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2010 West Virginia Preview
West Virginia WR Jock Sanders
West Virginia WR Jock Sanders
Posted Jul 12, 2010

West Virginia has taken a hiatus from its BCS level play, but the program should be back on track with a loaded squad full of talented veterans. Can Jock Sanders and the the rest of the Mountaineers make up for the lack of quarterback experience? Check out the the CFN 2010 West Virginia Preview.

West Virginia Mountaineers

Preview 2010

- 2010 West Virginia Preview | 2010 West Virginia Offense
- 2010 West Virginia Defense | 2010 West Virginia Depth Chart
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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Bill Stewart
3rd year: 19-8
Returning Lettermen
Off. 13, Def. 15, ST 6
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best West Virginia Players
1. RB Noel Devine, Sr.
2. LB J.T. Thomas, Sr.
3. NT Chris Neild, Sr.
4. CB Brandon Hogan, Sr.
5. FS Robert Sands, Jr.
6. DE Julian Miller, Jr.
7. WR Jock Sanders, Sr.
8. DT Scooter Berry, Sr.
9. T Don Barclay, Jr.
10. G Josh Jenkins, Jr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 Coastal Carolina
Sept. 10 at Marshall
Sept. 18 Maryland
Sept. 25 at LSU
Oct. 9 UNLV
Oct. 14 USF
Oct. 23 Syracuse
Oct. 29 at Connecticut
Nov. 13 Cincinnati
Nov. 20 at Louisville
Nov. 26 at Pitt
Dec. 4 Rutgers

It’s been a couple of years since West Virginia won the Big East and shocked Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. And some around Morgantown are beginning to get antsy.

Like it or not, back-to-back nine-win seasons haven’t cut it for the Mountaineers; not when they won 11 in each of the previous three years and were the beasts of the Big East. Bearing the brunt of the discontent, naturally, is third-year head coach Bill Stewart, a nice guy who hasn’t approached the high point of upsetting the Sooners in January of 2008. Under his guidance, the team has been solid, but has also regressed, failing to capitalize on Pat White’s finale in 2008 and slogging through a lackluster 2009. Sprinkle in a team that returns 17 starters and the presence of a new athletic director, and Stewart is staring down the barrel of a critical year in his career.

The Mountaineers enter 2010 with a lot of hope. On offense, star RB Noel Devine and WR Jock Sanders decided to put off the NFL for another season in the amateur ranks, and the line returns nearly intact. The defense might be the best in the Big East, boasting nine returning starters and multiple all-star candidates at each level of the D. Heck, even Tyler Bitancourt is the reigning first team all-conference placekicker. The glaring concern? What will the program get from its unproven collection of quarterbacks?

It’s been a long time since West Virginia has had so much uncertainty behind center. Pat White was a four-year staple and Jarrett Brown was the obvious choice as a fifth-year senior last fall. The future now belongs to true sophomore Geno Smith, who has a high ceiling and could be a perfect fit for Jeff Mullen’s offense. However, is he ready to be one of the primary catalysts of a team that believes it’s poised to once again punch a BCS ticket? For Stewart’s sake, he’ll need to be because this team is built for today and the locals are becoming impatient.

What to watch for on offense: The situation at right tackle. It’s the only opening on an otherwise solid offensive line. If one position is out of sync, it could end up impacting the entire line. For now, Matt Timmerman has an edge based on seniority. He’s been on campus for a long time, but he hasn’t played a lot of football. If he leaves the door open between now and September, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on Pat Eger, an upwardly-mobile redshirt freshman with an eye on playing early in his career.

What to watch for on defense: Scooter Berry. As a sophomore, Berry emerged as one of the Big East’s best defensive tackles, regularly shooting the gap and blowing up running plays. As a junior, however, he plummeted, suffering through an injury and suspension-filled campaign. The line offset his regression with the support of multiple, but it needs him to be whole again. If West Virginia has a fully-functional Berry to go along with NT Chris Neild and DE Julian Miller, this line is going to dominate up front, allowing the linebacker and safeties to make a ton of plays near the line of scrimmage.

The team will be far better if… it starts learning to win away from Milan Puskar Stadium. In Stewart’s two seasons as the head coach, West Virginia is 13-1 in Morgantown and just 5-7 away from home. Now, you expect a team to be more successful in its own backyard, but the disparity since 2008 has been troubling. With tough road tests at LSU, Connecticut, and Pitt this season, the Mountaineers will need to improve their mark away from home in order to make a serious run at a 10-win season.

The Schedule: The non-conference schedule will be interesting with a tough road trip to LSU to go along with the always emotional game against Marshall and a decent test against an improved Maryland. But if the Mountaineers are as good as expected, they should be 4-1 before hosting South Florida to start off the Big East part of the schedule. The mid-season stretch of four home dates in five games should provide the cushion needed for the final three weeks. They have to go on the road to face Louisville and Pitt in late November and have to do it in back-to-back weeks before finishing up against Rutgers.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Noel Devine. He’s fast the way a sneeze is fast. One of the most electrifying players in the country, Devine is always one good block away from jetting into and through a secondary. Lightning-quick and much tougher than his diminutive frame might indicate, he rushed for a career-high 1,465 yards and 13 touchdowns in a table-setting season. Depending on what happens around him, he’ll be rewarded for returning by being in the hunt for all kinds of national honors.

Best defensive player: Senior LB J.T. Thomas. That Thomas is this team’s best defensive player is saying a mouthful. The Mountaineers are loaded with four or five other options, who could easily fill this slot. He’s a little extra special, however, since he does so many things well for this defense. Because of his ferocity and athletic ability, he’ll be used to defend the run, blitz the passer, and cover backs and tight ends in the passing game, like a safety. The All-Big East first teamer is also flush with intangibles that have a way of rubbing off on his teammates.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Geno Smith. It’s sort of spot-on, but no single player holds the fate of the 2010 team in his hands more Smith. And it’s really not even that close. No, he doesn’t have to be the bell cow for the offense or an all-leaguer in his first season as a starter. He does, however, have to limit his mistakes and give opposing defenses a reason not to stack the line to stop Devine. A one-dimensional, inefficient offense is a sure-fire way to keep the Mounties from elevating beyond the last two years.

The season will be a success if ... West Virginia climbs back to the top of the Big East. Sure, there are concerns at quarterback, but that’s also the case at Pittsburgh, the likely favorite heading into the season. The Mountaineers have as much talent up and down the roster as anyone in the conference, so aiming any lower than a crown would fly in the face of everything this program worked to achieve over the last decade. Purely in terms of front-line players, it’s going to take a backseat to no one in the league.

Key game: Nov. 26 at Pittsburgh. The Backyard Brawl is always the biggest game of the year for both schools. When Big East supremacy might hang in the balance, it’s not even a debate. While anything could happen between now and opening day, the Mountaineers and Panthers shape up as the league’s two most title-ready schools. Plus, the intensity and the hitting for this one is always off the charts. The last three meetings have been decided by four, four, and three points, evidence of how tight this rivalry has become.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Red zone touchdowns: West Virginia 70% – Opponents 46%
- Rushing touchdowns: West Virginia 29 – Opponents 9
- First quarter scoring: West Virginia 110 - Opponents 67

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