Last season, WVU allowed 33.3 points per game and gave up 455 yards per game. Those numbers were good enough for 99th and 101st respectively in the country. Most fans who were able to stomach each game of the season last year can probably remember the lack of pressure or ability to get off the field on 3rd down consistently as significant contributors to those abysmal numbers.
Keith Patterson, the former WVU defensive coordinator, left for the warmer climates of Arizona to reunite with his old college roommate, leaving Tony Gibson left holding the reins for the 2014 edition of the Mountaineer defense. Gibson's tenure was given an early shot in the arm when defensive guru and recruiting magician Tom Bradley joined the staff as Senior Associate Head Coach/Defensive Line Coach/defensive savior (I may have added that last part). His assistant in getting our players in position to attack opposing quarterbacks is Damon Cogdell, former Miramar High School Head Coach.
Will Clarke (49 tackles, 17 TFL, 6 sacks last year), WVUs mountain of a man who anchored the defensive line for the past few seasons is now in the NFL, leaving an obvious void the Mountaineers desperately need to fill. So who will Bradley and Cogdell employ to wreak havoc on opposing offenses? Enter Shaquille Riddick (I'm going all-in early with Sack Attack), a highly touted graduate transfer from FCS Gardner-Webb who is slated to start immediately after coming to WVU this summer. The 6'6", 244 lb defensive end racked up 67 tackles,, 19 TFL, 8.5 sacks and 17 quarterback hurries in 2013.
That added pressure could force other teams to put an extra man on Riddick much like Bruce Irvin did just a few years ago. With Riddick accounted for, that leaves Dontrill Hyman to rush the other end and Kyle Rose to plug the middle as the other two starters tasked to start the game against the Crimson Tide. In addition to Hyman, Riddick and Rose, WVU will look for Eric Kinsey, Christian Brown and Noble Nwachukwu to rotate in and help keep the offense on its heals.
With much of the hype surrounding the addition of Tom Bradley in the off season, it will be interesting to see how much WVU will improve defensively. Certainly, the addition of an athlete like Riddick can go a long way to improve a defense. How much of an improvement that will be remains to be seen, but if the front three can generate some pressure and slow down the running games of our opponents this year (or at least better than last year), I like our chances for 2014.
As always, Let's Go!