WVU's Avon Cobourne and Brad Lewis vs. Maryland's blitz
The first part of this matchup is readily apparent. Maryland, which is blitzing far more often this year under new head coach Ralph Friedgen, will bring defenders from all angles. The Terps have already racked up ten sacks and an impressive 34 tackles for losses in three games.
Avon, as the lone back in many sets, will have to be on top of his game in picking up rushers, or the Terps will have target practice on Mountaineer quarterback Brad Lewis.
Speaking of Lewis, his blitz pickup will be just as important. With WVU in three- four- or five receiver sets, Lewis often has the responsibility for picking up the extra rusher. If the Terps bring more blitzers than WVU has blockers, it's up to Lewis to find the open receiver and deliver the ball quickly.
WVU quarterbacks coach Bill Stewart views this as just another blocking assignment.
"When they bring more than we can block, Brad has to block the extra guy."
Gary is an often underrated wide receiver who figures to be the best that WVU has faced so far this season, and that includes Boston College's Dedrick Dewalt.
Mountaineer cornerbacks will get an early test from Gary, who isn't physically imposing but has that natural receiver's knack for finding openings and catching the ball. Watch for WVU's corners to press Gary and try to disrupt his routes early.
WVU punt return vs. Maryland punter Brooks Barnard
Barnard is the latest in a seemingly interminable line of excellent punter the Mountaineers have faced. Barnard, averaging 46.1 yards per boot, is an overlooked weapon in the Terps arsenal.
Opponents are averaging more than seven yards per return against Bernard, so opportunites are there to make up some of the yardage he gains with his booming kicks. However, WVU's punt return teams have not been able to must much in the way of either pressure on the kicker or returns, so the early advantage appears to be on the Terps' side.
THINGS TO WATCH:
Watch WVU's punt return team this week. The stated strategy has been for the Mountaineers to rush at least eight players (leving one return man and a single coverage man on the bullets), but so far little pressure has been generated on the punter.
Will the Mountaineers keep this strategy going, or will they try to set up a return occasionally? This could be the week, as the long kicks of Barnard do provide the opportunity for some return yardage.
West Virginia's defensive front improved their penetration last week, but let's face it, the opponent was Kent State. In order to keep Maryland's Bruce Perry under wraps, the WVU front four must get across the line and force Perry to make lateral moves. If Perry gets into the hole unmolested, then he's heading for another 200 yard day, and WVU will sink to the bottom of the NCAA rushing defense statistics.
Also watch for the the second line defenders to crowd the line even more closely this week in an attempt to keep Perry from running North and South.
Against Maryland's blitz, WVU's wide receivers must be just as aware as quarterback Brad Lewis is. The receiving corps must make route adjustments against the blitz and be prepared for quick passes from Lewis, who may be forced to get rid of the ball early.
If those passes are completed, the receivers must make a couple of big plays on their own. Someone needs to break a tackle for a fifty yard gain. Someone needs to beat their defender off the line and get behind the coverage. This offense is built on a short and midrange passing game, so in some respects the Maryland strategy playes into its hands. Now is the time to see if it can produce.
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