West Virginia has received nearly all the attention as the Mountaineers enter the Champs Sports Bowl against North Carolina State today. The changes the program has made ushering in Oklahoma State’s Dana Holgersen as offensive coordinator, and coach-in-waiting, warranted national attention. Meanwhile, Tom O’Brien engineered his finest season to date with the Wolfpack (8-4). Both teams have underachieved in recent history according to the talent present on each roster, but it makes for a more interesting game in 2010.

3 Keys from Scouts

1 Surveying the land. The Wolfpack must be completely aware of the situation its opponents present. West Virginia and its coaching staff will be looking to make a positive impression during its transition, and they have the weapons to do as such. Nate Irving is the leader and top tackler for North Carolina State. He will look across the line of scrimmage and see running back Noel Devine, who will be as healthy as he has been all season. The back’s explosiveness should be improved tremendously getting rest for his injured foot will make defending the zone read troublesome. Quarterback Geno Smith is not the same type of runner previously seen in Morgantown, but he can sling the football. Receiver Jock Sanders is a dangerous underneath route runner. All of these play a factor as the Wolfpack line up each and every play.

2 Getting defensive. These two teams quietly have two of the best defensive units in the nation. West Virginia is ranked third in the nation in yards surrendered per game. They have talent along all three lines of their fluid 3-3-5 scheme, particularly Chris Neild at the nose and Robert Sands at safety. Although, one of the draft’s top corners, Brandon Hogan, will miss the game due to a knee injury. North Carolina State  is not as well rounded but is still tough against the run finishing 12th against opposing teams’ ground attacks during the regular season. The Wolfpack has had its struggles against the pass this season.

3 Secret weapon. One name not previously mentioned regarding the Mountaineer defense was Bruce Irvin. The former junior college transfer is a nightmare off the edge for opposing quarterbacks. His 12 sacks are the fourth best total in major college football, despite limited repetitions. He is 235 pounds and lightning fast off the edge. A better speed rush cannot be found. Meanwhile, North Carolina State’s offense is a one-trick pony based around the talents of Russell Wilson. If the Wolfpack cannot stay ahead of the chains, then Wilson will have Irvin in his lap all afternoon.

Bold Prediction. This is a statement game for current WVU head man, Bill Stewart, as he is being forced out after next season. The Mountaineers have legit BCS caliber talent along its roster, but stumbled along the way in 2010. That talent and a stifling defense will prove too much for the North Carolina State. West Virginia 35, North Carolina State 14.

Pro-Prospect Preview

North Carolina State

Round Full Name Pos Num Yr Comments
4th Nate Irving OLB 56 5Sr Athletic linebacker who makes plays sideline-to-sideline and gets depth on drops. Really did a nice job returning from the injuries which put him on the sidelines in 2009.
4-5 George Bryan TE 84 4Jr Athletic, pass catching tight end developing a complete game.
FA Owen Spencer WR 13 4Sr Consistent wide out coming off a career season. Flashes big play ability.
FA Audie Cole OLB 42 4Jr Consistent linebacker constantly around the ball making positive plays.
FA Michael Lemon DE 94 5Sr Solid college pass rusher who shows flashes.

West Virginia

Round Full Name Pos Num Yr Comments
3rd Robert Sands S 2 3Jr Imposing looking safety still a year away. Immense upside.  About 50/50 as to whether or not he’ll enter the draft.
3rd Julian Miller DE 94 4Jr Terrific college pass rusher developing at a very fast rate. Has terrific upside and a player to watch.
3-4 Brandon Hogan CB 22 4Sr Solid cornerback with an upside but also a lot of baggage.. Plays with good mechanics, works well with safety’s and shuts down opponents. Former receiver still learning the position.  Tore an ACL and will be out for months.  Injury could push him into the late rounds.
4-5 Josh Jenkins G 77 3Jr Strong, small area blocker.
5th Noel Devine RB 7 4Sr Quick, scat-back who gets lost behind his blockers, weaves through the traffic and creates yardage. Undersized and more of a situational runner.
5-6 Jock Sanders WR 9 4Sr Tiny ball handler who also excels in all areas of a skill player. Situational player in the NFL but has a place at the next level.
7-FA Scooter Berry DT 93 5Sr Two-gap lineman that plays end in a 3-4. Solid athlete who moves well and makes plays in all direction. Needs to improve his strength a bit yet a decent upside.
7-FA Chris Neild DT 90 5Sr Underrated zero technique lineman that’s really caught the eye of NFL scouts. Does not possess the great upside yet gets the most from his ability.
FA J.T. Thomas OLB 30 5Sr Explosive one-gap linebacker who makes plays in every direction of the field. Plays bigger than his size.
FA Sidney Glover S 4 4Sr Solid college defensive back that has the skills to play in dime situations at the next level.
FA Eric Jobe C 61 5Sr
FA Keith Tandy CB 8 4Jr
FA Patrick Lazear ILB 31 4Sr

Game Preview: Brent Sobleski

Prospect Preview:  Tony Pauline

It’s the 1970’s all over again in this years Independence Bowl. Only three teams still run the triple option. Two of them Air Force and Georgia Tech will be playing in this game. These two teams rank first and second in rushing yards per game nationally so this game could be the shortest bowl game in the last 30 years.

