The following is an EXCLUSIVE excerpt from Brassey's Inc.'s "Blue Ribbon College Football Forecast" profile for West Virginia. We've included an excerpt of our position analyses, as well as of our "Blue Ribbon Analysis" for the upcoming season. For much more detail on your team and the 116 other Division I-A teams, purchase the "Forecast" today--see below for ordering information!
Mountaineer fans saw flashes of what Rasheed Marshall can do as a red-shirt freshman last season, now he's ready to take over the offense.
Marshall (6-0, 185) missed eight weeks after breaking his right wrist in the opener at Boston College, but still saw action in five games as a backup to Brad Lewis. A gifted runner, Marshall also has a strong arm and can throw on the move. He completed 41-of-79 passes for 327 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions last season, but solidified the starting job by hitting 21-of-27 throws for 231 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. "We expect a big year from him," Rodriguez told the Wheeling Intelligencer.
"Obviously, the quarterback is the focal point of our offense because our quarterback has to do so many things. But he's done a good job of continuing to get better, and with a good summer, I think Rasheed can take his game to another level. We expect him to do that."
Mid-way through spring practice, Marshall felt comfortable with his progress.
"I feel a lot better out there," Marshall told MSNsportsNET.com. "Having a year of the offense under my belt helped out a lot. I can remember last year the first day of spring practice was real crazy. Comparing that to this year it is a lot more relaxed."
Marshall is looking for more consistency in 2002.
"I want to polish up my skills from last year and try to make solid decisions as much as possible just become an all-around player," he told MSNsportsNET.com. "If I can accomplish that then I can do some good things out there."
Blue Ribbon Analysis
The Mountaineers have not had back-to-back losing seasons since enduring four straight sub-.500 years from 1976-79 under Frank Cignetti. With so many changes being made, it could be difficult for WVU to avoid that plight this season.
Cobourne is the one thing the Mountaineers can count on, but he can't carry the offense by himself. Marshall could develop into a star, but is still a young quarterback and will make mistakes. He does have the benefit of a veteran line, but his receivers are mostly unproven and WVU's patience will be required as new players adjust to WVU's brand of offense.
An adjustment period will also be required on defense, even though the Mountaineers are supposedly simplifying things. Upchurch and Wiley are upper echelon players, but WVU still must prove it can stop the run before it can be taken too seriously.
The out-of-conference schedule features difficult games at Wisconsin and Cincinnati and at home against Maryland. The Mountaineers play Syracuse and Miami at home in back-to-back weeks but close the season with a rough stretch at home against Boston College and on the road at Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh.
The Mountaineers could be-and should be-better, but the Big East isn't the kind of conference where big jumps in the standings are commonplace. Expect some improvement, but not a lot.