When the Badgers line up for the season opener against West Virginia, there will be some familiar faces across the line of scrimmage, most notably quarterback Rasheed Marshall and receiver Miquelle Henderson. But West Virginia's offense will look a little bit different in the absence of tailback Avon Cobourne and three starters on the line. Whether the Mountaineers can recover from some key losses will remain a major question mark, which they hope to begin answering on August 30.
Here is a look at what West Virginia has to offer on the offensive side of the ball:
The Badgers will get their second look at Marshall, who threw for 1,616 yards in 2002, completing 139-of-259 passes for nine touchdowns against just five interceptions. He was also a major factor on the ground, rushing for 666 yard and 13 touchdowns. During last year's meeting, Marshall hurt the Badgers more than the celebrated Cobourne. He threw for 219 yards on 17-of-36 passing, while rushing for 76 yards on 15 carries.
There is considerable pressure on Marshall this season to step up his performance in the air. With a loaded backfield, West Virginia needs its passing game to take a step forward to prevent teams from stacking the box to shut down its running game. Marshall has the arm to be a very good throwing quarterback, but his accuracy wasn't very strong last season.
Heading into the summer, the most likely backup for Marshall is JUCO transfer Charles Hales, who will step onto the field as a Division I athlete for the first time against Wisconsin.
Under normal circumstances, the loss of Cobourne would present a major problem for West Virginia. But the Mountaineer backfield remains stacked, perhaps even more so than last year.
Leading the pack is senior Quincy Wilson, who rushed for 901 yards and six touchdowns on just 140 carries last year. Wilson was a tremendous backup in 2002, and looked fantastic during spring ball. He is joined by JUCO transfer Kevin "Kay Jay" Harris, a 240-pound power back that will give West Virginia an electric 1-2 punch in the backfield.
According to Blue-Gold News, there has even been talk of using both backs in the same formation, similar to Wisconsin's flirtation with sets featuring Anthony Davis and Dwayne Smith.
The backs have one of the top fullbacks in the Big East paving the way in Moe Fofana, a 250-pound powerhouse.
Coach Rich Rodriguez hoped several receivers would emerge during the spring to help boost a lagging passing game, but a couple of injuries slowed down that effort, and the unit remains a major concern entering the fall.
The Mountaineers return leading receiver Miquelle Henderson, who finished 2002 with 40 catches for 496 yards and two touchdowns. Henderson missed the Spring Game with a broken leg, but was healthy for the majority of spring ball.
The injury bug also hit Aaron Neal, who some people tabbed as the No. 2 receiver. But the 6-4, 205-pound senior has a lot to prove after missing the majority of the spring. Travis Garvin and John Pennington are two guys likely to be in the mix for starting receiver spots, but this remains a thin position for West Virginia heading into fall camp.
With just two starters returning, this unit remains a question mark for the 2003 season. Returning starters Jeff Berk and Tim Brown will have to lead the way, as the Mountaineers patch up the missing pieces.
But the West Virginia coaching staff was pleased with the performance of the line during spring. Unlike the receiving corps, this is one concern area that appeared to be eased throughout the 15 practice sessions.
Still, with three players starting for the first time against Wisconsin, this is a unit the Badgers' explosive defensive line will surely try to take advantage of.
West Virginia Week: Offensive Preview
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