Three keys to West Virginia football in 2012
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The offensive line has far more experience this season than a year ago and should be capable of giving quarterback Geno Smith the time in the pocket he needs to run the offense. C Joe Madsen is flanked by Josh Jenkins and Jeff Braun at left and right guard, and all are fifth-year seniors. LT Quinton Span and RT Pat Eger fall in as tackles, and another five or six players provide the depth the line did not have a year ago. That experience should make a major difference, and it will need to if West Virginia is to compete at the top of the Big 12.
There are two major losses from the 2011 line -- end Bruce Irvin and tackle Julian Miller. Now the team will change to a 3-4 scheme. Fifteen players have practiced at the line positions and the hybrid buck linebacker in the preseason. That's a lot of bodies, a lot of change, and, likely means this unit will need some time before it is playing at its potential.
Nose tackle Jorge Wright is the lone returning senior, but he is not a starter. Will Clarke, a redshirt junior who started 11 games at end last year, is listed as the starting tackle. Redshirt junior Shaq Rowell is the starting nose tackle. Behind them are backups that include two true freshmen and one redshirt freshman. This group will need to grow up in a hurry against the big, prolific offenses of the Big 12.
West Virginia's hallmark right now is offense. Everyone expects this team to be able to put up 50 points a game this fall. They've also got what may turn out to be two of the hottest receivers in college football this season in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey and a likely Heisman contender in Smith. But to put up those points, they need to play with tempo. Time and time again, it was evident last year that, when this team plays at a feverish clip, they are incredibly difficult to defend. It leaves little time for the defense to get set, even less time for substitutions and gives Smith so many options. The frustration and confusion it creates on the other side of the ball is very clear -- even when teams know it's coming.
First Published August 29, 2012 12:54 am