|No. 8 WVU's White set to "spread the love"|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 19 August 2008 10:35|
First-year coach Bill Stewart wants the speedy White to throw more this season as the No. 8 Mountaineers try to balance out a potent but one-dimensional offense that crumbled at the worst possible time in 2007.
West Virginia needed a win at home over bitter rival Pittsburgh in early December to earn a spot in the national championship game. Instead, WVU was held to 104 yards rushing - one-third its usual total. Pittsburgh won 13-9 and the Mountaineers settled for the Fiesta Bowl.
That loss isn't talked about, but the changes it brought on offense are.
By getting additional work for his arm instead of his legs this season, White calls it ``spreading the love.'' And Stewart has no doubt that White, 26-4 as a starter, can make the transition to throwing more often.
``Patrick White's the greatest winner in college football today,'' Stewart said. ``The guy will find a way to beat you.''
Last year West Virginia was good for only 20 pass attempts and 159 yards passing per game. But the longest play from scrimmage was a 79-yard touchdown pass from White to Tito Gonzales in the 48-28 bowl win over Oklahoma.
White will need to find some new receiving connections. Gonzales is back, but three of the top four are gone from last season, including Darius Reynaud, who tied a school record with 12 of the team's 16 TD receptions.
Potential starters Gonzalez, Dorrell Jalloh and Jock Sanders combined for only 46 catches last year. Adding to the mix is junior college transfer Alric Arnett, who sat out last season with a thumb injury.
``I'm not sure that the coaching staff has had the confidence in the receivers in the past,'' Gonzales said. ``But I think with the new coaching staff having confidence in Pat and his throwing ability and also the receivers making plays, we're really going to open it up this year. Teams are going to really be in trouble when they play us because we're going to be more balanced.''
While an offensive line that returns all five starters learns how to pass block, West Virginia still should be one of the nation's top rushing teams.
And at a school where decorated quarterbacks Major Harris and Rasheed Marshall left defenses in their wake, White tops them all.
White rushed for 1,335 yards as a junior, the sixth-highest total for a quarterback in Bowl Subdivision history. He holds the Big East career record with 3,506 yards and needs 784 to surpass the FBS record of 4,289 set by Missouri's Brad Smith from 2002-2005.
``It's my last year of college football. I guess I want to make the most of it,'' White said. ``So I'm going to do whatever I can to make that happen. I'm just trying to win whatever way possible.''
Since White's freshman season in 2005, West Virginia has ranked no worse than fourth on the ground nationally.
Noel Devine ran for 627 yards as a freshman and the 5-foot-8 speedster will take over the starting spot at running back from Steve Slaton, who set a single-season record with 1,744 yards in 2006 and skipped his senior season to enter the NFL draft in 2008. Another void was left by 260-pound fullback Owen Schmitt.
West Virginia is still looking for a backup to Devine. The candidates are Sanders, freshman Terence Kearns and junior Zach Hulce. Sanders is the only one among the three who's had a carry in a game.
For the second straight year, the team's biggest question mark is on defense. Quinton Andrews at safety is the only returning starter in the secondary.
The top two returning tacklers are linebackers Reed Williams and Mortty Ivy. Williams had surgery on both shoulders last winter and said he doesn't expect to be ready in time for the Aug. 30 season opener against Villanova.
West Virginia, seeking its third BCS bowl in four seasons, has toughened its schedule with nonconference games at Colorado and at home against No. 10 Auburn.
The league's BCS team should be determined over the final two weeks of the regular season. West Virginia plays at No. 25 Pittsburgh on Nov. 28 and returns to Morgantown to face No. 19 South Florida on Dec. 6.
West Virginia is one of only three FBS teams that have won at least 11 games over the past three seasons. The others are LSU and Southern Cal.
Stewart, who took over after Rich Rodriguez left for Michigan in December, has kept his players focused, disciplining those who underperform with jogging tours of the stadium steps. He's offended by others who see him as an optimist.
``I'm a realist,'' he said. ``If someone does good, they will be told that. If someone doesn't do well, they will be told that. And if they don't like it, they will be shown the door. So I'm not 'Sunny' Bill Stewart.''