Big 12: Nana Kyeremeh

Far too often, players enter the season with a profile that doesn't quite match his worth to the team.

In other words, they're coming in under the radar. We'll start a new series today looking at those guys who should get more respect and attention than they have this offseason.

First up: West Virginia.

Under the radar: CB Nana Kyeremeh

By the end of the 2012 season, West Virginia fans weren't real happy with the play at cornerback, but experienced starter Brodrick Jenkins returns while Kyremeh is likely to slide into the field corner spot to fill Pat Miller's absence. Miller had a rough 2012 season, but Kyremeh presents some hope for the position in a secondary stacked with talent and experience. Darwin Cook and Karl Joseph are solid at safety and Jenkins is beginning his second season as a full-time starter.

Kyeremeh beat out more experienced players to win the starting job in the spring, and working with first-teamers in a high-powered offense during the fall should continue to pay dividends. Kyeremeh is a blazer who should provide some much-needed speed to the Mountaineers' defense and made 15 tackles with two pass breakups in limited duty as a true freshman a year ago. The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder is a shoe-in for the Big 12's All-Name team, but already logged a start in his first season on the field. He'll get a whole lot of them this year, and though he's far from an elite-level cornerback, he could provide a boost for a WVU defense badly in need of one.
2012 record: 7-6
2012 Big 12 record: 4-5
Returning starters: Offense: 3; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 0

Top returners: S Karl Joseph, LB Isaiah Bruce, OL Quinton Spain, RB Andrew Buie, RB Dustin Garrison, DL Will Clarke, S Darwin Cook

Key losses: WR Tavon Austin, QB Geno Smith, WR Stedman Bailey, C Joe Madsen, LB Terence Garvin, LB Josh Francis, OG Jeff Braun

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Passing: Geno Smith (4,198 yards)
Rushing: Andrew Buie* (850 yards)
Receiving: Stedman Bailey (1,627 yards)
Tackles: Karl Joseph* (102)
Sacks: Terence Garvin (6)
Interceptions: Karl Joseph*, Isaiah Bruce* (2)

Spring answers:

1. Passing weapons found. The Mountaineers sorted out their receivers and found some solid replacements for Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to help ease the transition to a new quarterback. K.J. Myers and Connor Arlia had solid springs, along with newcomer Kevin White, a junior college transfer. Jordan Thompson closed with a big spring game, but he has to prove he can do it in a real game.

2. Corners hit the reset button. Cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts is gone, replaced by Brian Mitchell. Pat Miller graduated, but the corners are strating from scratch this spring. Brodrick Jenkins reclaimed his starting spot, and a pair of young players in Nana Kyeremeh and Brandon Napolean should be in the rotation on the opposite side, too. This was the biggest problem area for the defense last season, which looked completely overmatched against Big 12 offenses.

3. Strength in (backfield) numbers. Dana Holgorsen has a reputation as a guy who wants to throw it all around the yard, but that's not necessarily true. This year, he may prove it. WVU will throw it plenty, but running back may be this team's biggest strength. Dustin Garrison is finally healthy and 2012 leading rusher Andrew Buie returns. Juco transfer Dreamius Smith provides even more help at the position. WVU couldn't run the ball consistently last season, but look for them to do it often in the fall.

Fall questions

1. Who's the quarterback? The spring closed with a quarterback competition coach Dana Holgorsen described as "wide open." Texas natives Paul Millard and Ford Childress are neck and neck, and that competition will extend into the fall. Millard has more experience. Childress has more arm strength. This one will be unpredictable going into fall. Anything could happen.

2. Is the defense adjusting? All the leadership and experience this season is on the defensive side of the ball, a stark change from last year's team, where the components of the passing game were better than just about anyone in the Big 12. The new league's offenses got the best of WVU's defense last season, but can they prove they learned from those bumps in the road? No guarantees on that one.

3. Sorting out the offensive line. Joe Madsen leaves a big hole at center for the Mountaineers, and just two starters return from last year's unit. Ron Crook came from Stanford to replace departed OL coach Bill Bedenbaugh and the battle to replace Madsen at center is one of the most interesting. Senior Pat Eger closed the spring as the starter, beating out redshirt freshman Tyler Orlosky, but juco transfer Stone Underwood will muddy up that race come fall.

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