LB Grant Wiley (Photo credit: All-Pro Photography by Dale Sparks)

2002 Statistics

Coach: Rich Rodriguez
12-12, 2 years
2002 Record: 9-4
at Wisconsin LOST 17-34
at Cincinnati WON 35-32
at Rutgers WON 40-0
at Temple WON 46-20
at Virginia Tech WON 21-18
at Pittsburgh WON 24-17
Virginia LOST 22-48

2002 Final Rankings
AP-25, Coaches-20, BCS-15

2003 Outlook

The biggest question of all that will be answered in 2003 is whether last season's success was a result of a senior-laden team coming together, or was it, as Mountaineer fans will hope, a product of Rich Rodriguez' recruiting and coaching. If the latter is the case, WVU could get up into the 6 or 7 win area. Realistically, this would take a wonderful coaching performance in order to happen. Still, though, the Mountaineers have the opportunity to build talent while continuing success with a few headliners. Marshall, Wilson and Wiley are all looking to have breakout years. Marshall will be called upon to be a leader for this team. But three marginally great players do not equal success for this team. Teams need to pressure Marshall. The o-line will take time to gel and Rasheed is not used to being the team's focal-point.

Defensively, the Mountaineers run the 3-3-5 defenses designed to bring speed against the passing game and avoid allowing the big run play. It doesn't always work quite as planned. Surprisingly, the run-defense was much stronger than the pass defense a year ago. Look for teams to run over this young defensive line until the safeties creep up. Then teams will expose their middle for TE- and crossing pattern-abuse. The Mountaineers will find out early that their personnel do not match the three-down-lineman formation they would like to play. Teams will get in trouble if they challenge the WVU corners to the outside. Accordingly, look for opposing receivers to take the corners downfield so the backs and TE can laterally stretch WVU even further and expose that juicy middle.

Viewing the schedule, West Virginia will be challenged early. Wisconsin comes into Morgantown for the first game - this will be a huge test for the young defense. Challenging games with Cincinnati and Central Florida will not be easy. The non-conference slate concludes with a strong Maryland team. Within the Big East, the Mountaineers might pull off one upset along the way, but we expect them to finish mixed in the bottom half. Overall Mountaineer fans should be embracing for a disappointing season, but we project more of a rebuilding year and not a step back. In 2004, with senior Marshall at QB and a more experienced offensive line we expect the Mountaineers to return to the bowl scene.

Projected 2003 record: 6-6
WR John Pennington
CB Brian King
WR Nate Forse
QB - 3.5 DL - 2
RB - 4 LB - 2.5
WR - 2.5 DB - 3.5
OL - 2 ..

Passing: Rasheed Marshall, 259-139-5, 1616 yds., 9 TD's

Rushing: Quincy Wilson, 140 att., 901 yds., 6 TD's

Receiving: Miquelle Henderson, 40 rec., 496 yds., 2 TD's

Scoring: Todd James, 11-16 FG, 46-50 PAT, 79 pts.

Punting: Todd James, 14 punts, 37.4 avg.

Kicking: Todd James, 11-16 FG, 46-50 PAT, 79 pts.

Tackles: Grant Wiley, 133 tot., 91 solo

Sacks: Fred Blueford, 4 sacks

Interceptions: Jahmile Addae, 4 for 14 yds.

Kickoff returns: Cassel Smith, 4 ret., 19.0 avg.

Punt returns: Lance Frazier, 30 ret., 6.9 avg.


WR Miquelle Henderson (Photo credit: All-Pro Photography by Dale Sparks)
OFFENSE: Avon Cobourne-RB, Phil Braxton-WR, Mike Page-WR, Derrick Smith-WR, A.J. Nastasi-WR, Lance Nimmo-OT, Zack Dillow-C, Ken Sandor-OG
DEFENSE: Tim Love-DE, Jason Davis-DT, David Upchurch-DE, James Davis-RLB, Ben Collins-MLB, Jermaine Thaxton-SS, Angel Estrada-BS, Mark Fazzolari-P

written by Dave Bagchi

Two years ago when pass-happy Rich Rodriguez took over head coaching duties at West Virginia, few people would believe that the Mountaineers would have ended his second season averaging nearly 300 yards per game rushing. To his credit, he has remained patient and coached to the team strengths. As Rodriguez continues to do this, and considering the stacked deck from which he deals, look for this one-dimensional attack again in 2003.

