Big East

2010 NCAA Football Preview: West Virginia Mountaineers

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Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 9-4, 5-2
Bowl Game: Gator Bowl (L 33-21 vs. Florida State)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): 25, 22
Conference finish: 3rd Big East
Offensive rank:
Defensive rank:

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: Noel Devine, 1,465 yards, 13 TD
Passing: Jarrett Brown, 2,144 yards, 11 TD, 9 INT
Receiving: Jarrett Brown, 2,144 yards, 11 TD, 9 INT
Tackles: Pat Lazear, 78 total tackles; J.T. Thomas, 76 total tackles
Sacks: Julian Miller, 9 sacks (8 solo, 2 assisted)
Interceptions: Robert Sands, 5 interceptionsons

2010 Season Outlook

(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

September 25 @ LSU: This marks the Mountaineers' marquee non-conference matchup. The rivalry with Maryland starts up again after a two year hiatus and the Friends of Coal Bowl with Marshall has run since 2006, but something tells me taking on the Tigers will be most anticipated among the Mountaineers faithful.

October 14 vs. South Florida: The Mountaineers get the Bulls in their conference opener. The series has only seen five games, but WVU has already fallen twice, including last season, to a USF program with just nine seasons of Div. I-A football under its belt. There's a new quarterback in Morgantown, but WVU very much holds conference title hopes and would do themselves well to avoid another upset.

November 26 @ Pittsburgh: This will be an important road test as the season winds down. West Virginia beat Pitt on a field goal as time expired last season, and may have to take them down again to have a shot at the conference.

December 4 vs. Rutgers: Rutgers and West Virginia are two teams to watch out for in the Big East this season. There is a good deal of parity in the division, but the two teams seemingly with the best chance of competing with Pitt and Cincy for the conference title are the Mountaineers and Scarlet Knights. Of the four, only Rutgers will field its regular starting quarterback from a season ago, and he has just one year of collegiate experience. (Yeah, Zach Collaros played a lot last season for Cincy.) This regular season finale could weigh heavily on the conference. Oh, and WVU currently enjoys a 15 game winning streak over Rutgers.






Preseason Rankings (will not officially be released until August)


Coaches': N/A

Key Losses

Jarrett Brown, QB; Alric Arnett, WR; Selvish Capers, OT; Reed Williams, LBCB

Key Returning Players

Noel Devine, RB; Jock Sanders, WR; Bradley Starks, WR; Joe Madsen, C; Chris Neild, DT; Julian Miller, DE; Scooter Berry, DE; Pat Lazear, LB; J.T. Thomas, LB; Brandon Hogan, CB; Robert Sands, S

Offensive Overview

There's a new quarterback set to take the reins in Morgantown in 2010. Geno Smith will lead the Mountaineers offense despite being limited in spring practice with a broken bone in his foot. Coley White, brother of former Mountaineers quarterback Pat White, played well in the spring and could see the field a bit this season. A starter has yet to be named, but Smith remains the presumed starter.

The Mountaineers lose wide receiver Alric Arnett to graduation, but return slot receiver Jock Sanders and deep threat Bradley Starks. Logan Heastie and Deon Long, two promising young wide receivers, left the program early in the spring, leaving WVU a bit thin at the position. Ivan McCartney, a highly touted incoming freshman, could see the field as a result, with the speedy Tavon Austin expected to contribute as well.

The offensive line has been questioned a bit this offseason despite four returning starters. Although he isn't on the expansive Rimington Trophy Watch List, center Joe Madsen has another promising season ahead of him after being named to the Big East all-freshman team. Madsen, Eric Jobe, Josh Jenkins and Don Barclay started all 13 games last season and return as a very experienced offensive line.

Selvish Capers, who was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the final round of the draft this past April, must be replaced, but with an experienced line that paved the way for 1,400 yard rusher Noel Devine and protected 2,000 yard passer Jarrett Brown, the unit is in better shape than some think. Of course, returning a unit that took most of the snaps last season means that the depth is a bit inexperienced...

