Coach: Rich Rodriguez (5th season, 28¬21) 2004 record: 8-4 (Lost to Florida State in Gator Bowl) Big East finish 4-2 (t-1st): 2004 I-A offensive rankings: Rushing: 7th (252.8 ypg) Passing: 104th (166.1 ypg) 2004 I-A defensive rankings: Rushing: 50th (141.1 ypg) Passing: 32nd (198.3 ypg)
at South Florida
Depth Chart: Offense
3 returning starters in red
Depth Chart: Defense
4 returning starters in red
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Last season, with hopes of a BCS berth and a shot at a national title, WVU stumbled, finishing 8-4. This season, the Mountaineers will have to regroup after losing Adam "Pac-Man" Jones and Chris Henry early to the NFL Draft and Big East Offensive Player of the Year Rasheed Marshall to graduation.
"It should be an interesting season," said coach Rich Rodriguez. "We've got question marks. We've got a few veterans, more on defense than on offense, but also a bunch of question marks. We've got some talented young guys, but they haven't played.
"A lot of our young guys are going to get experience early in the season -- how they progress will probably determine the outcome of the games."
Through the end of the spring, the WVU coaching staff did not know the identity of the team's starting quarterback for 2005. They did not know if the Mountaineers would get much-needed help for the receiving corps. And Rodriguez and Co. still have no idea if the injuries that dogged the team in the spring -- especially along the offensive line -- will extend into the season.
At quarterback, Adam Bednarik is a prototype passer for the spread offense and is the odds-on favorite to take over for Marshall. But Bednarik sat out spring drills after shoulder surgery.
"He most thoroughly understands our offensive system," Rodriguez said of Bednarik. "He's the most experienced."
Dwayne Thompson, Pat White and 25-year old J.R. House are also in the QB race.
WVU is loaded at running back, so much so that Jason Colson, the No. 1 tailback, may be moved to receiver, where things are much more sketchy. The most productive returning wideout for the Mountaineers is Brandon Myles, who caught all of six balls last season.
West Virginia's offensive line lost a lot of talent but returns enough -- especially stout guard Dan Mozes -- to piece together an adequate starting unit. The backups, though, are very young and inexperienced.
Defense is where the Mountaineers have the most experience, and that starts up front. WVU will boast five or six capable linemen for its three-man front.
The biggest news is the emergence of Johnny Dingle, who transferred to Morgantown from the University of Florida. End Ernest Hunter is the unit's leader. But the most dynamic lineman may be sophomore tackle Keilen Dykes.
The soft spot of the Mountaineer defense is at linebacker. The unit does have a talent in Kevin "Boo" McLee at the weak-side spot. But Rodriguez admits that the linebacker positions are a "concern."
In the secondary, the Mountaineers should have no problems. At the spur (outside safety), Mike Lorello has proved to be one of the Big East's best. Behind Lorello is Eric Wicks, a star in the making.
At free safety, Jahmile Addae is a returning All-Big East player. At cornerback, Alton "Dee" McCann has enough ability, according to Rodriguez, to replace Jones.
The kicking may fall to the hands of two true freshmen. Returning punter Phil Brady will be in a battle with Scott Kozlowski, rated the No. 1 punting prospect in the nation by one service. Pat McAfee, rated the No. 1 kicker by the same service, should take over at that position.
West Virginia must find a solid leader at quarterback if it is to maintain its upper-tier status within the Big East. WVU does have some fine young talent and a home schedule that includes both of the likely Big East contenders.
This year's team is flying under the radar, but expect the '05 Mountaineers to win enough games to land another bowl berth and finish in or near the top half of the Big East.