Noel Devine, Jarrett Brown look to take WVU back to BCS bowl game
The Patrick White Era is over at West Virginia University.
Life without White begins in August when second-year head coach Bill Stewart welcomes the Mountaineers to training camp and begins preparations for the season-opener against Liberty University on Saturday, Sept. 5.
The good news for fans across the Mountain State is that WVU returns eight starters, 13 letterwinners and 11 players who have started at least one game. White, a second round choice by the Miami Dolphins, will not be among that group, but longtime backup Jarrett Brown looks to make the most of his first, and only, season as the starting quarterback.
Brown has appeared in 25 games since coming to WVU, rushing for 671 yards and seven touchdowns on 117 carries while completing 81-of-125 attempts for 839 yards and five more scores.
WVU’s newest starting signal-caller will have leading rusher Noel Devine, who gained 1,289 yards and scored four touchdowns on 206 carries, returning to the backfield as well as primary backups Mark Rodgers, Zach Hulce and Mike Poitier. The fullback/tight end slot also appears solid with the return of Will Johnson, Tyler Urban, Ricky Kovatch and redshirt freshman Ryan Clarke.
The receiving corps looks to be strong with the return of Alric Arnett, Bradley Starks, Wes Lyons, Johnson, Urban and Kovatch. The unit could be even deeper should leading receiver from a year ago Jock Sanders — 53 catches, 462 yards, 7 touchdowns — returns from an indefinite suspension and with the continued improvement of incoming freshman Tavon Austin.
Up front the Mountaineers will miss the services of three starters — Ryan Stanchek, Greg Isdaner and Jake Figner. But, the unit still appears to be strong with the return of starters Eric Jobe and Selvish Capers as well as top backups Josh Jenkins, Don Barclay, Matt Timmerman and redshirt freshman Jeff Braun.
Defensively, the team received a huge lift when former-Moorefield all-stater Reed Williams was awarded a medical redshirt and returns to anchor a linebacking corps that return starters J.T. Thomas and Pat Lazear.
Up front Scooter Berry and Chris Neild give the blue and gold two of three starters back. Sophomore Julian Miller appears to have the inside track to the open defensive end slot, but look for redshirt freshman Jorge Wright, Larry Ford and Josh Taylor to see plenty of time on the artificial turf at Mountaineer Field.
The secondary in WVU’s 3-3-5 stack also looks strong with the return of starters Brandon Hogan, Sidney Glover and Robert Sands. Senior Franchot ‘Boogie’ Allen top the depth chart at bandit while sophomore Keith Tandy was locked in a battle with senior Kent Richardson for the starting right cornerback slot.
Whether or not the gold and blue return to the top of the Big East and play in its third BCS bowl over the last five seasons will depend a lot on the improvement of a special teams unit which will be minus All-American Pat McAfee and a schedule which has the Mountaineers playing four of their conference games on the road.