Senior RB Quincy Wilson is ready to take over for departed Avon Cobourne (left as school's all-time career leading rusher). Wilson's promise is that he had a whopping 6.4 average over 900-plus yards. His success has been predicated, though, on subbing when the defense was tired. He is bigger and faster than Cobourne, just not as shifty or experienced. Questions reside over whether Wilson can be an every-down back. Neither of these backs were superior as pass-protectors. There is depth in the backfield to help Wilson - much-hyped incoming junior-college transfer KayJay Harris (240 lb), and young talents Erick Phillips and Jason Colson, look to emerge. The one constant will be big-time blocking FB Moe Fofana, the team's most underrated player. Facing 8- or 9-man fronts, Fofana is responsible for clearing the extra man. He should receive national recognition this season if the Mountaineers continue their rushing dominance. Look for either Harris or Fofana to play in the one-back for obvious passing situations if Wilson cannot learn to pick-up the blitz. The running game has backs, but linemen are a concern.

The Mountaineer backs are complimented and completed by the running of junior QB Rasheed Marshall and his devilish 666 yards and 13 TDs. The offense is complex, running several spread formations including shotguns and one-backs. Surprising for a team that is so dominant on the ground, but not surprising that these formations can deceive 18-22 year olds, as they must respect the pass also, which they do. Marshall's backups saw limited 2002 action and for good reason. Rasheed's shiftiness helps him avoid many big blows, but Marshall must learn to slide and/or go out-of-bounds more often to avoid those big hits he seems to like.

There is faith in Mountaineer land that coach Rick Trickett will be able to mold a new offensive line, yet easier said than done. Replacing their best lineman, Lance Nimmo, will be a tall task. The middle is also vulnerable from departures. Trickett is searching the junior college scene for offensive line help, showing not much sign of faith in his current replacements. This year's line (right now) looks like sophomore Josh Stewart, junior Jeff Berk, senior Ben Timmons, senior Geoff Lewis and senior Tim Brown. Look for highly-touted sophomore Dan Mozes to get his reps at guard as well. Coaches are high on Mozes for his rare combination of size (300+ pounds) and quickness. No disrespect to what this squad will ultimately achieve, but their inexperience, on both the individual and group-level, will cost WVU its 2002 national ranking of second in rushing.

Josh Bailey and Tory Johnson form a solid pair at tight end. Although they only combined for 14 catches last year, they are both strong blockers. Johnson is the senior and a bit under-sized. Bailey is the future. The 6'5 sophomore is a nightmare for opposing safeties in the open field. Look for Bailey to grow as a weapon and be a security blanket for Marshall.

The passing game has been somewhat disappointing. It averaged just 135 yards per game, and the major problem is Marshall's accuracy. Although he does not make many mistakes in term of interceptions (only 5), Marshall is inconsistent. It is difficult to gage his arm strength because he takes so many hits. Watching the games, the Mountaineer receivers are often open off the play-action, especially considering the defense focuses on the ground game. Marshall just flat-out misses them. Watching Marshall play, it seems he is thinking too much, worried about making mistakes more than just trying to make plays. He is a tremendous athlete and has a talented arm. Despite the critics, Marshall is progressing nicely overall. The Mountaineer coaches should simplify things to alleviate the pressure. He is a strength to the offense, just a liability to the passing game becoming a quality second dimension of their overall attack.

A combination of injuries, discipline issues and (QB) inconsistency caused the receiving unit to take a surprising step back. Considering the extra men in the box for run-stopping, the Mountaineers should get a lot of big passing plays. Yet leading WR Miquelle Henderson and departed Derrick Smith averaged only 12 yards on their 57 receptions. Henderson and expected-starter Aaron Neal provide big targets for Marshall, but lack separation skills. The Mountaineers are also looking for big things out of two players who sat out 2002 due to academic reasons, Chris Hendry and Brandon Myles. A telling sign that a team is in trouble at a position is when they are relying on two guys who didn't play a single snap the year prior. But within the evolution this offense is currently experiencing, any of these receivers can become that next difference-maker so sorely needed.


