2009-10 West Virginia Mountaineers Football Predictions
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 8/31/2009
For the past four years it was opposing coaches that kept getting asked what they were going to do about Patrick White, the West Virginia quarterback that stirred the drink that was the Mountaineer offense. Now it is Bill Stewart, second year West Virginia coach, who has to answer what he is going to do without White directing the West Virginia attack.
White, the most prolific rushing quarterback in NCAA history and the greatest post-season winner in college football history (4-0 in bowl games, Sugar, Gator, Fiesta and Meineke), is off to the Miami Dolphins. He along with Steve Slaton and various other weapons under Rich Rodriguez helped vault West Virginia into the college football consciousness every fall.
The future of the West Virginia football program is at stake now as Stewart tries to maintain West Virginia's status amongst the top tier football schools, but it will not be easy. For all the respect West Virginia earned with White including routine pre-season Top-10 rankings and generous point spreads, they started earning an equal level of disrespect as the seconds ticked off the clock in Bank of American Stadium in the Meineke Bowl and in White's career.
Gone was West Virginia from the Top 25 early offseason polls. And then when the real AP and Coaches Poll came out in mid August, once again the Mountaineers were nowhere to be found. When the Big East coaches' poll came out West Virginia was not favored to win the conference for the first time since White's freshman year. They finished second in the poll and only received the third most first place votes behind Pitt and Cincinnati.
White's replacement under center is far from a proven commodity but in limited appearances Jarrett Brown has shown the ability to win games on his own. The senior quarterback is not entirely unlike White, but at 6-feet-4, 223 pounds he adds another dimension to the offense. He played in nine games last season and started in a win over Syracuse. Back in his redshirt freshman year he stepped in for an injured White and guided the Mountaineers to a triple overtime win over a Rutgers team who was playing for a BCS bowl game berth.
Of course, while White's replacement will be the most scrutinized player on the football team, Brown will not make or break this season. He will be joined in the backfield by the most talented player in the Big East, junior running back Noel Devine. The offensive line in front of them will be a work in progress early as only NFL first-round talent Selvish Capers is back. Brown will have a pair of veteran targets as well as an impact freshman to work with.
Alric Arnett (6-foot-2), who emerged as White's favorite target once the passing game opened up late last season, is back as is 6-feet-8 (yes, 6-feet-8) Wes Lyons. Freshman Logan Heastie (6-feet-2) was the top-rated wide receiver in the country coming out of high school could also turn some heads.
It could turn out that the smallest receiver, 5-foot-7 Jock Sanders, could have the biggest impact. Sanders is the type of player that fit perfectly into Rodriguez's former offense but has also proven to be a commodity under Stewart and his coordinators.
A defense last year that was lambasted for being the weakness of the team early on then the strength of it later returns an experienced secondary headlined by Brandon Hogan and Sidney Glover. The anchor of the defense is senior linebacker Reed Williams. Junior defensive tackle, an afterthought in the recruiting process brought on board to be a fullback along with his step brother (5-star recruit Jason Gwaltney), has emerged as a force on the defensive line. Linebackers J.T. Thomas and Pat Lazear began to show their potential last season and defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel will lean heavily on them.
2009-10 West Virginia Football Predictions: The schedule begins with the customary Division 1-AA tune-up. This year's sacrificial lamb is Liberty followed by a week two home game against East Carolina, the team that started the Mountaineer downfall last season with a stunning 24-3 win. The real tests come with a pair of interesting non-conference contests, at Auburn on Sept. 19 and then hosting Colorado Oct. 1. The Big East schedule provides no real daunting challenges although the Mountaineers will likely be underdogs in road contests at South Florida and at Rutgers. While the Big East coaches pegged Pitt as the favorite the oddsmakers have Pitt, West Virginia and South Florida all opening at +250, according to BetUS, to win the conference.
The West Virginia over/under for regular season wins has been set at 8.5. If all things remain constant, West Virginia will be underdogs in four of their games (at Auburn, at USF, at Cincinnati and at Rutgers) albeit by no more than a touchdown in any of them. In the games West Virginia will be favored in, it will be a considerable amount with the exception of the Pitt game. Considering those numbers and with the way the schedule plays out with no long stretch of tough games, for the first time since Patrick White was in high school, West Virginia is undervalued. The smart play here is over 8.5 wins.
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