Hunter got his first start last week against East Carolina, and figures to get the nod again this Saturday. The competition improves this, as outstanding senior center Todd Wike provides the competition.
Hunter is still learning the nuances of playing inside after spending the majority of his high school career as an edge pass rusher. He has a great future in front of him, but the challenge he faces this Saturday is a large one.
If Wike is able to move Hunter around, it won't matter whether Bruce Perry, Chris Downs, or Perry Chris Downs-Bruce is carrying the ball -- Maryland will have the upper hand.
If, however, Hunter can approach his performance of a week ago, the Mountaineers will have the edge.
Maryland will eventually test West Virginia's suspect pass defense, but they'll also take several stabs at establishing the run to take the heat and the focus off ex-WVU quarterback Scott McBrien. The success they have in doing so will be a key factor in how this game plays out.
WVU tight end Josh Bailey vs. Maryland linebacker Leon Joe
OK, it's a pattern. Young, talented Mountaineer against experienced Terp. We flip flop sides of the ball for this confrontation.
Star Terp linebacker E. J. Henderson gets the majority of the press, but Joe isn't far behind him in our estimation. The talented junior roams the field with abandon, and also benefits from the extra scheming and attention paid to Henderson.
For West Virginia's running game to continue to shine, the Mountaineer tight ends will have to be very sharp in their blocking this week. Rest assured that Henderosn, Joe and company won't whiff on tackles the way East Carolina did.
Joe has 37 tackles on the season, and blitzes often from his outside backer position. He hasn't recorded a sack yet, but he does have seven hits on the quarterback, which shows his ability to apply pressure to opposing QBs.
Bailey will have to keep his cool, rely on fundamentals, and try to cause problems for Joe with his own passing routes in order to keep the talented Terp out of WVU's offensive hair.
WVU quarterback Rasheed Marshall vs. Maryland strong safety Dennard Wilson
Former cornerback Wilson brings a nice mix of skills to the safety position, and his play bears a good deal of scrutiny in Saturday's contest.
First, will Wilson be the eighth man in the box to defend against WVU's rushing attack? Or will the Terps play more standard sets with Wilson defending against the pass?
Wilson will also be a big factor against the running of Rasheed. Rasheed's ground-gaining ability would be getting a lot more notice were the Mountaineers not rolling up PlayStation numbers, but we're sure that his rushing hasn't escaped the notice of Maryland's defensive coaching staff.
On the Mountaineer side of the matchup, Wilson will be one of the primary keys that Rasheed focuses on when approaching the line of scrimmage. His positioning, and the read Rasheed makes, will be an interesting battle to keep an eye on.
THINGS TO WATCH:
The weather. No, not because some namby-pambys don't want to get wet. But because of what it could do to the game.
The footing on the damp AstroPlay at Mountaineer Field was uncertain last week, and WVU has never played a game on the surface in a steady rain.
The Mountaineers have the advantage of having an equipment room full of different shoes at their disposal, while Maryland might be limited in the different types of equipment they can bring, as there's only so much room on the truck.
Which team does rain benefit more? Do Scott McBrien or Rasheed Marshall have problems throwing a wet ball? Watching the players during warmups might provide a headstart in determining who is more weather-resistant. If, of course, you don't mind sitting in the rain yourself.
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If the weather isn't horrendous, WVU is going to give up some passing yardage. That's just a fact of life with this defense, and the philosophy with which the Mountaineers are running it.
The number one goal of the pass defense is to prevent big plays. Eliminate the 60 yard touchdown pass. Keep the receivers in front of the defensive backs.
After the game, look at Maryland's scoring drives (hopefully, there won't be many), and see how they moved the ball. Were they able to complete 5 or 6 short passes? East Carolina managed to do so on only two dirves last week, which resulted in ten Pirate points. WVU would take a similar total in any game this year.
It can be frustrating to watch teams consistently complete seven and eight yard passes. And its even easier to blame the cornerbacks for not covering closely enough.
However, a closer analysis of WVU's defensive results this year show that, for the most part, the strategy is working. It's not a magic bullet, but it should be good enough to keep the Mountaineers in most of the games they play.
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