Tuesday, July 03, 2007

2007 BCS Conference Team Preview: West Virginia

As part of TSE's Countdown to College Football, TSE regular Joe Table Blew It will preview all of the BCS conference teams: The Big XII, Big 10, ACC, SEC, Big East, Pac-10, and Notre Dame. This post focuses on West Virginia University, who will attempt to overcome the underdogs and make it back to the BCS.

The Mountaineers were riding high coming in to the 2006 college football season. They had just come off an amazing BCS victory over Georgia, and were entering the second year of the Pat White/ Steve Slaton era in Morgantown. The 2006 season though was a bit of a disappointment. Losses to an injured Louisville team and a surprise loss to South Florida at home put the 'Neers title hopes on hold for another year. Can the third year of the one-two punch jab their way to New Orleans?


There's no question that quarterback Patrick White has an immense amount of talent. Last year, he combined for close to 3,000 all-purpose yards and 31 touchdowns. The question this year is can he become more of a traditional quarterback? Rich Rodriguez has him in the spread offense, which should provide him with a host of receivers running anywhere from 5 to 25 yard routs. White will have plenty of opportunities to showcase his arm strength, and, to take this team to the next level, he has to. Steve Slaton will be more than capable of handling the load at running back, as he proved last year with his 1800 yard performance, virtually splitting the carries with White. These two have the opportunity to be front and center at the Downtown Athletic Club if they can manage to share the stage effectively. Darius Reynaud returns as the leading wideout on a team that needs some help from it's receivers. If White is going to throw more, which he can, he needs more of his wideouts to run better routes on a more consistent basis. Look, West Virginia can very easily run four wide at any time, and did last year, but part of the problem as to why White didn't throw it was sloppy rout running. White completed his passes last year at a 65% clip. His confidence from playing another year combined with the concentration of his receivers could make this a dangerous--balanced-- offense. The offensive line must recover from the loss of position coach Rick Trickett who departed for Florida State this year. Trickett was an amazing coach that made you hate him during practice, but was always focused on getting the absolute best out of you. I experienced his teaching first-hand for a week when my high school team went to WVA football camp in 2001. Coach Trick is old school, and will be missed in Mountain country.

The benefit of playing a 3-3-5 odd stack as your base is that most teams still don't know how to defend it. The setback? You need 5 quality defensive backs every season to pull it off. WVA has had mixed success with this formation that relies heavily on the roving corner, who sometimes plays like an outside linebacker. The front six can be as good as they want (they aren't very) bout if the Mountaineer secondary gives up 250 yards a game through the air as they did last year, it could be another season of disappointment in Morgantown. Fifth year senior Eric Wicks is the only model of consistency in the secondary, and could be the undoing of an otherwise talented team.

If someone can get this team to play some D, Slaton and White should take this team the rest of the way. West Virginia has once again scheduled nobody outside of their conference this year so, once again, the Big East is their conference to lose. The best this team can do though is win their conference, they really have no business playing with the big boys, especially this year. Expect the 'Neers to make a BCS Bowl, but not the Big One.

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