Last season, WVU's dowfield passing game was almost nonexistent. WVU QBs averaged less than ten yards per completion as defenses loaded up to stop Avon Cobourne.
While the Mountaineers won't remind anyone of the Daryle Lamonica-led Oakland Raiders of the 1960s and early 1970s, both Rasheed Marshall and Danny Embick displayed the arm strength and the accuracy to get the ball downfield to receivers this spring. Marshall in particlar cut drastically down on the number of uncatchable deep balls that he threw this spring. If he can find some receivers with the ability to climb the ladder and outfight defenders (who figure to be in single coverage) for a deep completion or two, the offense should be improved.
Several of the deep passes completed this spring were to slot receivers, as players like A.J. Nastasi and John Pennington showed enough speed and defense recognition to go deep for the ball. X receiver Miquelle Henderson improved on his ability to go up and take the ball away from defenders, especially on sideline deep routes, and Dee Alston also showed his speed and downfield ability.
Will that be enough? As we noted in our analysis of receiver depth earlier this week, just a little bit of improvement might go a long way, as WVU plans to diversify the offensive attack even more in 2002. If the Mountaineers can hit just one or two deep passes for big gains, and the underneath passing attack yields an occasional broken tackle and long run, it will be enough.
We believe that both Marshall and Embick are capable of getting the job done in 2002. And while we don't expect to see a great number of thirty or forty yard passes, there should be enough to make the offense a threat in more than the running game this fall.
Up next - Question 4: Are there enough linebackers to last throughout the season?