WVU Tackles Lance Nimmo and Tim Brown vs. UTC Defensive Ends Emmanuel DeWalt and Leonard Mays
At first glance, this looks like a mismatch. Nimmo and Brown are both in the three bills range, while DeWalt and Mays barely see 220 pounds on their scales.
In the running game, that lack of size is a distinct disadvantage for UTC. Look for a lot of plays in the guard/tackle gap, as WVU will try to kick the ends out and push the Moc defensive tackles into a pile in the middle of the field.
The passing game may be another story, however. DeWalt and Mays will try to use their speed, along with a variety of zone blitzes, including stunts from different angles, to confuse the WVU front line. DeWalt and Mays accounted for only three sacks last season, so they will be on a mission to improve those totals.
This should be a reasonable test for the Mountaineer front line, and especially for the tackles. Nimmo, Brown and company need to come through this test with flying colors as a preparation for tougher pass rushes to come.
WVU running backs Avon Cobourne, Quincy Wilson and Moe Fofana and vs. UTC middle linebacker Josh Cain
This matchup is a little different. It's not so much Cain trying to tackle WVU's backs (although that will be a featured event on Saturday). Rather, it's a look at WVU's ability to block the wide ranging Cain.
Superbacks Cobourne and Wilson will have to be on the lookout for Cain, who recorded seven sacks in 2001 and figures to be a big part of the Mocs' zone blitzing scheme.
In the running game, Fofana and his cohorts at fullback will be the lead blocker on Cain for many of WVU's rushes between the tackles.
It may not be glamorous to watch a blitz pickup, or a lead block on an isolation running play. The end result of those plays, whether it's a tackle for no gain, a big run down the field, or a completed pass, will largely be determined by the winner of this battle.
WVU's free safety position has been unsettled, to say the least, throughout the fall. The list of players tried at free is seemingly longer than the cast of extras for Gone With the Wind.
With that in mind, McCann and the Mocs (sounds like a 60s rock band) will no doubt be up to their best trickery to try to confuse the Mountaineers' last line of defense.
Look for lots of play action, lots of crossing patterns, and floods of receivers as UTC attacks WVU's biggest area of concern in the secondary.
THINGS TO WATCH:
For the entire preseason, the WVU defensive staff has preached "Disguise it" and "Change it up" to their troops.
In simple terms, the coaches don't want the defense, especially the linebackers, spurs and bandits to break the huddle and line up in the position they are supposed to be in.
The staff wants stemming and movement right up to the snap of the ball. In some cases, that can be easier said than done.
Almost certainly, the WVU defense will be running through their disguise games on the opening series. The quesiton is, will they still be doing it in the third quarter? Will they have the discipline and stamina to do it for 60 minutes?
Watch this, and keep count. WVU needs to set this habit in stone so that it becomes second nature by the time the conference season arrives in mid-October.
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Another item that observers should note is the pace and smoothness with which WVU runs its offense. We're not necessarily predictin a 50 point explosion, but from watching fall camp it seems that the mechanics of the offense are much better.
Keep an eye on the sidelines when WVU is signalling in plays. Watch the interaction between Coach Rod and wide receiver coach Steve Bird, who signals in the plays. Keep an eye on the pack of substitutes that stand at the ready. You should see a lot less confusion. One thing that observers should also note is the pace and smoothness with which WVU runs its offense. We're not necessarily predictin a 50 point explosion, but from watching fall camp it seems that the mechanics of the offense are much better.
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We don't think there will be a whole lot of scheming or trickery on WVU's side of the ball going into this game, for a couple of reasons.
First, UTC's offense and defense will definitely be different than last year, so there will be an element of uncertainty as to what the Mocs will display. WVU will have to adjust to UTC's attacks and defenses on the fly.
And second, WVU doesn't want to show too much to Wisconsin, for whom they will definitely have a surprise or two. We expect the Mountaineers to keep as many rabbits as possible under their helmets until they travel to Madison.