Here is the fourth installment in a series of seven previewing UConn's Big East Conference opponents this season.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez (5th season, 28-21) 2004 season: 8-4 overall, 4-2 Big East, Gator Bowl Basic Offense: Spread Basic Defense: 3-3 stack Starters Returning: 10 (3 offense, 3 defense, 4 specialists) 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) Players to Watch: DE Ernest Hunter, QB Adam Bednarik, DB Eric Wicks, FS Jahmile Addae.
Outlook: Last season, the Mountaineers were the Big East favorite for a seat at the BCS table, but the team stumbled and finished a disappointing 8-4. This year, expectations are drastically lower and the 2005 team is among head coach Rich Rodriguez's youngest at West Virginia.
Star quarterback Rasheed Marshall has graduated and that places Adam Bednarik as the odds-on favorite to take over. Bednarik is a prototypical passer for the spread offense, but the question marks at receiver will loom large. The most productive returning wideout is Brandon Myles, who caught all of six balls last season. At tailback, the story is depth and the Mountaineers have a lot of it. Expect to see heralded high-school phenom Jason Gwaltney early and often.
WVU boasts plenty of experience on defense. Johnny Dingle, a Florida transfer, is a fine addition to a competent defensive line led by end Ernest Hunter. The secondary has a good stock of talent and is deep enough to run the season, but the same cannot be said at linebacker, where new looks could appear each week. Rodriguez has called the linebacking corps a concern.
Overall, the Mountaineers have enough talent to make a run at the Big East championship, but the youth and experience of that talent make a third or fourth-place finish more realistic.
UConn Scouting Report
On paper, UConn matches up similarly to West Virginia, with untested, but talented players at key positions. The teams meet November 2 in Morgantown, and it should be an interesting contest because of those circumstances.
UConn might be able to blitz Bednarik and stack eight in the box to force him into passing situations. Gwaltney, one of the best freshmen running backs in the country, is expected to put up big yards this season.