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You can read the entire West Virginia preview in Athlon Sports' 2011 Big East magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
#17 West Virginia
Big East PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Dana Holgorsen, | OFF. COORDINATOR: Dana Holgorsen | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jeff Casteel
West Virginia’s offense has gone through a makeover. Dana Holgorsen was brought in from Oklahoma State as the new offensive coordinator and assumed the head coaching duties after Bill Stewart resigned in June. A Hal Mumme “Air Raid” offense disciple, Holgorsen — and a whole new offensive staff — will try to bring back the fast tempo WVU lost when Rich Rodriguez departed.
Quarterback Geno Smith is among seven starters returning on offense. Smith has had two foot surgeries, but when healthy, he’s effective. His 2,763 passing yards and 2,980 total yards were school records for a sophomore. He finished last season No. 1 in the Big East in pass efficiency (144.7) and No. 2 in total offense (229.2 ypg) and passing yards per game (212.5).
Smith will demand more of the spotlight because of Holgorsen’s offense and the loss of Noel Devine, WVU’s all-time all-purpose yardage leader. Shawne Alston, a bigger back at 5'11", 219 pounds, will probably take Devine’s spot.
The receiving corps will certainly receive more work. Holgorsen likes the talent on hand. “It’s probably the best-looking group I’ve had,” he says.
Leading the way will be big-play junior Tavon Austin, a second-team All-Big East selection in 2010. Watch, however, for a breakout season from 6'3" sophomore Ivan McCartney. WVU returns three starters on the offensive line, but suffered a blow when guard Josh Jenkins was lost for the year with a knee injury.
The Mountaineers will run the table in the Big East.
Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has his work cut out. In the last four years, WVU’s defenses have ranked No. 8, 11, 31 and 3 nationally in scoring. But gone are anchors Scooter Berry and Chris Neild from the front of the 3-3-5 odd stack. The good news is that end-turned-tackle Julian Miller returns, and Bruce Irvin is being inserted as an every-down end. Irvin played mostly on third downs last season, yet led the Big East in sacks with 14, a number that ranked second nationally.
Linebacker could be a problem area, with only one returning starter, Najee Goode. WVU also lost a trio of talented defensive backs, including Robert Sands, who declared early for the NFL Draft. The Mountaineers do, however, return Spur safety Terence Garvin, who led the team in tackles last season. Also back is cornerback Keith Tandy, whom the school is touting as an All-America candidate. He led the Big East in interceptions with six last season.
Geno Smith, QB When healthy, Smith is calm, efficient — and one of the Big East’s best signal-callers.
Tavon Austin, WR The most lethal offensive threat on WVU’s roster.
Bruce Irvin, DE Mostly played on passing downs in 2010 — and still led the Big East in sacks.
|Sept. 10th||Norfolk State|
|Sept. 17th||at Maryland|
|Oct. 1st||Bowling Green|
|Oct. 21st||at Syracuse|
|Oct. 29th||at Rutgers|
|Nov. 12th||at Cincinnati (Paul Brown Stadium)|
|Dec. 1st||at South Florida|
In the area of special teams, there are more than a few areas of concern. Among them is the search for the team’s fourth punter in four years. Also, WVU is hoping kicker Tyler Bitancurt returns to form. He converted 13-of-15 field goal attempts as a freshman but hit only 10-of-17 last season. Punt and kickoff return play also needs improvement.
There’s a new sheriff in Morgantown. In is Holgorsen, who takes over the offense this season and was promoted to head coach a year earlier than expected. Holgorsen’s track record with offenses is stellar. Casteel also has a fine national reputation.
The Mountaineer schedule sets up nicely. LSU visits Morgantown. And in Big East play, WVU hosts Connecticut, Louisville and Pitt.
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