DB Eric Wicks

2005 Statistics

Coach: Rich Rodriguez
39-22, 5 years
2005 Record: 11-1
at Syracuse WON 15-7
at Maryland WON 31-19
at Rutgers WON 27-14
at Cincinnati WON 38-0
at South Florida WON 28-13
vs. Georgia WON 38-35

2005 Final Rankings
AP-5, Coaches-6, BCS-11

2006 Outlook

Coach Rodriguez and Casteel are noted for their gimmick alignments, which have proven worthy with all its bells and whistles. Rodriguez likes to spread you out and run the lanes. Casteel likes to disguise eight players and have them attack from everywhere. Not only did the D rise to the top of many I-A key stats, it helped produce a plus-1.17 turnover margin (7th), intercepted 17 passes and averaged 2.64 sacks per game. Certainly athleticism should be credited, but much of the production can be attributed to coaching up their modest-but-worthy talent.

Every opponent knows WVU runs the ball. Stopping the obvious has proven impossible, however. Rodriguez has a Bible-thick book of spread sets and is already revered as one of the top three coaches across the nation when it comes to running a/his version of the spread offense. Even if you could chase down White and Slaton outside, you have to put the brakes on the truck with Schmitt inside – tackle him low, though that isn’t easy, or else. This offense is eerily similar to the philosophy the Naval Academy employs, except WVU is dealing with much more raw talent to start. In other words, defenses have to use discipline and focus, as opposed to just overwhelming the man in front of them and making the play. Fakes, angles and lack-of-convention should keep you watching them.

The huge questions will come from the secondary, in particular at field corner. Ditto for nose tackle - a rookie is the main hope. Offensively, the same can be said for the tackle position, especially on the left side. Could Chris Bassler become WVU's best offensive tackle in years or fail to recover from surgeries? These issues are serious, but it's not like Rod is starting over. Not only is this his most athletic roster in history, it's also his most experienced. Beating the SEC’s best in Georgia this past Sugar Bowl may have been the biggest win in their history in terms of setting up a huge expectations for the following year.

The schedule is extremely light, much like the one the 2004 Mountaineer team faced when it entered August as a Top 10 team. Bet that Louisville has its home game with WVU circled after the three-overtime loss of a year ago. Outside of the Cardinals and possible surprise Maryland/Pitt rivals, just about any Top 20 program could run the table that these Mountaineers have as a slate. Winning may not be enough to get an undefeated WVU team in the Fiesta Bowl title game. Domination will be required…and just like the close of 2005, that is quite possible.

Projected 2006 record: 11-1
QB - 4 DL - 3.5
RB - 5 LB - 3.5
WR - 4 DB - 3
OL - 3.5 ..

Passing: Pat White, 114-65-5, 828 yds., 8 TD

Rushing: Steve Slaton, 205 att., 1128 yds., 17 TD

Receiving: Brandon Myles, 34 rec., 536 yds., 3 TD

Scoring: Steve Slaton, 19 TD, 114 pts.

Punting: Adam Bednarik, 5 punts, 31.0 avg.

Kicking: Pat McAfee, 11-18 FG, 48-49 PAT, 81 pts.

Tackles: Kevin McLee, 78 tot., 46 solo

Sacks: Keilen Dykes, 5 sacks

Interceptions: Larry Williams, Abraham Jones, Eric Wicks, Kevin McLee - 1 each

Kickoff Returns: Antonio Lewis, 17 ret., 22.1 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: Antonio Lewis, 11 ret., 19.6 avg., 1 TD


RB Steve Slaton
OFFENSE: Josh Bailey-TE, Travis Garrett-OT, Garin Justice-OT, Jason Gwaltney-RB (JUCO), Pernell Williams-RB (dismissed)
DEFENSE: Ernest Hunter-NT, Jeff Noechel-SLB, Anthony Mims-CB, Dee McCann-CB, Jahmile Addae-FS, Mike Lorello-BS, Phil Brady-P

Pat White took the reigns in game seven last year and never let go. The redshirt freshman rushed for 100 yards in four of his five starts and completed 11-of-13 passes in the limelight of the Sugar Bowl. White was so dominant as a rusher last year that they only needed to call for 114 passes. But hey, that’s the system he works under. Sophomore Adam Bednarik led the Mountaineers through their first six games, until injuries took him out. A two-way battle also looms for the No. 3 spot between redshirts Jarrett Brown and Nate Sowers. Brown arguably has the best arm in the program; Sowers may be moved to the defensive backfield if too far down the depth chart (which is a direct comment on his 4.45-40 speed). A strong unit, regardless of who hurls the rock.

