|TheInsiders.com 2004 College Football Preview|
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Temple West Virginia
|2004 BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES|
|Author: Michael Chevallier, EagleInsider.com|
Last Season's Record: 8-5 (5th place in Big East)
Last Bowl Appearance: 2003 Diamond Walnuts San Francisco Bowl (35-21 win over Colorado State)
Key matchup(s): Sept 11 vs. Penn State (8pm, ABC), Oct. 16 @Pitt, Oct 23 @Notre Dame (2:30pm, NBC), Nov. 13 @West Virginia.
Star Power: DE Mathias Kiwanuka 6-8 249 junior, CB William Blackmon 6-1 198 junior, WR Grant Adams 6-1 200 senior, DT Tim Bulman 6-4 285 senior.
Notable Additions: LB Brian Toal 6-2 238 Don Bosco Prep (NJ), WR/DB Brandon Robinson 6-0 187 Breck School (MN), FB Mark Palmer 6-3 245 transfer.
Notable Subtractions: OG Chris Snee drafted by Giants, DB Nathaniel Hasselbeck transferred to UMass, P Jeff Gomulinski kicked-off team.
Notable Returnees: WR Larry Lester 5-7 185, OT Jeremy Trueblood 6-8 315, FS T.J. Stancil 6-1 212.
Offensive Overview: The Boston College Eagles have only 33 rushing yards between the three players expected to fill the departed Derrick Knight's shoes, and all 33 of those yards belong to sophomore Jeff Ross. Knight, the school's all-time leading rusher, will be succeeded by Ross and redshirt freshmen Andre Callender and Lennox Whitworth in a running back-by-committee system. Mammoth LT Jeremy Trueblood and C Pat Ross return to anchor the offensive line, but the Eagles will have to break in a few new players as Tom O'Brien's squad has lost three of five starters, including their entire right side. That means BC will look to gain yards through the air, and with a pair of talented senior QBs fighting for the job in Paul Peterson and Quinton Porter, and a pair of capable senior wide receivers in Joel Hazard and Grant Adams, BC will be a dangerous passing team. Add speedy touchdown-maker Larry Lester and sure-handed TE Dave Kashetta to the mix, and it is safe to say that the traditionally smash-mouth Eagles will be more of an air-oriented team in 2004 than they have been in quite some time.
Defensive Overview: The Eagles lost five starters on defense to graduation, including three-year starter DT Doug Goodwin and team captain LB Josh Ott. Fortunately for BC their two best players on defense are back: juniors DE Mathias Kiwanuka and CB Will Blackmon. Kiwanuka led the Big East in sacks last year with 13 and is the odds-on favorite to do it again. Senior DE Phil Mettling is an overlooked player who could thrive if opposing teams pay too much attention to the preseason All-American "Kiwi." The Eagles are relatively thin at the linebacker position, but a number of underclassmen will have an opportunity to play early. Redshirt freshmen JoLonn Dunbar- a converted running back- and Tyronne Pruitt will see a good deal of playing time behind starters Ray Henderson, Ricky Brown and Jon Misciewicz. Then there is the x-factor: All-American freshman linebacker Brian Toal. If he lives up to a percentage of his hype, he could single-handedly make the BC linebacker corps the strongest it has been in years. In the secondary Blackmon will be called upon to man-cover the opposing team's best receiver on a regular basis, giving Peter Shean, the strong-side cornerback, safety help from FS T.J. Stancil and presumably sophomore SS Ryan Glasper. Look for a more aggressive BC defense in 2004 with multiple coverage schemes and blitz packages.
Special Teams Overview: The good news for the BC special teams is this: it can't possibly get any worse. The Eagles were atrocious on punts in 2003, and true freshman Johnny Ayers will step into the role in 2004 with the departure of Jeff Gomulinski. Another true freshman, James Ohliger, will likely succeed Sandro Sciortino as place kicker. Senior Mike Fassel, son of Baltimore Ravens’ Assistant Coach Jim Fassel, returns on scholarship to perform holding duties. He is also a capable field goal kicker.
