West Virginia Mountaineers
Head Coach: Dana Holgorsen
2012 record: 7-6 overall, 4-5 Big 12
2012 Bowl result: Lost to Syracuse 38-14 in Pinstripe Bowl
2013 returning starters: 3 offense, 7 defense
Odds to win 2014 BCS Championship game: 750/1
Odds to win Big 12 title: 25/1
Regular season wins: under 6.5 -210 / over 6.5 +160
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Last year, West Virginia started off the season 5-0 and had dreams of winning the Big 12 title in their first year in the conference. The Mountaineers even had shootout wins over then top 25 teams Baylor 70-63 and Texas 48-45. However, West Virginia’s horrible defense led to a 5 game losing streak, in which the Mountaineers gave up at least 39 points in each game. The high powered offense was in the top ten nationally averaging 39.5 points per game but the defense was 117th out of 124 teams giving up 38.1 points per game. The Mountaineers would go on to win their last two games to become bowl eligible, but were then blown out by former Big East rival Syracuse 38-14 in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
Now, West Virginia must replace prolific quarterback Geno Smith who was projected to be a first round pick in the NFL draft but fell to the second round where he was picked by the New York Jets. Smith threw for over 4,200 yards with 42 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. The Mountaineers must also replace talented wideouts Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin who were both drafted by the St. Louis Rams. The two combined for 228 catches, just under 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns. Austin was also the second leading rusher with 643 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also had both a kick and punt return for a touchdown.
Let’s take a look at the offense, defense, special teams and schedule for the 2013 Mountaineers.
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It is no surprise that West Virginia had a prolific offense led by head coach Dana Holgorsen and offense coordinator Shannon Dawson. However, the offense struggled at times and was not able to overcome the awful defense in the five game losing streak.
Junior quarterback Paul Millard was Smith’s back-up last year. He threw only 19 passes last year with 2 touchdowns and an interception. He doesn’t have the strongest arm but rarely makes bad decisions. He knows the system and is the safe if not exactly inspiring choice to be the starter. Redshirt freshman Ford Childress is a pure pro-style passer who threw for over 3,000 yards and 41 touchdowns in ten games as a high school senior in Houston. He could challenge for the starting job if Millard falters. Childress was arrested last season for DUI so he needs to make better decisions off the field. True freshman Chavas Rawlins has 4.3 speed and could also be in the mix. But with Holgorsen’s version of the spread, whomever is the quarterback will put up numbers just because he could throw the ball 50 times a game.
However, the running game isn’t exactly an afterthought and could be the strength of the 2013 Mountaineers. Junior running back Andrew Buie led the Mountaineers with 179 carries, 851 yards, and 7 touchdowns, and he also had 28 catches for 318 yards. Junior Dustin Garrison looks to rebound after struggling last season after returning from a torn ACL suffered in practice for the 2012 Orange Bowl. He rushed for only 200 yards last season after rushing for over 700 during his freshman season. JUCO transfer Dreamius Smith will get a lot of carries as well. He rushed for just under 1,000 yards with 17 scores as he led Butler Community College to the NJCAA title last season. Former Houston running back Charles Sims will be eligible to play right away after transferring to West Virginia for his senior year. He rushed for 851 yards for the Cougars last year with 11 touchdowns. Freshman Wendell Smallwood will also get some carries, but is versatile enough to be used at receiver as well.
Not only does the receiving corps lose Bailey and Austin but also #3 receiver J.D. Woods who had 61 catches, 637 yards and 4 scores. Buie’s 28 catches are the most of any returning Mountaineer receiver. Sophomore K.J. Myers looks to start at the outside receiver after catching only 2 passes last year. Freshman Daikiel Shorts averaged 21.4 yards per catch in his senior year in high school. Junior Connor Arlia and sophomore Jordan Thompson will compete for the Y receiver. The two combined for 20 catches last year. Kevin White and Devonte Mathis will compete for the slot receiver position. Cody Clay and Will Johnson are the two tight ends. Mario Alford, Ronald Carswell, and Shelton Gibson all have potential as well.