Running Back
Like White, sophomore Steve Slaton broke in slowly. His break-through came in the biggest comeback in school history versus Louisville at home. He rushed for 188 yards and set a Big East record with six TDs. He earned Sugar Bowl MVP (208 yards). A year when he averaged 110 per game on the ground and finished 7th nationally in scoring (10.6 points per game) made him a second-team freshman all-American, and second-team all-conference. Though extremely touted Jason Gwaltney left the program (went JUCO), a freshman and sophomore should provide depth. Jetavious (Tay) Best played last year at Milford (N.Y.) Academy, so he has four years of eligibility remaining. Sophomore Ed Collington is a 205-pound bull with 4.5 speed. Collington was on campus last year making up his grades in order to gain eligibility and will be not be available to practice until the summer. The secret weapon--who no longer is such a secret--is fullback Owen Schmitt, who combines speed, mass and dexterity to a position that until last season was forgotten from a statistical standpoint. Schmitt provides headaches for opponents because he can run at fullback or tailback, get into the flats for screen passes and block. One of his crushed face masks (while hitting a defender) currently rests on the head coaches’ office desk.

The one area Mountaineer coaches would like to improve this spring is in passing production. WVU failed to pass for as many as 200 yards in any game last season. Obviously with White, Slaton and Schmitt running out of the backfield, does it matter? One player who will get consideration in the 2007 draft is junior Brandon Myles because his 40 speed is in the 4.3 area. Coaches like to get him the ball, and then let Myles use his burst for the YAC. Another star rising is Darius Reynaud, a jitterbugging slotback who averaged 10.4 yards per catch. He was the perfect complement to the RBs. Starting wide receiver Ray Bolden is coming off a leg injury in the Sugar Bowl. Look for sophomore Brandon Barrett, a former West Virginia two-time Player of the Year in high school, to become more involved. Redshirt freshman Dorrell Jollah, athletic sophomore Dwayne Thompson and redshirts Darren Brownlee and Ryan Dawson get a chance to make the six-man rotation. Help is on the way for the fall with ‘06 recruits Wes Lyons and John Maddox. Pound-for-pound, little Jeremy Bruce may be among the team's top five athletes. He played behind Reynaud as a true freshman, until injuries took him out of the picture.

Offensive Line
Mountaineer fans have learned it rarely matters how many of the recruiting services' so-called stars (for ratings) rest beside a WVU prospects' names here. But it's what assistant head coach Rick Trickett (also OL) does with them that counts (see departed OTs Travis Garrett and Garin Justice). Both will be in somebody's NFL spring football camp. Neither had offers from better than Duke out of high school - The replacement for Garrett on the left side is key. WVU coaches think they have a good one in Chris Bassler, but he underwent knee surgery last summer and was lost for 2005. John Bradshaw, who started at left guard against Maryland, could get a look. Frank Carduff, Mike Moeller and Damien Crissey also are in the mix. Jake Figner will likely inhabit Garin Justice’s spot. His back up could be highly regarded Jon Walko. Nobody in the Big East has an interior “Big Three” like the Mountaineers. Center Dan Mozes earned AP second-team all-American honors as a junior. Right guard Jeremy Sheffey was second-team all-Big East, but actually graded higher than Mozes in the last few games. Left guard Ryan Stanchek was named to Sporting News' rookie All-American team. This could mark the first time in a while that the Mountaineers would boast full scholarship players on its complete two-deep lineup.

Tight End
The TE gets little mention in the Rod spread, because he is ostensibly another offensive lineman. Mike Villagrana and Brad Palmer have played plenty, but Brandon (Mookie) Tate is a ringer. The lengthy former wide receiver has skills, which could add a wrinkle to the attack. Opening up the middle and occupying safeties/LBs can only help, Rich.

