West Virginia spring wrap


2009 overall record: 9-4

2009 conference record: 5-2, T-2nd in Big East

Returning starters: Offense: 9. Defense: 9. Punter/kicker: 1

Top returners

RB Noel Devine, WR Jock Sanders, WR Bradley Starks, LB J.T. Thomas, DT Chris Neild, S Robert Sands, DE Scooter Berry

Key losses

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

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Noel Devine* (1,465 yards)

Passing: Jarrett Brown (2,144 yards)

Receiving: Jock Sanders* (688 yards)

Tackles: Pat Lazear* (78)

Sacks: Julian Miller* (9)

Interceptions: Robert Sands* (5)

Spring answers

1. Experience matters: West Virginia returns 18 starters on offense and defense, most in the Big East, so even a few injuries and other issues that kept players out of practice this spring weren't a big deal. The coaching staff has the luxury of plugging in veterans at virtually every position, and when the first-stringers finally came together in the spring game, they looked very sharp. This is a team that should be ready to go from the opening gate.

2. White is all right: With projected starting quarterback Geno Smith limited throughout the spring by a foot injury, sophomore Coley White took the vast majority of the snaps. Though some had questioned whether he could play quarterback at this level, White showed great improvement throughout the spring and could easily lead the Mountaineers to victory if something goes wrong with Smith.

3. Backfield in motion: The Mountaineers should not have many problems running the ball this season. Devine returned and looks poised for a monster senior year. Shawne Alston also impressed at times, as well as fullback/tailback Ryan Clarke. West Virginia could also use Tavon Austin, Sanders and Daquan Hargrett as ball carriers.

Fall questions

1. Wideout depth: The defections of Deon Long and Logan Heastie before spring thinned the receiving corps. Sanders is a stud in the slot, but Starks needs to have a big year as one of the team's few deep threats. The pint-sized Austin has to show he can be effective outside of the slot, and Stedman Bailey must continue to make improvements. Incoming freshman Ivan McCartney could play an immediate role as well.

2. The offensive line: The Mountaineers return four starters who took virtually every snap last season. Still, coach Bill Stewart expressed concern about the right side of the line, including right tackle, where Selvish Capers must be replaced. There's a lot of experience up front, but this unit needs to gel this fall.

3. Improved leadership: Stewart called for more leadership from his team this spring, particularly among the underclassmen. The Mountaineers have solid senior leaders in guys like Devine, Sanders, Chris Neild and J.T. Thomas. But Stewart would like to see fewer young players running stadium stairs or riding exercise bikes during fall practice.