WVU third down defense vs. ECU pass protection
It's a battle of unproven units as the young Pirate offensive line will try to keep West Virginia's revamped pass rush away from quarterback James Pinkney.
WVU's plans to use a four man front in passing situations was shelved last year due to several injuries in the defensive secondary, which forced the Mountaineers to rely on more zone coverage than they wanted. That, in turn, forced the addition of another player to the coverage scheme in the secondary, and left the four man rush plan in tatters.
Saturday, look for WVU to use their nickel and dime packages a good deal - they might even go to it on first and second down if ECU chucks the ball all over the lot as anticipated. Craig Wilson and Joe Sykes are two linemen to watch when the Mountaineers go to the four man front.
WVU wide receiver Brandon Myles vs. ECU cornerback Donald Whitehead
A classic battle of youth and physical prowess vs. wily veteran experience. There's no doubt that Myles has the talent to be a star. He has excellent hands, and uses his height well in fights for the ball.
WVU is searching for another receiver to take some of the heat off Big East Rookie of the Year Chris Henry, and during fall camp Myles showed the ability to be that player. If he can do it when the lights come on, the Mountaineer passing game will take another step forward. If Whitehead can keep Myles under control, however, they will gain an important edge in their battle to keep the WVU offense in check.
An intriguing contest, as much for Lorello's position move as for Levesque's impact on the ECU attack.
No one in the world would question Lorello's toughness and love of contact. This year, however, he's playing amongst the big boys more than ever before, and will often be taking on tight ends in the running game. Lorello will need to use his speed and quickness to avoid getting locked up on blocks and get to the point of the rushing attack. If he can do that, there's no doubt he'll finish the job with a series of big hits and crisp tackles. What bears watching, however, is how he holds up through four quarters of more physical pounding than he's endured during his career to this point.
THINGS TO WATCH
Head coach Rich Rodriguez sounded the alarm earlier this week about ECU trick plays. Although this is a different coaching staff that the previous Steve Logan group that loved the playground style, the Pirates have a history of running gadgets against WVU, and usually with a good bit of success. End arounds, reverse passes, option pitches out of punt formation - East Carolina has done it all.
Keep an eye on ECU's offensive formations, and watch for different alignments with their wideouts, or for a slot receiver or wingback in an unorthodox position on the field. Those types of items can be a tipoff for an offbeat play.
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Although WVU has any number of exciting players, it will be instructive to keep an eye on transfer punter Phil Brady, who came to the Mountain State from, you guessed it, East Carolina. Will Brady have something to prove? Sometimes that sort of motivation can cause a player to be too amped up, and being overexcited usually causes problems for kickers and punters. Brady must keep his cool to get his Mountaineer career off to a solid start.
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Another position to observe carefully is WVU's tight end spot. Both Ryan Thomas and Josh Bailey have nagging injuries, and the Mountaineers may need every healthy blocker they can get in order to run the ball. If Thomas or Bailey are felled again, look for walkon Brad Palmer to get some snaps.