Coaches from Ohio State and the like visited head coach Rich Rodriguez this winter to involve themselves in the Big East Coach of the Year's version of the spread offense. Rodriguez is a run-first guy, so White, Slaton, Schmitt, Sheffey, Mozes and Stanchek are to remain the stars. That’s kinda weird – to have three- and four-WR set mean mostly running – but that may answer many questions about how WVU does so well with seemingly such a modest hand. Both Myles and Bolden have underachieved, largely because White rarely goes down field (last year’s longest pass was for 50 yards). His instincts while improvising make Mountaineer fans sleep well. Bassler is a key piece since White is left-handed as the right tackle protects his blind side. RBs Slaton and Best supply the Mountaineers with maybe the best speed in the history of the program, while Schmitt makes plays like a tailback, offensive guard and tight end. The question still remains…can the Mountaineers prevail in a tight game when White simply has to throw the ball? Until an opposing defense shows they can stop this complex running system, the question may never need answered.


C Dan Mozes


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Pat White-So Jarrett Brown-Fr (6-3, 220)
Nate Sowers-Fr (6-2, 200)
FB Owen Schmitt-Jr (6-3, 250) Brad Palmer-Sr (6-3, 250)
TB Steve Slaton-So (5-10, 190) Jason Colson-Sr (6-1, 225)
WR Brandon Myles-Sr (6-3, 190) Dwayne Thompson-Jr (6-2, 190)
WR Dorrell Jalloh-So (6-0, 190) Rayshawn Bolden-Sr (6-5, 215)
Brandon Barrett-Jr (6-1, 195)
WR Darius Reynaud-Jr (5-10, 200) Jeremy Bruce-So (5-9, 185)
TE Michael Villagrana-Jr (6-4, 250) Adam Serena-Sr (6-3, 220)
OT John Bradshaw-So (6-6, 295) Damien Crissey-Jr (6-4, 280)
OG Ryan Stanchek-So (6-4, 280) ..
C Dan Mozes-Sr (6-4, 290) Mike Dent-So (6-4, 275)
OG Jeremy Sheffey-Sr (6-3, 290) Greg Isdaner-Fr (6-3, 315)
OT Jake Figner-So (6-5, 290) Frank Carduff-Fr (6-4, 295)
K Pat McAfee-So (6-1, 215) Scott Kozlowski-Fr (6-0, 180)


Defensive Line
Casteel likes his three down lineman to cement lanes and then let the other eight guys make plays. Pat Liebig has played an awful lot of football for WVU in the past three seasons at the nose, but the Mountaineer coaches like freshman Chris Neild, who will arrive in summer. Meantime, Kevin Burke will get a look at the position, too. Sophomore Keilein Dykes is a potential all-American and will show why at tackle. Doug Slavonic is rangy back up. Meantime, both pass rusher Johnny Dingle and veteran Warren Young moved ahead of previous starter Craig Wilson at defensive end. Casteel may move Wilson inside to help out Liebig. This unit will do its job well.

The strength of Casteel's 3-3 stack is that the back eight - from any position - can tackle, blitz and cover. The star of this crew has not played since his days at Florida State. Barry (The Pipe) Wright sat out last season, but coaches are glowing over him. His expectations out of junior college never panned out in Tallahassee behind so much depth. He could replace Jeff Noechel on the strong side, because there is no better weakside linebacker in the Big East than Kevin (Boo) McLee. The first-team all-league choice averaged almost seven tackles per game. Noechel played equally with Bobby Hathaway at SLB, while John Holmes was a special teams performer who will reflect results when given the chance. He will fit into the equation somewhere. Mortty Ivy is a stand out reserve, who will take over for McLee when "Boo" completes his eligibility. He provides much needed depth and will be an asset. Ovid Goulbourne is another highly touted redshirt from the last recruiting class who will also figure into one of the outside spots (still needs eligibility with grades this summer). The MLB is as well stocked as any position on the team - academic all-American Jay Henry comes up huge in important games, and Marc Magro could start for most of the Big East teams. Reed Williams is the starter of the future and therefore will see reps.

