Match-Ups: WVU - Marshall

"New" items -- from players to schemes, highlight our look at West Virginia's 2012 season opener. Game Scorecard
Sat 9/1/12 12:00 PM

Morgantown, WV

Mountaineer Field
Record: 0-0
Polls: 11/11
Last Game
Clemson 70-33 W
Radio: MSN
Record: 0-0
Polls: UR
Last Game
FIU W 20-10
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2012 Schedule

Series: WVU 11-0
First Meeting: 1911
Last Meeting: 2011
Press Release Unavailable
Season Stats Unavailable
2012 Schedule

Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast


WVU pass rush vs. MU Quarterback Rakeem Cato

We're in the minority here, but our thinking was that Cato played a solid game in his debut last year against the Mountaineers. Granted, he had struggles later on in the season, but he showed good poise and made some solid throws in a safe passing attack. It's unclear whether or not the Herd has radically changed their offense for 2012, but Cato will be counted on to distribute the ball to a deep group of backs and some very capable wideouts, and he has the ability to make good reads and find open receivers.

To challenge that, West Virginia must get pressure from its revamped defensive front. Buck Josh Francis will be the focal point of the pass rush package, but the Mountaineers must be able to generate pressure with its other linemen. The trench crew has to win some one-on-one battles and get a sack or two on their own, and the defense as a whole can't let Cato get comfortable. If it does, the Herd quarterback could put together an excellent day.

WVU Freshman Starters vs. First Game Jitters

Karl Joseph and Jordan Thompson will see their first action in a Mountaineer uniform on Saturday -- and they'll be doing it in starting roles. How will they react to a big crowd and the natural excitement of the opening game of the season, coupled with all the newness of their first-ever collegiate game?

Karl Joseph

Both players quickly ascended the Mountaineer depth chart, and neither caused much debate when it came time for the coaching staff to name their starters. Both performed consistently well through practice, and are clearly deserving of their starting spots. However, no matter how much practice they've been through, it's nothing like playing in front of a full house when everything counts. In practice, make a mistake and you'll get corrected by a coach. Do the same thing in a game and it could mean points for the other team. That knowledge can lead to more nervousness or tentative play, and that's something that head coach Dana Holgorsen will be watching for in the early stages of the game.

The thinking here is that Joseph, as a defensive player, has a little bit of an advantage in getting the jitters out. The ability to put a couple of hits on opposing players often does wonders for getting into the flow of the game, so the hope is that Joseph can get that out of the way early and settle in. It won't be a surprise, of course, to see Marshall test him early with play action or some sort of route that puts his decision-making ability on the spot.

For Thompson, the path is a simple one - get a catch and make a play. If he can get involved in the offense early, he should be able to put aside an early nerves and bring his talents to bear. It also helps, too, that he isn't the focal point of the offense, and thus may be able to ease himself into the game without feeling pressure to make a big contribution early on.


West Virginia's return teams have undergone a total overhaul since last year, and there will be new alignments and schemes on display from both the punt return and kickoff return groups. How will those ustilize the abilities of Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin and Brodrick Jenkins, who are slated to be the Mountaineers' top returners? Be sure to watch WVU's alignment and blocking assignments on the first few kickoffs to get an idea of how things have changed this fall.

Also, ignore those who worry about utilizing Austin or Bailey on the return units for fear of injury. A player can get hurt on any play, so trying to protect someone, even a player as important as Austin, is silly. These guys are here to play the game, and not using them simply deprives West Virginia of some of its best weapons.

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Stedman Bailey may think he has something to prove, even though he did it time and again in 2011. "Steady B" had more yards (1,279) and more touchdowns (12) than anyone else on the Mountaineer team last year, but he's still somewhat overlooked by many in the national media in favor of the dynamic Austin. There's no personal jealousy between the record-setting duo, but something tells us that he is going to be out to show, again, that he is just as talented and productive as his more-publicized teammate.

While we're discussing overlooked players, J.D. Woods might deserve a mention too. He played very well in West Virginia's season finale against USF, and was also solid against Clemson in the Orange Bowl. We're not ready to predict a 1,000-yard season for him just yet, but if he continues the solid play he showed at the end of last year, he will be a factor, and could develop into that third receiver that quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital is looking for in the Mountaineer attack.

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We saved the simplest, and most complex, for last -- watching the "Buck" position in West Virginia's defense. There are a number of changes in WVU's new scheme, and a lot to keep an eye on, so we'll offer some reminders each week as we get used to the new positions.

For this week, the two keys are personnel and alignment. See who is in the game at the position (usually Tyler Anderson and Josh Francis, although there could be others, especially in passing situations). Next, watch where they line up, and what they do at the snap. There's going to be a mix of rushing and dropping into coverage, and a lot of different starting and ending points as they try to cause disruption and confusion in opposing offenses. See if you can identify some patterns to what West Virginia is doing at the position, and how it uses personnel to take advantage of the down and distance situation.

Finally, remember the wise words of Greg Hunter, who noted in our preseason print edition that "all Bucks can be Ends, but not all Ends can be Bucks". This means that any of the Bucks on the roster can line up as a defensive end and play as one -- watch for that from the bigger Bucks when West Virginia expects a run. But you're not going to see Will Clarke dropping back into pass coverage with any regularity -- he's an end that isn't likely to ever be a Buck.

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