3 Keys from the Scouts

1. Who will play on Georgia Tech’s defense? The Yellow Jackets have suspended 7 players for all or part of this game. 6 of those players are defensive starters or contributors. Defending the triple option successfully requires very disciplined team defense. With so many new faces playing one wonders if Al Groh’s guys can pull it off.

2. Which team will pass more efficiently. There will be passes thrown in this game, though only a few. The team that is more efficient will almost certainly be the victor. Tevin Campbell will be without his favorite target Stephen Hill due to unspecified team violations. Due to that suspension the advantage here goes to Air Force.

3. Air Force’s special teams aren’t really all that special. 5 of 10 on the year in field goal opportunities. Georgia Tech will be one of the more talented defenses that Air Force has played. The should be able to stop some drives and force the Falcons into more field goal opportunities then they are used to.

Bold Prediction: Georgia Tech is the more talented team and Paul Johnson and his coaches are familiar with Air Force from their days at Navy. The team suspensions suggest that this team might not be as focused as they should be. Losing Steven Hill is especially brutal for an offense without any other established receivers to step up. Air Force 31 Georgia Tech 17.

Georgia Tech

Round Full Name Pos Num Yr Comments
5th Anthony Allen RB 18 5Sr Strong, north/south runner that’s significantly improved his game over the past two seasons.
6th Brad Jefferson OLB 51 4Sr Fierce linebacker that chases the action hard and makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage.
6-7 Mario Butler CB 2 4Sr Highly rated cornerback that does not live up to the reputation. Offers terrific size yet does not show the natural ball skills.
7th Mario Edwards S 33 5Sr Aggressive run defender best up the field.
FA Anthony Egbuniwe DE 41 5Sr Average college pass rusher that never elevated his game.
FA Dominique Reese CB 26 5Sr

Game Preview: Brent Foshee

Prospect Preview:  Tony Pauline

The Little Ceasers Bowl brings round two of the battle between the Sun Belt and MAC. Round one went to the Sunbelt in the New Orleans Bowl. Round two is highlighted by the emergence of Florida International University. The Golden Panthers won the first conference title in route to qualifying for the first bowl game in school history. The achieved this in only their 9th year as a football team. Meanwhile second year coach Tim Beckman has Toledo back in a bowl game. The Rockets only lost 1 MAC game this season but went 1-3 outside the conference. The one win was against Purdue.

3 Keys from the Scouts

1. FIU’s rushing game. In looking at the team statistics the only area where there should be a good battle is when FIU tries to run the ball. The two headed attack of Darriet Perry and Darian Mallary average 21 carries and 112 yards per game. Toledo only gives up 130 yards total on average.

2. Turnover margin. Toledo is +14 on the year in turnover margin, including 33 takeaways. FIU is +1 on the year and has only turned the ball over 20 times. 13 of those turnovers were interceptions though. If the Golden Panthers cannot run the ball and have to rely more on the pass it could be a long day against the aggressive defense of Toledo.

3. Who can control themselves the best? Each of these teams leads their conference in penalties. Both of these teams would likely have better records if not for their penalty woes.

Bold Prediction: Give Mario Cristobal all the credit in the world for getting FIU bowl eligible. With plenty of talent in the Miami area to go around Cristobal and company should be able to compete for Sunbelt titles for years to come. Unfortunately just getting here is a win for FIU. Toledo has played much better over the course of the year. It’s tough to see them losing even though the story of FIU would be even better if they finished with the first winning season in school history. Toledo 35 FIU 27.


Florida International

Round Full Name Pos Num Yr Comments
7-FA Anthony Gaitor CB 7 4Sr Quick, physical defensive back who displays a nice feel for coverage.  Underrated to this point
FA Kendall Berry WR 19 4Jr Nice sized wide out with reliable hands.


Round Full Name Pos Num Yr Comments
6th Kevin Kowalski C 69 5Sr Strong small area blocker who would fit well in a power running offense.
FA Danny Noble TE 86 4Jr Athletic tight end with nice size coming off a disappointing junior campaign.
FA Mike VenDerMeulen T 74 4Jr Showed flashes early in his Toledo career yet never took his game to another level.
FA Archie Donald OLB 42 5Sr Solid linebacker with a good head on his shoulders yet a limited athlete with marginal upside.

Game Preview: Brent Foshee

Prospect Preview:  Tony Pauline

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