Q&A with WVU Expert: Part 1

Kevin Kinder, a writer and web publisher for Blue & Gold News, was kind enough to share his thoughts with Badger Nation regarding the upcoming season. Blue & Gold News (BlueGoldNews.com), has been the authority on WVU athletics since its inception in 1988. Here is Part 1 of our interview with WVU expert Kevin Kinder:

Would you consider last season a success for West Virginia, or was the 9-4 finish a disappointment?

Kinder: Last year was definitely a success. WVU bounced back from a 3-8 record in 2001 and recorded back-to-back wins over two Top 25 teams in Virginia Tech and Pitt, and both of those were on the road. WVU was only one quarter away from winning the Big East last year (we trailed Miami by one point with 20 minutes to go in the game). The second-place league finish was still a great run, though. The bowl loss was a bit of a damper, but most Mountaineer fans were very pleased with the 2002 season.

What are the overall expectations for WVU this season? Is this is a rebuilding season, or could the Mountaineers factor into the Big East race?

Kinder: This year is probably somewhere in-between rebuilding and contending. Although the Mountaineers didn't graduate a huge class, just about every departing player was either a star, a starter or a contributor. The success of last year should help WVU with the difficult schedule again this year, but WVU is really young overall. 47 of the 85 scholarship players are either true freshmen or redshirt freshmen. Overall, if WVU could get another bowl trip this year, that would be a reasonable expectation. I think we may be just a bit too young to challenge for the championship this season.

On paper, it appears the two biggest concerns are the offensive line and defensive line.Is that the case, or are there other areas that are more pressing concerns?

Kinder: You are right on target. The o-line is the lesser of the two, because I think we have seven linemen right now that are good enough to win with. Plus the o-line coach, Rick Trickett, is truly one of the best in the country, in my opinion. There's not a great deal of depth along the offensive front, but unless there is a rash of injuries I think the o-line will be ok.

The d-line is the No. 1 area of concern. WVU is small, young, and not deep. The best d-lineman right now is Ernest Hunter, and he's just a sophomore. There is some young talent in players like Craig Wilson and Warren Young, and juco Fred Blueford (a senior) will have to be more consistent.

The concern is that big teams (like you guys!) will simply line up and play smashmouth and overwhelm the WVU d-line. That didn't happen last year, because the Mountaineers played a 3-3 front with two safeties close to the line that simply overwhelmed rushing attacks with too many bodies. The three seniors on the defensive line were all in the 280-290 range, so they were big enough and savvy enough to get the job done. This year, WVU won't be that big, so that's a big area of concern. One other area is receiver. The coaches are still looking for a couple of consistent, game-breaking receivers. They haven't found them yet, so WVU will probably still be relying on the running game early on.

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