The Eagles will win the BIG EAST if... one of the three running backs steps up and gains 1,000 yards, and whoever starts at quarterback can make big plays to the receivers and limit turnovers. If these two things happen, and the defense– Kiwanuka, Blackmon and Toal in particular- plays up to their potential, the Eagles could win the conference.
|2004 UCONN HUSKIES|
|Author: Denny Conroy, UConnInsider.com|
Last Season's Record: 9-3 (last season as a Division I-A independent)
Last Bowl Appearance: N/A
Key matchup(s): Four of five conference contests will be carried by the ESPN network: @Boston College, Friday, Sept. 17th at 8:00 p.m. (ESPN2); Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 30th at 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2); vs. West Virginia, Friday, Oct. 13th at 7:30 p.m. (ESPN); and, a Thanksgiving morning (Thur. Nov. 25) battle @Rutgers at 11:00 a.m. (ESPN)
Star Power: Dan Orlovsky, QB, Sr., 6-5, 236; Ryan Krug, OT, Sr., 6-4, 302; Maurice Lloyd, LB, Sr., 5-11, 234
Notable Additions: Daniel Davis, DE, Plainfield (NJ) HS, 6-2, 250; John Baranowsky, DE, Hargrave Military Academy (VA), 6-3, 254; Afa Anoai, DT, Fork Union Military Academy (VA), 6-1, 270; Tony Ciaravino, K, Boca Raton (FL) HS, 6-3, 215; Shane Hussar, P, American Heritage School (FL), 5-10, 185
Notable Subtractions: Shaun Feldesien, WR, led with 860 receiving yards; O'Neil Wilson, WR, nine TDs; Uyi Osunde, LB, 10 sacks; Terrence Smith, FS. 94 tackles; Adam Coles, P, all-time UConn leader
Notable Returnees: Terry Caulley, TB, Jr., 5-7, 187; Cornell Brockington, TB, Soph., 6-0, 195; Keron Henry, WR, Sr., 6-2, 220; Tyler King, DE, Sr., 6-6, 262; Alfred Fincher, LB, Sr., 6-1, 240; James Hargrave, LB, Jr., 5-11, 226; Justin Perkins, CB, Sr., 5-11, 187
Offensive Overview: It's the quarterback, folks! Orlovsky, one of two Big Easters on the preseason Davey O'Brien Quarterback Award watch list, became a complete player as a junior and returns for his final campaign with the second highest number of TD passes (61) among active QBs. His receiving corps will be minus last season's top two wideouts but Henry, a former QB, and junior Brandon Young, the Huskies leading kickoff returner, provide a strong nucleus for a five-deep receiving corps along with senior Matt Cutatia, junior Jason Williams and redshirt freshman Seth Fogarty. The running game's biggest question is whether or not junior Terry McCaulley, who missed the last seven games in 2003 because of a knee injury, will be able to play. If he doesn't, look for sophomore Cornell Brockington to get the most looks with senior Chris Bellamy ready to pick up any slack. Sophomore Matt Lawrence was the most improved player in the spring. Junior fullback Deon Anderson is a steady blocker who averaged over 10 yards a carry when called upon. But what rounds out this complete attack is an offensive line, which returns all but one starter. This barrier, led by Krug, an Outland Trophy candidate, and senior center Billy Irwin, a Rimington Trophy candidate, permitted just 10 sacks, the third fewest in the nation last season.
Defensive Overview: Lloyd, UConn’s candidate for the Bronko Nagurski award, leads a very strong linebacking crew, the strongest component of Coach Edsall's defense. Finscher and Henry round out the starters, while junior Taurion Sowell, sophomore Darius Leak and senior Kinnan Herriott all played well last season. This group's play will be critical this season with a less experienced defensive line available. King is the sole returning starter. Two top reserves, junior Deon McPhee and sophomore Rhema Fuller will fill the tackle slots. Perkins, whose six interceptions led the Huskies, anchors the defensive backfield, one with much more depth than in previous years. The other corner spot is likely to be a battle between sophomores Allan Barnes and Ernest Cole. M.J. Estep, another soph., seems likely to inherit Smith's free safety position with senior John Fletcher returning as the strong safety. Fletcher needs to step up his game while Estep gains experience.
Special Teams Overview: In his freshman season, Matt Nuzie was a steady 47 of 49 on extra points but made only 11 of 21 field goal attempts. Ciaravino, who led Palm Beach County in field goals made last season, including six of 40 yards or longer, will likely take over that task, at least. Hussar, another freshman, will assume the punting duties. The Plantation Fla. native, whose punts averaged 40.9 yards net and 44 yards gross, also was the team's starting linebacker, a regional wrestling semifinalist and a regional finalist in the discus throw.
