Which West Virginia football player will surprise fans the most in 2012?
Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 00:08
A lot of head coach Dana Holgorsen’s offenses have been well-known for the prolific passing attacks that they have featured. Obviously, everyone knows about players like Michael Crabtree, Justin Blackmon and Wes Welker from their days in the offense before moving onto the NFL. But the "Air Raid" offense has always been able to succeed when it has consistent all-purpose running backs like Kendall Hunter and Bryce Beall.
And that’s why West Virginia running back Shawne Alston will be so important and has the potential to surprise a lot of people this season.
The senior made a big leap in 2011, scoring the first 12 touchdowns of his career.
He entered fall camp completely healthy for the first time since suffering a neck injury that held him out until WVU’s game against Maryland last season.
Running backs coach Robert Gillespie has complimented Alston’s progress since the spring about his leadership, and he mentioned at the end of camp that he’s pretty far ahead of the other backs on the depth chart.
With the high-powered passing attack, the Mountaineers need a good running back to turn to, and he could very well be the guy to take a lot of carries in 2012.
- Michael Carvelli
With many new freshmen ready to make an impact for the West Virginia football team in 2012, it would be only fitting for one of the youngsters to be my surprise player this season.
But, I’m going to go with an experienced senior to make a surprise impact for the Mountaineers. Senior cornerback Pat Miller has shown glimpses of success in his previous three seasons in the gold and blue.
He had a crucial interception return for a touchdown against South Florida in 2011 to help seal a Big East Conference Championship. He has also had moments that have left West Virginia fans scratching their heads, such as allowing two long touchdown passes against Maryland in 2010.
Miller is a new and improved player this season, though.
According to defensive backs coach Daron Roberts, Miller has embraced his role as a senior leader and is set for a breakout season. With multiple freshmen defensive backs in fall camp, it was essential for Miller to do exactly that.
Head coach Dana Holgorsen stated that the Big 12 Conference offenses will throw looks at the West Virginia cornerbacks that they hadn’t come close to seeing in the Big East. Thankfully for Mountaineer fans, Miller is up to the challenge.
- Nick Arthur
The oft-repeated mantra of "practice makes perfect" might be more true for redshirt junior defensive back Brodrick Jenkins than any other player in the Big 12. The Fort Myers, Fla., native practices against one of the most explosive and talented offenses in the country on a daily basis. Covering the caliber of receivers that the West Virginia offense boasts is the ultimate preparation for the pass-heavy schemes that loom overhead in the Big 12.
This is the year that I think Jenkins will make the leap from a team-leader to a conference-leader. Last season, Jenkins played in all 13 games but only started four, yet he was second on the team in passes defended.
With the experience and momentum Jenkins has coming into this season, he should be able to get off to a fast start against a favorable, non-conference portion of the schedule and position himself wonderfully heading into conference play.
Jenkins is a pass defending specialist with great speed and hands. He isn’t the strongest defensive back on the team, but he possesses the tackling savvy and coordination to make up for it.
With a team hyped by its offensive prowess, Jenkins stands behind the scenes, getting better with each practice, which is why he will surprise Mountaineer fans and Big 12 offenses this year.
- Cody Schuler
West Virginia University’s recently released football depth chart is a great representation of the fact that a lot freshmen are going to play critical roles in the team’s success during their inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference.
The extent of those contributions is still debatable at this point, but one player who looks to be in prime position to not only surprise, but captivate Mountaineers’ fans, is true freshman wide receiver Jordan Thompson.
Throughout the spring and fall preseason camps, Thompson has already begun to capture the attention of the media, but by the end of Sept. 1, Mountaineer fans everywhere will be aware of the dynamic-playmaking ability from the Katy, Texas, native.
Thompson has already cracked the starting lineup at receiver as a true freshman, and his playmaking ability in the open field, similar to teammate Tavon Austin’s, will have Mountaineer fans around the country on the edge of their seats on Saturdays.
And with his aforementioned teammates Austin and Bailey both named to the nation’s preseason Biletnikoff watch list as two of the nation’s most productive receivers, it’s safe to say that Thompson will consistently benefit from lining up against the opposing team’s third- or fourth-best defensive back on nearly every snap he plays.
- Doug Walp