The offensive line was a plus last year but must replace all three inside starters. Senior Pat Eger will likely start at center after he was a back-up guard last year. However, he could move to guard if redshirt freshman Tyler Olosky is as impressive as people say he can be. Marquis Lucas and Mark Glowinski will likely be the starting guards if Eger stays at center. Junior left tackle Quinton Spain and senior right tackle Curtis Feight return after starting last season. Stone Underwood and Marcell Lazard will also be in the line rotation.
A defense that was serviceable in the Big East was absolutely shredded in the Big 12 last season. New defensive coordinator Keith Patterson joins Joe DeForest, who remains on the staff as the co-defensive coordinator. The good news is the defense really can’t get much worse, especially the pass defense which was #119 in the country. Even the middling rush defense failed to show up in the bowl game as Syracuse romped for over 350 yards rushing. The defense returns 7 starters from last year.
The defensive line failed to generate a consistent pass rush last season and could struggle again. West Virginia uses a 3-4 and a 4-3 depending on the situation. Senior nosetackle Shaq Rowell had 42 tackles last year. He will be backed up by sophomore Christian Brown who could play the other tackle in a 4-3. Senior Will Clarke had 26 tackles (6.5 for loss), and 1.5 sacks last year. He will start on the line but could be challenged by sophomore Eric Kinsey. Sophomore Kyle Rose and redshirt freshman Noble Nwachukwu will platoon at one of the ends. Dozie Ezemma and Garret Hope will play the buck position. Dontrill Hyman adds a little depth to the unit, but small size could be a problem for the whole line.
The linebackers are led by Isaiah Bruce on the strong side. The senior had 94 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, and 2 recovered fumbles. Doug Rigg, Wes Tonkery, and Hodari Christian will all see time on the weak side. Rigg will also back-up Bruce. Nick Kwiatkoski and Jared Barber will see time in the middle. Marvin Gross and Brandon Golson will also see time in the rotation.
The secondary will be led by free safety Karl Joseph and strong safety Darwin Cook, both of whom will likely be playing in the NFL next season. Joseph had 104 tackles, 7 for loss, a sack, 2 picks and 3 forced fumbles. Cook had 75 sacks, 5 pass break-ups, an interception and 3 forced fumbles. K.J. Dillon, Daryl Worley and Jarrod Harper will also see time at safety. The cornerbacks need to play a whole lot better as they were burned for way too many big plays last season. Senior Brodrick Jenkins returns at one corner, but he only had 33 tackles, two broken up passes and a pick. Sophomore Nana Kyeremeh and redshirt freshman Brandon Napoleon will compete for the other corner spot.
Redshirt freshman kicker Josh Lambert takes over for kicker/punter Tyler Bitancurt. Lambert has a strong leg with 50 yard field goal range. Lambert will also compete with junior Michael Molinari for the punting job. Molinari is also the holder on kicks. JUCO transfer Nick O’Toole could also be in the mix for the punter as he averaged 41.8 yards per punt last year.
The kickoff coverage team gave up 23.6 yards per return last year and must get better, considering the high scoring Mountaineers had 66 kickoffs last season. The return team must replace the dynamic Austin which won’t be easy. Buie, receiver Jordan Thompson, and redshirt freshman cornerback Vernon Davis are all in the mix to replace Austin.
The non-conference schedule includes home games against William & Mary and Georgia State, along with a game in Baltimore against border rival Maryland. The conference schedule is tough with trips to Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas State, TCU, and Kansas along with home games against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Texas, and Iowa St.
While the offense won’t be as prolific this year with the loss of Smith, Bailey, and Austin, the Mountaineers will still put up good numbers. Lack of experience at the quarterback and receivers could lead to more of an emphasis on the talented running backs. The defense has to play much better or West Virginia will lose a lot of shootouts with basketball type scores like they did last year. They could win 6 or 7 games and sneak into a bowl again in the wide-open Big 12, but 8 wins would be a stretch.
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