The Huskies, entering their first season in the Big East Conference, will get one of the league's bowl invites if... Orlovsky stays healthy, the offense produces as it did last season (477.5 yards and 34 points per game) and the defense develops into an effective outfit. UConn closed last season with five straight victories, the last two over Rutgers and Wake Forest. Coach Edsall's team, which just five seasons ago was competing in the Division I-AA A-10, has won 13 of their last 16 games. UConn moved into Rentschler Field last season and averaged 37,059 fans at the 40K facility. The Huskies have seven home contests this season.
|2004 PITTSBURGH PANTHERS|
|Author: Bob Lichtenfels, PantherReport.com|
Last Season's Record: 8-5 (3rd place in Big East)
Last Bowl Appearance: 2003 Continental Tire Bowl (23-16 loss to Virginia)
Key matchup(s): Sept. 04 @South Florida, Sept. 18 Nebraska, Oct. 16 Boston College, Nov. 25 West Virginia
Star Power: OT Rob Petitti, 6-6 330 senior, WR Princell Brockenbrough 6-3 205 senior, QB Tyler Palko 6-2 220 soph.
Notable Additions: WR Jason Gaffney 6-2 185 JC transfer, K Joshua Cummings 5-11, 185 JC Transfer
Notable Subtractions: QB Rod Rutherford, WR Larry Fitzgerald, RB Brandon Miree, FB Lousaka Polite, TE Kris Wilson, DE Claude Harriott, CB Shawntae Spencer, P Andy Lee, and LB Lewis Moore were all drafted or signed as free agents by NFL teams
Notable Returnees: RB Raymond Kirkley 5-10 225 junior, RB Jawan Walker 5-10, 215 junior, WR Greg Lee 6-2 180 soph., OG John Simonitis 6-3 300 soph., LB Brian Bennett 6-0, 235 soph., DE Thomas Smith 6-4 275 junior, DT Vince Crochunis 6-4 290 senior, DT Dan Stephens 6-2 295 senior, S Tez Morris 5-10 190 junior, S Tyrone Gilliard 5-11 195 senior
Offensive Overview: The offense will be much different than the 2003 version. The quarterback, whoever that may be, will be asked to play within the framework of Walt Harris ' offense. Red-shirt soph. Tyler Palko and Luke Getsy are battling neck and neck for the starting QB job. The line will need to be retooled significantly and Pittsburgh will need help from oft-injured players like Matt Maiers and Rob Fredrick. There is a very good possibility that one or more of the red-shirt freshmen could see significant time on the line. At tailback, the battle between Kirkley and Walker may come down to the wire. The Panthers must find a way to fill the holes left by the departure of Fitzgerald and Wilson. Brockenbrough and Lee will have to produce early and often. At TE, Erik Gill and Steve Buches give the Panthers a nice 1-2 punch.
Defensive Overview: The defense could be the strength of this year’s Pittsburgh team. The Panthers return a ton of depth at linebacker and in the secondary, albeit unproven depth. The biggest loss on defense may be at corner where Shawntae Spencer was rock solid. Bottom line is that the Panthers must find a way to consistently shut down the running game.
Special Teams Overview: Sophomore P Adam Graessle had two seasons to learn from Andy Lee, though Graessle may have a stronger leg than Lee. K David Abdul junior was involved in a serious automobile accident early in the year. His rehab is going well and he may be able to join the team this fall. If Abdul is unable to kick, JC transfer Joshua Cummings will battle incumbent walk-on J.B. Gibboney soph. and walk-on fresh K Connor Lee.
The Panthers can win eight games this season if... the offensive line comes together and the defensive line improves on their sack total last season of six. On offense, whoever the brand new quarterback may be will be asked to not lose games. The defense will be more aggressive under Paul Rhoads, but will need to show that they are not so undersized that teams can smash-mouth them to death.
|2004 RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS|
|Author: Dan Welch, RutgersInsider.com|
Last Season's Record: 5-7 (7th place in Big East)
Last Bowl Appearance: 1978 Garden State Bowl (34-18 loss to Arizona State)
Key matchup(s): Sept. 4 Michigan State, ABC; Oct. 9 @Vanderbilt; Nov. 20 @Navy, CSTV.
Star Power: Ryan Hart, QB, Jr, 6-2, 195; Brian Leonard, FB, So, 6-2, 230; John Glass, RG, Jr, 6-5, 320; Tres Moses, WR, Jr, 5-10, 190; Shawn Tucker, WR, Jr, 6-2, 180, Jarvis Johnson, FS, Sr, 5-11, 195
Notable Additions: Jeremy Ito, PK, Redlands HS, 5-11, 180, Jamaal Westerman, DE, Notre Dame HS, 6-3, 235; Dimitri Linton, RB, Northeast HS, 5-9, 190, Jeremy Zuttah, OL, JP Stevens HS, 6-4, 285.
