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March 23, 2009

West Virginia has holes to fill on offense

West Virginia was one of the biggest disappointments in the nation last season.

The Mountaineers went into the season as a top-10 team, but they ended up losing four games and not even winning the Big East title.

This season, coaches have to replace star quarterback Pat White and rebuild the offensive line. At least the defense should be fine.

Here's a look at the Mountaineers as they ready for spring drills.

WEST VIRGINIA AT-A-GLANCE
Noel Devine is one of the most explosive players in the nation.
THE BASICS
Coach: Bill Stewart
Last season: 9-4, 5-2 Big East. Beat North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Spring dates: March 24-April 18
RETURNING STARTERS
Offense (4): WR Alric Arnett, T Selvish Capers, RB Noel Devine, WR Jock Sanders.
Defense (6): T Scooter Berry, SS Sidney Glover, CB Brandon Hogan, NT Chris Neild, FS Robert Sands, LB J.T. Thomas.
Special teams: None.
Positions of strength

The overall defense should be a strength. The return of star linebacker Reed Williams is a big boost, as well. The offense has some playmakers at wide receiver. Is there a more deadly weapon in America than running back Noel Devine?

Help is needed

The offensive line needs work with three full-time starters gone, including tackle Ryan Stanchek and guard Greg Isdaner. The Mountaineers have viable options but they lack experience. Oh, and White must be replaced. He was the best quarterback in school history and is a likely College Football Hall of Famer.

Keep an eye on

OT Don Barclay: He needs to show improved strength and quickness on the rebuilt left side of the line. His ability to move and get to the next level will be key to his success for an offense that thrives on the run.

G Josh Jenkins: He must fill a key spot in an overhauled line that relies on quick, nimble and powerful linemen who can pull and trap. Jenkins is a former highly touted recruit who looks primed to break out this season.

CB Keith Tandy: He has shown a knack in coverage, displaying an ability to track the ball in the air. Tandy also has shown instincts in supporting the run.

His time is now

The offensive line is in transition, and it will need some veteran leadership. That's why all eyes are on senior tackle Selvish Capers, who passes the eyeball test (6 feet 6/285 pounds) but has yet to be the dominating player that some feel he's capable of becoming.

The buzz

There's a long list of things coaches are hoping to accomplish this spring. The offense needs to improve in short-yardage situations, develop a quarterback (Jarrett Brown?) and build a line. The defense needs to improve tackling, hone its man coverage and refine its blitz packages while also adding a few new wrinkles. The special teams must get better covering kickoffs.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.



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