-changers, and Starks is gradually developing into a threat on the outside.
Weakness: Big plays. It's one thing to have long ball potential. It's another thing entirely to actually deliver on it. West Virginia should have more yards after the catch with this group, finishing next to last in the Big East at just 11.3 yards per completion.
Outlook: While there's good potential at receiver and tight end, the production needs to be much better, especially in support of a young, first-time starting quarterback. With Sanders playing for a paycheck, Starks evolving, and Austin on the brink of breaking out, there should be enough playmakers to get this passing game moving. Depth, however, could be an issue all year.
Rating: 7

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: While the Mountaineers remain young on the offensive line, they're markedly more experienced than at this time last year, returning four starters. The lone departure is all-star RT Selvish Capers, who'll be replaced by 6-3, 294-pound senior Matt Timmerman. A scrappy veteran, who got his first taste of action a year ago, he'll need to dramatically elevate the level of his play in order to remain atop the depth chart.

Next to Timmerman at right guard is 6-2, 290-pound senior Eric Jobe, who started all 13 games a year ago and five at center in 2008. Technically-sound and strong at the point of attack, he's especially effective as a downhill run blocker. He's also durable and, in typical Mountaineer fashion, won't take a play off.

When Jobe vacated the pivot last summer, it opened the door for 6-4, 290-pound sophomore Joe Madsen to move into the lineup and kickstart his career. He responded by starting all 13 games and improving his blocking as the season progressed. With that first season behind him, he ought to be more effective and consistent in Year 2.

The left side of the line is set with 6-4, 304-pound junior Don Barclay and 6-3, 300-pound junior Josh Jenkins at tackle and guard, respectively. Back for his second year as the starter, Barclay is the most physically-imposing of the linemen, registering a team-high 15 thunderbolt blocks and 64 knockdowns. Tough and hard-nosed in the mold of former Mountaineer All-American Ryan Stanchek, he's capable of dominating, especially as a run-blocker.

The potential and raw skills exist for Jenkins to eventually become one of the best linemen to ever wear the blue and gold. A blue-chipper in 2008, he's coming off his first season as a starter, finishing second with 10 thunderbolts and 46 knockdowns. His ceiling is so high because he blends uncommon technique, footwork, and awareness with the power to overwhelm his man. All he needs now is more reps and a little more coaching.

Projected Top Reserves: Depth is a concern that might not dissipate until 2011. West Virginia is going to be very young on the B team, which is why 6-4, 308-pound sophomore Jeff Braun will be so important this fall. A year or two older than most of his competition, he possesses good strength and can fill in at either guard or center.

If Timmerman fails to lock down the job at right tackle, 6-6, 288-pound redshirt freshman Pat Eger could be next in line to replace him. One of a handful of talented recruits from the 2009 class, he plays with better-than-expected leverage for such a long lineman and has the reach to be an effective pocket protector. He's an important part of the future up front.

Watch Out For .... Timmerman's development. Sure, he's easily the veteran among the competitors at right tackle, but doesn't it say something that he's played just a few snaps in four years? Unless he embraces this promotion with both arms, he'll be vulnerable if the light goes on for one of the underclassmen.
Strength: Run blocking. Year after year, the one constant in Morgantown is that the offensive linemen will be no-nonsense, blue-collar types, who can bully you off the ball on running downs. This first unit is no different, paving the way for the Big East's best ground game a year ago.
Weakness: Proven depth. As it stands now, West Virginia's second unit could be entirely comprised of redshirt freshmen and inexperienced sophomores. It won't be a major issue if the starters remain healthy, but it's asking a lot for this group to remain unscathed from wire-to-wire for a second straight year.
Outlook: Although the line is on more solid footing than a year ago, it still has work to do and needs to develop more depth in the offseason. Provided the veterans avoid injuries, the Mountaineers should have one of the more physical blocking units in the Big East … good news for Noel Devine and the running game.
Rating: 7.5

- 2010 West Virginia Preview | 2010 West Virginia Offense
- 2010 West Virginia Defense | 2010 West Virginia Depth Chart
- West Virginia Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

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