Notable Subtractions: Raheem Orr, DE, NFL; Nate Jones, CB, NFL; Brandon Haw, CB, NFL; Marty Pyszczymuka, C, graduated; Brian Bender, SLB, graduated
Notable Returnees: DeVraun Thompson, MLB, So, 5-11, 215; William Beckford, WLB, Jr, 6-1, 220; Brian Duffy, LG, 6-5, 315; Gary Gibson, DT, 6-4, 290, David Harley, DT, 6-1, 330; Justice Hairston, TB, 6-1, 210
Offensive Overview: Rutgers employs an old school west coast offense - power running with lots of short passes to the wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs - designed to control the football. New Offensive Coordinator Craig Ver Steeg turned the nation's worst offense into a credible unit. Big running backs ran hard between the tackles and the short passing game converted first downs. Rutgers was able to assemble long clock-eating drives but often failed to convert red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. Rutgers ran outside or threw deep infrequently, allowing opponents to stack the line of scrimmage inside and crowd the short passing zones. There is plenty of depth at running back, tight end, and wide receiver. With returning three players with 50+ receptions, Rutgers may have the best receiving corps in the Big East. Schiano has two big, bruising running backs with which to wear down opposing defenses, as well as smaller backs to provide a change of pace. Quarterback Ryan Hart, returning for his second full season as the starter, set school passing records last season and absolutely must stay healthy, as there are no experienced backups. The offensive line must replace two starters. While the talent, experience, and depth at center are the biggest concerns on the offensive line, overall depth is also an issue as none of the backups are proven.
Defensive Overview: The first unit to show improvement under Greg Schiano, the Scarlet Knight defense stumbled last season. Although the once-soft rush defense improved to middle of the pack performance, the formerly solid pass defense suddenly was porous. The big play was the nemesis of the defense, which yielded 20 runs and 39 passes of at least 30 yards. The defense yielded points disproportionate to the yardage allowed, indicative of the damage caused by big plays. The young defensive line began to mature last season, led by All Big East defensive end Raheem Orr. Orr is the only loss off a unit that otherwise returns two-deep. The defensive line is again expected to anchor the offense but a playmaker must emerge in Orr's absence - that could be defensive end Piana Lukabu. The linebacking corps was very young and inexperienced last year. Injuries stunted the development of the unit last season and during the spring but six of the top eight return. A relatively unproven unit could be the best in the new Big East by November. The secondary, featuring three veterans with six years combined starting experience, was the most experienced unit but became the weak link. Pass coverage was too loose, allowing easy completions for 10-15 yard gains. Press coverage resulted in too many pass interference penalties. The safeties often were beaten deep for big plays. New Defensive Backs Coach Chris Demarest must improve the performance of the secondary while replacing his two starting cornerbacks.
Special Teams Overview: Special teams were a disaster last year, costing Rutgers three games. Placekicking was a crapshoot beyond 30 yards. The punting was wildly inconsistent. A lingering inability to field punts repeatedly cost the team field position or outright possession. The low point of the season occurred when the punt coverage team watched West Virginia line up in a spread offense with the quarterback under center and then allowed an uncontested 83-yard touchdown pass at the end of the first half. The kicking game remains a big question mark entering the season. A team that relies upon a ball control offense must have a strong kicking game. And Greg Schiano must find a reliable punt returner.
The Scarlet Knights will win seven games this season if... they can commit fewer turnovers and yield fewer big plays defensively. This is a young team that needs to learn how to win - finishing opponents on the ropes and beating good teams on the road. The schedule has a steep learning curve. The team could easily win five games or nine games within a very narrow range of performance.
|2004 SYRACUSE ORANGEMEN|
|Author: Wesley Cheng, CuseJuice.com|
Last Season's Record: 6-6 (6th place in Big East)
Last Bowl Appearance: 2001 Insight.com Bowl (26-3 win over Kansas State)
Key matchup(s): Sept. 5 @Purdue 1:30 ABC, Oct. 11 Rutgers, Nov. 6 Pitt.
Star Power: TB Walter Reyes 5-10 209 senior, WR Steve Gregory 5-11 186 junior, TB Damien Rhodes 6-1 210 junior, K Collin Barber 6-1 216 senior, P Brendan Carney 6-5 201 sophomore.
