October 17, 2012

Midseason Report Card: Defense

The WVSports.com staff brings you our grades for the WVU football team at the midway point of the season. You will find a grade from each staff member for the defensive units and then our thoughts on their play.

Defensive Line - C-, B+, B-, B-, B-

If you were to ask me at the beginning of the season which unit of the 2012 Mountaineers would be the most weak, I would have had to say the defensive line. But while the line has not been entirely dominate throughout the year, I must say its performance as a whole, particularly compared to other areas of the defense, has been solid.

As a whole, the defense has given up around 130 yards rushing per game. On paper that may seem like a lot, but looking at the defense closely, this is a fairly hefty distinction. The Mountaineers have stopped the run upfront in most instances, and it starts with Will Clarke, Jorge Wright and Shaq Rowell.

However, the run defense is not the concern for the defensive line; it is the pass rush. After last week's loss against Texas Tech, in particular, the Mountaineers are receiving a hefty amount of criticism as a whole for the lack of a consistent pass rush.

And this is one downfall that really starts he defensive line as a whole, due to its lack of penetration into the backfield on passing situations. The defensive front has only accounted for a mere 2.5 sacks midway through the season. This is a disturbing trend from a year ago where the line, featuring Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller, paved the way for a continuous presence in the backfield.

But beyond the pass rush, Coach Eric Slaughter has done a good job of preparing his unit on a weekly basis and molding them towards the future. The line is still the most unproven area of the defense, but improvement has been evident.

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