Defensive Back
The secondary is the great paradox in this five back system. The thinking is that Casteel will be thin here as four departures usually mean such. While nobody will have the smarts of Addae and Lorello - particularly at first - there is mad athleticism among the pool ready to jump in. Antonio Lewis is a two-year letterman at McCann's boundary corner position, and will likely win the job along with his kick-returning duties. The “field” corner may actually go to a guy who has yet to come to campus--'06 recruit Greg (Hollywood) Davis--who chose the Mountaineers over Tennessee. But there is already company at both the corner spots. Larry Williams has scantly started (vs. Virginia Tech), and Ryan Brinson is a burner. Vaughn Rivers and Pernell Williams have been moved to the defensive side, so both already have an insight into opponents’ offensive schemes. Charles Pugh is a big cover guy and Kent Richardson has potential with his quickness off the ball. Casteel uses his strong safeties like hybrid outside linebackers. Eric Wicks could be a star at one of the positions, as he earned second-team all-conference honors as a junior (had the game-winning tackle against Louisville). Ridwan Malik was Lorello’s understudy and should move into his place. Veteran Akeem Jackson also will get a shot.

Because of the monster seasons by White, Slaton and company, most of the nation forgot (or failed to find out) about the defense that helped win games. Coordinator Jeff Casteel's bunch ranked 15th nationally in total yards, 13th in points and 19th in rushing. In his five years with Rodriguez, Casteel has achieved results via smoke-and-mirrors with his over-achievers. But results are results, period. If Hollywood Davis, Chris Neild and Barry (The Pipe) Wright come into fall camp, their athleticism will raise the bar. All the defense will need to do is keep foes in check and avoid the mistakes and big plays. Many call that keeping the play in front of them, and in a 3-3-5 that will/has work(ed). Eerily like the offense, this complex defensive system is built around team efforts as opposed to individual performance. How well the newcomers learn and fit into this effort, especially in the secondary, will be key to how far WVU climbs/falls.


LB Kevin "Boo" McLee


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Craig Wilson-Sr (6-1, 290) Johnny Dingle-Jr (6-3, 255)
NT Pat Liebig-Jr (6-4, 270) Warren Young-Sr (6-4, 290)
DT Keilen Dykes-Jr (6-4, 290) ..
SLB Bobby Hathaway-Jr (6-1, 225) Barry Wright-Sr (6-2, 220)
MLB Jay Henry-Sr (6-2, 225) Marc Magro-Jr (6-2, 240)
WLB Kevin McLee-Sr (6-1, 255) Mortty Ivy-So (6-3, 235)
CB Larry Williams-Jr (6-1, 185) Kent Richardson-Fr (6-0, 195)
CB Antonio Lewis-Jr (5-10, 190) Vaughn Rivers-Jr (5-9, 165)
BAN Eric Wicks-Sr (6-1, 210) Ridwan Malik-Sr (6-1, 195)
SPUR John Holmes-So (6-2, 225) Akeem Jackson-Sr (6-0, 185)
FS Quinton Andrews-Fr (5-11, 210) Abraham Jones-Sr (6-1, 190)
P Scott Kozlowski-Fr (6-0, 180) ..




Strong legged Pat McAfee was rated the No. 1 prep kicker in the nation (Scout.com) when 80% of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. He managed 20 touchbacks (29%) as a true freshman. In terms of booting the ball between the uprights, he hit 10-of-17 field goals with a long of 45. Look for McAfee to be a difference maker as time wears on.

A good news/bad news situation: Rod likes his punters to roll out and boot it to avoid the rush and screw with the return men. In comes redshirt Scott Kozlowski, who was highly touted coming in. But will he implore the "rugby" style?

Return Game
Annually, the Mountaineers have the Big East's best special teams. Antonio Lewis is back after helping the team rank 10th nationally in punt returns (16 yards) and 19th in kickoffs (23.2). Rivers has his back in case of injury. Coverages were excellent, and since they usually reflect the quality of the defensive reserves, thing should continue that way.