Notable Additions: QB Joe Fields 6-0 213 Washington High School (TX), S AJ Brown 6-0 197 Liberty High School (VA), LB Jamar Atkinson 6-3 220 transfer.
Notable Subtractions: WR Johnnie Morant, drafted by Raiders, LB Rich Scanlon, signed with Chiefs, QB RJ Anderson, DE Josh Thomas, signed with Colts, FB Thump Belton, signed with Lions.
Notable Returnees: LB Kellen Pruitt 6-3 225 junior, DE Julian Pollard 6-4 258 senior, C Matt Tarullo 6-5 332 senior.
Offensive Overview: The Orange have one of the nation's best rushing attacks and a veteran offensive line that is more than capable of eating clock and energy from opposing defenses. Without question, this is the Orangemen's biggest asset and greatest strength. Tailback Walter Reyes, who will be in the running for the Heisman Trophy, could become Syracuse's all-time leading rusher. But for all the talk about the running game, the Orange is iffy at quarterback. Starter RJ Anderson is gone and there are three main candidates for the job - sophomore Perry Patterson, junior Xzavier Gaines and true freshman Joe Fields. None has thrown a pass at the college level. The Orange will also be thin at the receiver spots as only Jared Jones returns. Syracuse was so thin at receiver that it decided to move two-year starting cornerback Steve Gregory to receiver. As for the offensive line, seniors Matt Tarullo and Adam Terry and junior Steve Franklin are returning starters, while Quinn Ojinnaka and Jason Greene have joined the starting unit.
Defensive Overview: Two years ago, Syracuse's defense finished last, or next to it, in every statistical category in Division I football. Two years later, the defense figures to be a strength. Steve Dunlap takes over as defensive coordinator and will have to work in a new starting line and new cornerbacks. Tony Jenkins, Kader Drame and Julian Pollard will start on the defensive line. They have big shoes to fill after the graduations of Louis Gachelin, Christian Ferrara and Josh Thomas. Speaking of big shoes, the middle linebacker spot now belongs to Jerry Mackey, the great nephew of Syracuse legend John Mackey. He joins returning starters Kelvin Smith and Kellen Pruitt. The Orange swapped two-year starting cornerback Steve Gregory for receiver Marcus Clayton in spring ball. Clayton will step in right away as a starter at cornerback. He's quick and athletic and joins safeties Diamond Ferri and Anthony Smith in the secondary. Kicker Collin Barber and punter Brendan Carney are back after both earned second-team All-Big East honors last year. Carney has a powerful leg and can boom punts, but needs to work on his kicking time - last year, he had five punts blocked.
For Orange fans that love to dream,... Syracuse has an outside chance of winning the Big East. Swing games include Rutgers, Connecticut and Pittsburgh. If Syracuse is able to take these games while conceding a loss at West Virginia, then the Orange's final game against Boston College will decide who wins the Big East. This will hinge on whether Syracuse's defense is as good as advertised, and whether Syracuse can form a functional passing game.
|2004 TEMPLE OWLS|
|Author: Bob Lichtenfels, OwlInsider.com|
Last Season's Record: 1-11 (last place in Big East)
Last Bowl Appearance: 1979 Garden State bowl (28-17 win over California)
Key matchup(s): Sept. 18 Florida A&M, Sept. 25 @Toledo, Oct. 23 @Connecticut, Nov. 20 Boston College.
Star Power: QB Mike McGann 6-6 225 senior, QB Walter Washington 6-2 240 junior, WR Phil Goodman 6-3 215 senior, LB Rian Wallace 6-4 245 junior, DT Antwon Burton 6-4 315 senior
Notable Additions: K Ryan Lux 6-3 200 JC Transfer, RB Tim Brown 5-8 185 JC transfer, LB Walter Mebane 6-1 230 JC transfer
Notable Subtractions: WR Zamir Cobb, DT Taso Apostolidis, CB Yazid Jackson.
Notable Returnees: P Mike McLaughlin 6-1 210 junior, SS Lawrence Wade 6-0 195 senior, CB Pete McBride 5-10 175 senior, DE Mike Mendenhall 6-3 250 junior
Offensive Overview: The offense will return the two-headed QB monster of Mike McGann and the running of the athletic Walter Washington. JC transfer Tim Brown will be expected to step into the TB spot and produce immediately for the Owls. WR Phil Goodman has the ability to be the best receiver in the conference. The offensive line returns three starters.
Defensive Overview: LB Rian Wallace will look to improve on the monstrous season he had a year ago with 148 tackles including 19.5 for a loss. Wallace is a strong candidate for All-American honors. The Owls return seven starters on defense including 3 of the 4 starters in the secondary.
