This year, Tavon Austin is going to do a LOT of looking behind him at opposing defenders. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
In the vein of our standard "Staring Down The Musket" preview series where we pose questions about WVU opponents to other bloggers, we present our preview of tomorrow's Gold-Blue Game in the same fashion. But, instead of asking questions of other WVU bloggers like normal people, I decided to ask questions and answer them myself. And if you know me, you know it's really not that far out of the ordinary for me to do that. So, on with the show:
Country Roads: Since the 70 point outburst against Clemson in the Orange Bowl, expectations for WVU's offesne have been sky high. Reports from spring practice indicate that Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are in sync and clicking on all cylinders. What do you expect to see from them in the spring game?
Country Roads: Don't get me wrong, the record-breaking bowl game was a thing of beauty and seemed to indicate that the offensive players were starting to really understand Holgorsen's system. And I also think we could have kept scoring if we really wanted to, but instead dialed it back and ran the ball more in the second half. But the 70 points included a defensive touchdown and at least two scores set up directly by turnovers. And I can't get the offensive performances we had against Louisville and Syracuse out of my head. But yeah, I think we'll look pretty good. I'm especially interested to see what type of impact Tavon Austin's move from H receiver to Y receiver (where Tyler Urban and Devon Brown played last year). SmartFootball did an excellent analysis of that move in his comments on my spring depth chart post, and I'm intrigued to see how those play out. I also plan to watch the moves along the offensive line, with Josh Jenkins returning from injury and Quinton Spain starting at left tackle. By many accounts, the line has been looking really good this spring, and I think a solid performance on Saturday would help validate that. Finally, I want to see how our receiving depth is developing. Is Ivan McCartney (who is unquestionably talented) healthy and ready to compete? Is JD Woods going to step up and contribute more this year? What about KJ Myers and Dante Campbell? Is Cody Clay better suited as a pass catcher than a blocker? Those are questions I think we may have some answers to this weekend.
CR: Players have been talking all spring about how Joe DeForest's new 3-4 defense is easier to learn and allows them to play fast without thinking too much. As a result, the scheme seems to have been implemented quickly and the defense has had some success shutting down the Mountaineers' high-flying offense. Will a quality performance from the defense on Saturday give you confidence about the season?
CR: It can't hurt. But the spring is so much more about repping your own plays than trying to play matchups or develop a successful game plan. That's why it's hard to make too much of reports from spring ball, good or bad. I guess I'd be worried if we never heard a peep about the defense getting a stop in practice, though. The main thing I've been hearing all spring is that this is a bend-but-don't-break type of defense. After the shutdown unit we had in 2010, I think fans are probably going to get frustrated when we inevitably give up tons of yards and probably our fair share of points against these potent Big XII offenses. But much like DeForest's defense last year at Oklahoma State, the D doesn't have to be impenitrable. It just has to get enough stops to allow the offense to do its work by holding teams to field goals, getting off the field on third (particularly third and long), and creating turnovers. I think the talent is there to do that, despite the dearth of big bodies up front. If Imarjaye Albury and Shaq Rowell can hold down the line, guys like Jared Barber, Doug Rigg, Josh Francis and Terence Garvin should be able to make some plays. I'm actually comfortable with our secondary, given the experience of Travis Bell, Darwin Cook, Pat Miller and Brodrick Jenkins. Not that those guys have been great, but at least they're not new to college football. They will need to play smart if the defense is going to have any success in our new conference.
CR: Spring games are usually the most fun when there is a battle at starting quarterback or running back, and we really don't have any of that this year. Sure, there is the new defense to keep an eye on, but you can only get so excited about the same players playing differen positions. It's not like we're putting in a whole new offense like last year. What are you most excited to see?
CR: For me, I enjoy watching the new players to see how they handle the enhanced pressure of playing in front of a crowd. I was excited to see what Ford Childress can do directing the second or third team offense. He's a physical specimen and supposedly has a cannon for an arm, and the coaches have indicated that they would like to redshirt him this year. But for a guy who could be WVU's quarterback of the future, any signs that he is picking up the offense and making good decisions is going to bode well. However, after his DUI arrest early this morning, Childress's status for the game is up in the air. Let's hope Ford learned his lesson and focuses on class and football from here on. Jordan Thompson is another guy who has garnered a lot of talk recently with his play in practice. I was a little skeptical about him when he signed since he is a bit undersized and had few other FBS offers, but that's why I'm blogging and Dana Holgorsen is coaching. Thompson has shown signs of great speed and moves so far, and hopes to be able to compete for playing time this year. If he can learn under the wings of Tavon Austin, we could have something special on our hands. On defense, Karl Joseph and Imarjaye Albury are two young guys who have cracked the spring depth chart. If they are physically ready, they have as good a chance as anyone else to play since the entire team is learning a new defense. I'm going to keep an eye on them when they are on the field.
CR: Okay, prediction time. Does WVU have any chance in this one, or is WVU going to blow them out of the water?
CR: We're definitely going to see some offensve fireworks. I still don't think anyone has tackled Tavon Austin in 2012, so he's going to get his yards. But I don't think it's going to be the type of track meet that some might expect. The new defense is going to get its fair share of stops, and I'm sure folks are going to get frustrated with that, but you can't score every single time. I expect to see a lot of the backups on offense, especially since we know what all these guys can do, and I just expect to see a lot of guys play on defense as they try to build undestanding and depth. I'm going to call JD Woods the offensive MVP and Tyler Anderson the defensive MVP---I think those guys are really poised for breakout years. But honestly, I really just hope for decent weather so we can tailgate and a nice crowd to show support for the team and for the Children's Hospital.
I plan on going down to the game, seeing some friends and tailgating, and I hope to be able to take some pictures as well. Regardless, I will have a full report next week. In the meantime, what are you hoping to see from the spring game? Who do you think will have the best performances? Is there anything else I should be keeping an eye on? Let me know in the comments.