We've got another West Virginia fan site on board with us to help us bring you the most detailed and accurate information about the Mountaineers as possible. I'd like to introduce you to the good people at We Must Ignite This Couch. In our first round of questioning I asked them two questions.
1. What effect will Rich Rodriguez's absence have on the offensive and defensive game planning?
2. Who are the defensive playmakers?
Here's their response.
I offer the following in response to your fearless leader's queries.
RE: Effect of RichRod's absence
To tell you the truth, I don't think it's going to be as dramatic in the bowl game as many believe. Rodriguez's absence will be felt more in the weeks and months following the bowl game than on the on-field play of the Mountaineers on January 3rd. Make no mistake, Rodriguez was a very good playcaller and game manager, but it's not as if WVU will feature a quarterback that doesn't already know the system. It's seriously doubtful that Patrick White needs to be told to run the halfback option and thirteen or fourteen bubble screens during the course of the game.
Defensively, you probably won't notice any change at all. Much to the chagrin of many Mountaineer faithful, Rodriguez left behind defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, who generally operates with autonomy on the defensive side of the ball. You'll still see the same 3-3-5 odd stack, and you'll still see a lot of cover two shell coverages with blitzing defenders from all over the field.
RE: Defensive playmakers
You did well to note in a previous article on the C&C Machine that WVU's gawdy defensive statistics were based at least in part on a schedule filled with teams that weren't exactly offensive juggernauts. We understand that. WVU fans are just pleased that the team has vastly improved over finishing last season ranked 62nd in total defense and an ungodly 109th in pass defense.
Some of the individual playmakers on the defensive side of the ball have been expected, others have been surprising. Keilen Dykes has been one of the most solid nose tackles in college football for several years running now, and he'll probably be first team All Big East for the second year in a row. His ability to draw double teams have freed up Johnny Dingle (a Florida transfer) and Scooter Berry (and yes, if you're keeping track at home, we have a defensive line named Dingle Berry Dykes) to create more pressure from the defensive line than the Mountaineers have seen in YEARS.
The linebacking corps is made up of smart, hard-working, and solid tackling overachievers. Reed Williams, Mark Magro, and Mortty Ivy all play smart, physical defense, but none of them are the physical freaks such as those possessed by your beloved Sooners.
The playmaker of the defensive secondary is easily Eric Wicks, a 5th-year senior who has a nose for the football if you've ever seen it. If you need a big play, he's the guy that's going to make it. Big hits, interceptions, fumble recoveries, you name it. And with 3 TD returns (all in key moments of big games, mind you,) they don't call him Wicks-For-Six for no reason.
The real reason for WVU's improvement defensively overall is safety Ryan Mundy, a 5th-year senior transfer from Michigan who slipped through a since-rescinded NCAA loophole that allowed graduate students with eligibility to transfer and play without having to sit out a year. Mundy has been a force in the secondary, delivering big shots and coming up with key defensive stops.