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Opponent Preview: West Virginia

Leading up to the 2012 season, we’ll preview all 12 games on the Longhorns’ schedule. On October 6th the Longhorns welcome to Austin last year’s Big East Champion and new conference foe, West Virginia.
vs. West Virginia

2011 Record -10-3, 5-2 in Big East

Returning starters – 7-offense, 6-defense

Head coach – Dana Holgorsen (10-3)

Top Players – QB Geno Smith (4,385 passing yards in 2011, 31 touchdowns, 7 interceptions)…WR Stedman Bailey (72 receptions, 1,279 yards, 12 touchdowns)…SS Darwin Cook (85 tackles).

The Storylines…

· For the Mountaineers, the storyline is simple: after finishing in a tie for first in the Big East last season, how will West Virginia transition to the Big 12? After an electric performance in the Orange Bowl, when the Mountaineers jolted Clemson 70-33, most are predicting that West Virginia will compete for the league title in its first season.

· West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is obviously the key component in the explosive Mountaineer attack. He set an Orange Bowl record with 401 passing yards, and tied the bowl’s record of six touchdown passes against Clemson. He also broke the school’s single season passing record with 4,385 yards last year, completing 66 percent of his throws with 31 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.

· The top returning target for Smith will be receiver Stedman Bailey, who caught 72 balls for 1,279 yards and a dozen touchdowns. Bailey’s receiving yardage total broke the school record in that category, and he averaged nearly 18 yards per reception.

· Former West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez plucked several defensive assistants from the school after he was hired as the head man at Arizona. Holgorsen then hired Oklahoma State’s Joe DeForest as his defensive coordinator, and a new 3-4 scheme was implemented. Keith Patterson – a former Pittsburgh and Tulsa assistant coach – is the co-defensive coordinator with DeForest, and former Stephen F. Austin coach Erik Slaughter will now coach the defensive line.

· Defense in general – and pass rushing in particular – are primary concerns for the Mountaineers entering 2012. West Virginia has a mostly-unproven defensive line, and in a pass-happy league such as the Big 12, if the Mountaineers can’t generate pass rush, expect plenty of Saturday shootouts when they take the field. · Top Texan: This honor can be given to running back Dustin Garrison, the leading rusher on last year’s squad (yes, the Mountaineers did run the ball on occasion) with 742 yards on 136 attempts (an impressive 5.5 yards per carry average). Garrison is a diminutive (5-9, 166 pounds) sophomore from Pearland.

· Mountaineers notes: Slot receiver Tavon Austin is the third head of West Virginia’s explosive offensive “triplet” along with Smith and Bailey. Austin led the nation in all-purpose yards last season at 198 yards per game, excelling in particular at the quick pass behind the line of scrimmage and resulting “run after catch.” He caught 101 passes for 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns, and also ran 16 times for 196 yards, for a whopping 11.4 yards per carry average…Okay, how cool is this: West Virginia linebacker/defensive lineman Josh Francis not only plays defensive line, but is also one of the Mountaineers’ two backup kickoff returners. Really…A newcomer to keep your eye on is receiver Jordan Thompson, a true freshman from Katy, Texas, who introduced himself in the West Virginia spring game by catching eight balls for 66 yards…Senior Terence Garvin is happy to be on the field after suffering a knee injury that kept him from playing in the Orange Bowl. A former safety, Garvin will play linebacker in the new 3-4 defensive scheme…Prior to playing Texas, West Virginia opens its season by playing Marshall, James Madison, Maryland and Baylor, so chances are good that the Mountaineers will come to Austin undefeated.