Special Teams Overview: Lux will be looked upon as a big key to the success of the Owls this fall; the JC All-American suffered a minor knee injury this spring, but is expected to be 100% by summer camp.
The Owls can win eight games this season if... the defense led by Rian Wallace plays very stingy, and the offense can keep them in the game. A realistic outlook would be for the Owls to get to .500, with the first two games against ACC powers Maryland and Virginia it will be a difficult task. The Owls may be playing with a chip on their shoulders this fall after not being asked to join the New Big East Conference.
|2004 WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS|
|Author: Kevin Kinder, BlueGoldNews.com|
Last Season's Record: 8-5 (1st place in Big East)
Last Bowl Appearance: 2004 Gator Bowl (41-7 loss to Maryland)
Key matchup(s): Sept. 18 Maryland, Nov. 13 Boston College, Nov. 25 @Pitt.
Star Power: QB Rasheed Marshall (6-1, 190, Sr.), WR Chris Henry (6-4, 200, Jr.), LB Adam Lehnortt (6-3, 235, Sr.), LB Scott Gyorko (6-0, 210, Sr.), DB Adam "PacMan" Jones (5-11, 190, So.)
Notable Additions: WR Eddie Jackson (6-4, 225, Sr.) sat out last season as a transfer from Washington; P Phil Brady (5-9, 180, Jr.) sat out last season as a transfer form East Carolina
Notable Subtractions: LB Grant Wiley, DB Brian King, DB Lance Frazier, S Leandre Washington, RB Quincy Wilson.
Notable Returnees: WR Miquelle Henderson (6-2, 205, Sr.), OL Jeff Berk (6-5, 285, Sr.), OL Tim Brown (6-5, 300, Sr.), OL Jeremy Hines (6-2, 285, So.), OL Dan Mozes (6-3, 290, So.), RB Kay Jay Harris (6-1, 230, Sr.), DL Ernest Hunter (6-3, 285, Jr.), DL Ben Lynch (6-4, 270, Sr.), DB Jahmile Addae (5-11, 200, Jr.), DB Mike Lorello (6-1, 200, Jr.)
Offensive Overview: The loss of Quincy Wilson, the latest in a long line of stellar backs, must be offset by senior Kay Jay Harris and a group of talented backups, including Jason Colson, Erick Phillips, and Bryan Wright. Whether they can match the production of Wilson and Avon Cobourne (who departed a year earlier) remains to be seen. Rasheed Marshall is a steady QB who makes few mistakes, but hopes are that he will improve on his mid-range accuracy. His backup, Charles Hales, engineered a win at Boston College last year and would start for most Big East teams. Chris Henry heads a deep cast of wideouts who recorded 19 TDs on just 129 receptions last season. The attention paid to Henry may open the door for Miquelle Henderson, Eddie Jackson and John Pennington in the receiving game.
Defensive Overview: Improving against the pass remains the goal for the 3-3-5 defense employed by the Mountaineers. West Virginia recorded just 17 sacks in 2003, and allowed 259.8 yards per game through the air. Injuries in the secondary and along the front line contributed to that shortcoming last season, and with a deeper talent pool WVU will attempt to mix up defensive fronts to get more pressure on opposing QBs. Against the run, the Mountaineers boast a deep defensive front, led by Ernest Hunter and Ben Lynch, along with a number of promising youngsters. Linebacker has depth concerns, but Adam Lehnortt and Scott Gyorko (each with more than 100 tackles in 2003) are among the best, if most unheralded, in the conference. Replacements for departed secondary stars Brian King and Lance Frazier must be found, but great building blocks are in place in the form of safety Jahmile Addae and cornerback Adam "Pac Man" Jones.
Special Teams Overview: Place-kicker Brad Cooper returns after an up and down junior year, where he made just one kick from beyond 40 yards. Distance is not a concern, as many of Cooper's misses were of the "just barely" variety. Punting is still an open battle between Eric Daugherty and transfer Phil Brady. The Mountaineers boast one of the nation's most electrifying return men in Pac Man Jones, who averaged 26.3 yards per return as a sophomore.
The Mountaineers can win the Big East Title and go to a BCS Bowl if... the passing game improves just a notch, they avoid injuries at linebacker, and promising players in the secondary are able to contribute. Cut 40 yards off the total allowed per game in the passing department, and West Virginia fans will be celebrating on Bourbon Street or in the Valley of the Sun for New Year's.