And finally there's Devine, who rushed for over 1,400 yards with 13 touchdowns a year ago, rushed for over 1,200 yards in two years ago and is primed for a dominant senior season as Smith develops under center. Ryan Clarke, a big 247 pound fullback who sees the ball more than most at his position, was named Danny Van Etten Rookie of the Year by the coaching staff last season and should be a force once again in the WVU offense. Shawne Alston could also see his workload increase a bit this year.




Defensive Overview

Like the offense, the defense returns nine starters from last season. Linebacker Reed Williams is gone after recording 68 tackles and two sacks in his senior season in Morgantown, but the Mountaineers return leading tacklers Pat Lazear and J.T. Williams; both outside linebackers returning for their second and third years as starters, respectively. Anthony Leonard is expected to start in the middle. He saw action in nine games last season and started six games in 2008. Najee Goode is the only other member of the linebackers corps who has seen significant playing time, raising concern about depth at the position.
Scooter Berry will be ready for the start of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason. He will return to his end position along with fellow starters Julian Miller (defensive end) and Chris Neild (nose tackle). Miller led the team with nine sacks last season, while Neild enters his third season as the force in the middle. There is some experience in the reserves, but like the linebacker position, depth is a bit of a concern with this unit.

The secondary returns free safety Robert Sands, whose breakout season in 2009 earned him All-Big East accolades. He recorded five interceptions to lead the team and 65 tackles (fifth on the team). Brandon Hogan and Keith Tandy return at the cornerback spots. Hogan was an All-American honorable mention and was an All-Big East first teamer after his breakout junior campaign. Sidney Glover moves from the spur safety position to the bandit position in 2010 after starting the past two seasons at the former. He is a senior this season and will be counted on to provide leadership in the secondary.



Special Teams Overview

According to, Head coach Bill Stewart outlined three areas on special teams that they must develop: punting (All-American Scott Kozlowski graduated), kickoff coverage and punt returns. Kicker Tyler Bitancurt was an All-Big East first team selection and returns for his sophomore season. He was 13 for 15 in field goals and made all but one of his 42 extra point attempts. He even hit a game winning 43 yarder to beat ninth ranked Pitt in late November.

Noel Devine, Tavon Austin and Jock Sanders could see time in the kick return game, while Sanders and Brandon Hogan are expected to return punts once again in 2010. Austin returned 17 kicks last season for an average of 25 yards and even took one back for a score. Devine returned five kicks for 100 yards. Sanders averaged 9.67 yards per punt return and Hogan averaged 12.14 yards per punt return.

Head Coach: Bill Stewart

Bill Stewart was an assistant at West Virginia from 2000 to 2007 before becoming interim head coach for the 2008 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma after Rich Rodriguez accepted the Michigan job. Stewart received endorsements for the permanent head coaching job from players, including quarterback Pat White, and was named head coach the day after the Fiesta Bowl.

Stewart finished with identical overall and conference records in his two full seasons as head coach (9-4, 5-2) and has taken his Mountaineers to a bowl game in both seasons, going 1-1 in those games. Stewart has continued to recruit well at West Virginia, hauling in 27th ranked recruiting classes in 2009 and 2010. He enters this season with an experienced football team and despite youth at the quarterback position, could compete with Pitt and Cincy for the conference title.

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Noel Devine, RB; J.T. Thomas, LB

Season Prediction

3rd Big East

For all the promise and experience the Mountaineers hold this season, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati seem to have a leg up on them coming into the season. All three teams enter 2010 with a new quarterback under center, although Cincy's Zach Collaros saw starting time when Tony Pike went down last season, so each team's success could hinge somewhat on the production from the quarterback position.

Noel Devine is one of the nation's premier running backs and with an experienced offensive line returning, is set for what should be an outstanding senior season. His return will ease the transition for Geno Smith this fall, allowing the young quarterback to adjust to leading the offense. On defense, J.T. Thomas could emerge as one of the nation's top outside linebackers in his senior season, and Robert Sands should continue his development into one of the game's top safeties.

The Mountaineers could surprise a few people and challenge for the Big East crown with the late season matchup with Pitt possibly holding a lot of weight in that respect, but with good seasons expected from Pitt and Cincy, WVU could be left battling for a third place finish with what promises to be a solid Rutgers team.
- Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

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