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Defense will be key for WVU

August 2, 2012

MORGATOWN-The highest preseason ranking for West Virginia University's football team seen so far is 10th.

That is where Lindy's magazine sees the Mountaineers winding up in their first year of competion in the Big 12 Conference.

ESPN ranks West Virginia No. 11, Athlon's Sports 12th, and USA Today 13th.

These are the highest preseason rankings I have seen. But there are likely to be others yet to come before the 2012 season gets under way.

I certainly hope WVU winds up in the Top 10, come December and if it doesn't, I hope it's not far beyond 10th place.

It is going to be difficult for any media type covering the Mountaineers to be in position to make a prediction, however, until they actually see some games.

That's because a mere first 30 minutes of 5 days WVU's 15 days of fall camp, practices will be open to the media. Coach Dana Holgorsen, his players and assistants will be available for interviews after practices.

The WVU staff obviously has new formations and plays on both offense and defense which Holgorsen wants to keep secret. But there undoubtedly are 100-plus other Division I schools want to do the same. But a lot of those will open at least parts of scrimmages to their media.

We all expect quarterback Geno Smith to enjoy another highly productive offensive season as a senior. He's No.1 among the Heisman Trophy candidates out of the Big 12 Conference.

In leading his team to 10-3 record in 2011, the Miami, Fla., marvel completed 346 of 526 passes for 4,385 yards and thirty one touchdowns. His longest completion covered was 84 yards.

Tavon Austin (101 receptions, 1,186 yards) Stedman Bailey (72 receptions, 1,279 yards) are also returning as top-notch pass catchers. Like Smith, they are on the Heisman Trophy list for the Big 12.

Look for Austin to run with the ball more as a rusher too. He was the national leader in all-purpose, averaging 198 yards per game.

While offense remains a strength, I think the defense is going to be the chief determining play phase on how West Virginia University will fare.

Steve Dunlap is the only holdover coach from last year's defensive staff, and some key players have graduated from that side of the ball.

Too, there's been some shuffling of defensive formations and some players switching positions.

It will be interesting to see how these changers pay out.

It's going to be up to the defensive to come up with stops for the offensive to do its thing.

A team obviously can't score without the ball.



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