QB Rasheed Marshall (Photo Credit - Mike Hardy, WVU Photographic Services)


Returning Starters in bold
QB Rasheed Marshall-Jr Charles Hales-Jr
RB Quincy Wilson-Sr Kay-Jay Harris-Jr / Moe Fofana-Sr (FB)
WR Dee Alston-So Nathan Forsey-Fr
WR Miquelle Henderson-Jr Cassel Smith-Sr
WR Travis Garvin-Sr John Pennington-Jr
TE Josh Bailey-So Tory Johnson-Sr / Ryan Thomas-Jr
OT Mike Watson-Jr Garin Justice-So
OG Jeff Berk-Jr Dan Mozes-Fr
C Ben Timmons-Sr Justin Williams-Jr
OG Geoff Lewis-Sr Jeremy Sheffey-Fr
OT Tim Brown-Sr Josh Stewart-So
K Brad Cooper-Jr Casey Welch-Fr



written by Dave Bagchi

Senior linebacker Grant Wiley is looking at an All-American season. Mostly under the radar last year, Wiley had 133 tackles, 13.5 tackles for losses, and even two interceptions. He is a big athlete who uses his strength in moving north to south and plays the ball well. Where he will need to improve is his lateral movement (footwork). Also, with this year's inexperience at defensive line, Wiley will surely take a lot more shots downfield from opposing blockers. His durability will be tested with double-teams who now know he's coming, least of all from us here.

Wiley is a big-time player, but needs help to be the impact player he potentially is. And the lingering problem of WVU's defensive speed remains. The Mountaineer defense was torched by backs coming out of the backfield to catch passes on chasing LBs. Adam Lehnortt, Leandre Washington, Scott Gyorko and Mo Howard will battle for the two positions alongside Wiley. Washington and Lehnortt will get the early edge. But expect Washington and Gyorko to win the jobs by season's end. Both are slightly under-sized but their speed can bring this missing element to the Mountaineer defense. The unit has to be set, or operate comfortably under the guise of rotating often. Either way, the unit has too much growth to still experience before any conclusive assumptions are made.

Senior defensive backs Brian King and Lance Frazier will provide WVU with strong outside coverage. Both are underrated and can use that to sneak up on unsuspecting offenses. King is a more physical coverage guy, while Frazier has the better speed and quickness to play off and go for the interceptions. The duo will allow defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel to experiment with some man-to-man coverage and protect his weaknesses up front by shuffling his two safeties and his bandit closer to the line.

The safety spots will be another giant question mark. Gone is the team's defensive leader, Angel Estrada. Look for FS Jahmile Addae to move to the strong-side to take advantage of his tackling abilities. This will allow room for sophomores Adam Jones and Mike Lorello to develop. Their key will be whether they can keep the receivers from getting behind them. The unit will be inexperienced and called upon to support the run. The learning curve is steep here, a rather do-or-die area for the Mountaineers. Their 2002 Achilles heel was a pass defense that allowed over 200 yards per game and a pass-rush that had only 16 sacks. It will get worse in 2003.

Five starters up front departed, including all three along the defensive line. Conclusively, the Mountaineers will have one of the nation's youngest defensive lines this season. Up front, sophomore DE Ernest Hunter is an extremely talented sophomore, but he must return from his leg injury that cut short his freshman campaign. The key to building a young defensive line quickly is to have depth. WVU fans may rejoice in their redshirt freshman crop, Craig Wilson, Jeremy Sheffey, Ben Clemmons, Warren Young and Rachid Stoury. A possible X-factor is troubled lineman Kelvin Dubouse, who battled disciplinary issues in 2002. Until they become a powerful run-stopping unit like 2002's squad, this entire defense has plenty to prove before it is again a reliable asset.


