2012 West Virginia Mountaineers Football Preview
2011 Record: 10-3 (5-2 Big East)
Head Coach: Dana Holgorsen, second season (10-3 all at West Virginia)
Projected Returning Starters: 16
Spring Game: April 21st (Blue 43 Gold 34)
Notes: The long drawn out feud between West Virginia and the Big East has come to an end, with the Mountaineers paying the Big East for leaving early. Now, West Virginia will enter the Big 12 as the team furthest east (Iowa State is the closest opponent, nearly 14 hours away). Still, WVU should be a good fit for the conference – Holgorsen is familiar with the offenses having coached under Mike Leach at Texas Tech and Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State. While the offense was great, the defense was poor, at times. The Mountaineers gave up 30 or more points in six games last season, including 47 to LSU and 49 to Syracuse.
BVTSB Take: The defense appears to be improved this season, at least based on the results of the Spring Game. Previously, under Rich Rodriguez and the late Bill Stewart, the Mountaineers ran a 3-3-5 defense. Holgorsen kept with that defensive set last year, partly because of the timing of his hire (June 10, 2011). This year, WVU will run a 3-4 scheme, with Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson (interim Pittsburgh head coach for BBVA Compass Bowl last season) splitting defensive coordinator duties. Geno Smith will again be under center for WVU in his senior season. In 2010, he threw for 2763 yards and 24 touchdowns. Last year, he thrived in Holgorsen’s offense, throwing for 4385 yards and 31 touchdowns. There is no reason to expect Smith to not improve, especially with his second year in the offense and a veteran receiving corps. Running back Dustin Garrison had roughly a third of the team’s rushing attempts last season, leading to 742 yards rushing and six touchdowns – he is back leading the way in the backfield, in 2012. Shawne Alston is back as well (416 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns). A veteran receiving corps has Geno Smith loving the transition to the Big 12. Starters Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, and Ivan McCartney all return. The trio combined for 3050 receiving yards (67.6% of WVU receiving yards) and 23 touchdown catches (71.9% of WVU touchdown catches). J.D. Woods replaces the graduating Devon Brown along side Austin, Bailey, and McCartney. The offensive line is in great shape as well, with C Joe Madsen, RG Jeff Braun, and RT Pat Eger all returning – a combined 38 starts between them last season. LG Josh Jenkins makes his return to the starting lineup after missing last season due to injury. LT Quinton Spain played 13 games at RG last season, moving to LT this spring. The defense is the biggest concern for WVU as they have to learn a new scheme while losing experience in the linebacking corps. The Mountaineers had DE Bruce Irvin drafted (NFL’s Seattle Seahawks), LB Najee Goode (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), and CB Keith Tandy (Tampa Bay Buccaneers). WVU was 4-1 in non-conference last season (playing a 7 game conference schedule), defeating rival Marshall, Norfolk State, Maryland, and Bowling Green, but falling to LSU. With a nine game conference schedule this season, the Mountaineers only play three non-conference games, facing Marshall, James Madison (at Landover, MD), and Maryland. WVU should be 3-0 in those games. They host Baylor, Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma, and Kansas, where they could be 4-1. Away games against Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State present more of a challenge. WVU is a dark horse to win the Big 12, especially with the second season under Holgorsen’s offense, but the defensive transition and having to replace three draft picks on the defensive side likely will prevent the Mountaineers from getting the Big 12’s BCS automatic bid.
2012 Early Projection: 8-4
To see the 2012 Big 12 composite schedule, click here.
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