Youth, Player Shuffling Double-Edged Sword For WVU

Halfway through the regular season, West Virginia remains an unsettled offensive football team.

It may sound like an excuse, but there's no doubt that West Virginia's youth and inexperience are key contributors to the up and down offensive attack this year.

Youth can be used as an excuse for only so long, and had WVU put the same players on the field for each game, that reason might not be accurate right now. However, with the massive shuffling that has occurred on the offensive line and at wide receiver all season, the lack of familiarity with each other, as well as general inexperience, has been the killer of many a Mountaineer drive.

Of course, there is a good side to this. A number of players are getting game experience. There's nothing quite like learning under fire, and a number of offensive players have done just that, and against some of the best competition in the country.

That experience has helped some, but it doesn't offset the fact that many of these players probably weren't quite ready to get the minutes they have been receiving this year.

Although WVU does appear to be growing a bit on offense, the latest moves at wide receiver probably won't be of much benefit in the short term either. Players such as Rayshawn Bolden have gotten increased minutes, while others such as Aaron Neal have fallen so far down the depth chart that they haven't even dressed the past two games. Throw in the absences of Miquelle Henderson and Travis Garvin, and West Virginia's passing game has been relying on a sophomore who hadn't played a game in almost two years.

Those factors combine to make life difficult for others who have been on the field from Day One, especially quarterback Rasheed Marshall.

There's much more to a passing game than just throwing the ball. The receivers have to be where the quarterback expects them to be. The protection has to be good. The pass has to be accurate, and the receiver has to catch the ball. Miss on any of those items, and an incompletion (or worse) results. With so few constants on offense this year (Rasheed Marshall, Quincy Wilson, Jeff Berk and Dan Mozes), the Mountaineers just haven't been able to develop the familiarity and trust in the passing game needed to mount a consistent offensive punch.

Another factor is the shift in focus of opposing defenses. Last year, the scopes were set on stopping Avon Cobourne, which left Rasheed free to operate. This year, those sights have been shifted to the junior quarterback. Rasheed is seeing more defensive sets geared toward containing his running, and as a result, his rushing totals, along with those of WVU, are down.

So, what can be done to correct these problems? In the short term, probably not a lot. The Mountaineers have continued to stick together and practice hard, but only tough game experience and numerous repetitions are going to help correct the offensive problems WVU is encountering. And although West Virginia has learned a number of good lessons from their games already this year, the suspicion is that the Mountaineers' youthful offense may need a few more tutoring sessions before they are ready to win week in and week out.

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