FS Jahmile Addae (Photo credit: All-Pro Photography by Dale Sparks)


Returning Starters in bold
DE Ernest Hunter-So Warren Young-Fr
DT Ben Lynch-Jr Craig Wilson-Fr / Chris Malamet-Fr
DE Fred Blueford-Sr Pat Liebig-Fr
RLB Leandre Washington-Sr Kevin McLee-Fr
LLB Grant Wiley-Sr Scott Gyorko-Jr
MLB Adam Lehnortt-Jr Alex Lake-Jr
CB Adam Jones-So Joe Hunter-Fr
CB Lance Frazier-Sr Thandi Smith-Jr
SS Mike Lorello-So Lawrence Audena-Jr
FS Brian King-Sr Anthony Mims-So
BAN Jahmile Addae-Jr Mike Henshaw-Jr
P Todd James-Sr ..




The past two seasons, the strength of the WVU special teams has been kick-returners Shawn Terry and Phil Braxton. Look for senior Cassel Smith to take that role. As good as they are at returning kickoffs, West Virginia was last in the Big East at only 7 yards per punt return. Expect last year's return man, defensive back Lance Frazier, to stick to his coverage responsibilities. Junior Kahli Gamble could get a shot here. .

The West Virginia kicking game was anything but special, and will again cost them games unless righted. Punter Mark Fazzolari averaged only 37 yards per kick as their net punting was ranked 112th in all I-A. And kicker Todd James was only 2-of-5 outside of 40 yards. James is also the WVU backup punter. This is always difficult on a kicker to handle both duties (check Auburn's David Duval). Look for James to concentrate only in placekicking. Sophomore backup quarterback David Embick is also a capable punter and could earn the job. Teams like Miami, Pitt, and (especially) Virginia Tech make this team aspect cry for improvement, or else.


The West Virginia running backs may possess more (collective) talent than ANY team in the Big East. That's right, they will have three backs vying for backup carries to senior Quincy Wilson. Those competitors are JUCO transfer Kay-Jay Harris and freshmen Jason Colson and Bryan Wright. I expect Harris to gather most of the second-hand carries, but Colson and Wright should see a good chunk of handles. Wright put on a display in the spring game, going 74 yards on six carries and 2 TDs. They have also seen a consistent showing of promise in FB Hikee Johnson… The most surprising star of the spring game was WR Nathan Forse, who nabbed seven passes for 83 yards. Rodriguez says he was plagued with inconsistency, but has finished the spring strong and coaches look for him to contribute this season. Rodriguez plans to get the TEs more involved this year. That said, look for Josh Bailey to step up and have a fine season, possibly worthy of all-conference accomplishments… OG Dan Mozes has taken advantage of the opportunity given since Jeff Berk went down with injury, likely earning a starting spot opposite Berk once the season starts.

Jeff Casteel has taken the full-time reigns as defensive coordinator this season, with Todd Graham's departure to Tulsa… Freshman DE Warren Young is said to have as much talent as anyone on the defensive line, but there was concern when he left to go home for the summer, instead of staying to work out with the team. Coaches would have liked to see him focus his summer on lifting and conditioning, but hope he can pick up (in the fall) where he left off … Spring ball brought a bit of a shakeup in the secondary, as coaches moved King to FS and Addae to BAN. This move will capitalize their abilities and allows room for more speed in the secondary. The move also allows highly notarized CB Adam "Pac Man" Jones to get the nod at corner, strengthening the coverage on the outside… There are three newcomers who could be etched into the two-deep by the end of August- junior LB/DE Joe Sykes, and freshman SAFs Vince Beamer and Fernandez McDowell. Both Beamer and McDowell bring good size and sufficient speed, while Sykes was a JUCO All-American. He could see time at either LB or DE, most likely playing a position where his primary role is to rush the QB.

Junior PK Brad Cooper will relieve Todd James of his placement duties this season. He had a great off-season and has shown a stronger leg than James and a bit more accuracy as well. He will also be handling the kick-off chores. Bryan Wright and Jason Colson look to be the kick returners, but expect to see freshman Larry Williams back there as well. He took two kicks for scores his senior year in high school. Frazier and Garvin will get first crack as PRs.