Junior Will Clarke is being counted on to be one of the defensive leaders this season
Switching from the 3-3-5 to a 3-4 defense doesn't mean much of a difference for the defensive linemen on the field most of the time. Yes, some of the responsibilities may have changed a bit, but not noticeably. Stuffing the run and generating a pass rush are still the key tenets of the defensive line.
With the losses of Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller, almost half of it's sack producers from last season are gone. Generating a pass rush in the Big 12 could be paramount this season for this relatively young defense. After all, a decent pass rush can do wonders for an inexperienced defensive backfield. The Mountaineer defensive front isn't very experienced either. According to stats compiled by the Daily Mail, among the personnel listed on the initial depth chart, there are only "24 career starts and 76 career games among nine players. Seven have never started a game, three have never played a game, one has played only a handful of snaps in four games and two were true freshmen listed as backups."
Charged with clogging up the middle and generating that pass rush will be starting front three: Will Clarke at tackle, Shaq Rowell at nose and Jorge Wright at end. A couple of true freshmen have cracked the initial two-deep in Christian Brown and Korey Harris and both are expected to contribute right away. Also expected to see playing time in the rotation are veterans Kyle Rose and J.B. Lageman.
Here's coach Holgorsen's take:
"Too many young guys," Holgorsen said. "You're talking about a few new freshmen, and we didn't have a whole lot of depth at that position anyway. We've got a whole lot of guys and not a lot of experience." - Charleston Daily Mail
Yes, this defense has a lot more question marks than answers, at least to begin the season. That's not to say it won't be successful. But in what many consider to be the best offensive league in the country, the young guys will have to play well beyond their years. Otherwise, WVU could be involved in quite a few shootouts in 2012