Coastal Carolina-West Virginia Preview

West Virginia figured it would be taking some lumps with another

new quarterback. Instead, the team might get hammered by a number

of NCAA violations.

Coach Bill Stewart will try to keep the No. 25 Mountaineers

focused on the field Saturday when they open the season against

seemingly overmatched Coastal Carolina.

Stewart named Geno Smith his starting quarterback after he

completed 32 of 49 passes for 309 yards with one touchdown and one

interception in five games last year while backing up Jarrett

Brown.

Growing pains are expected for the sophomore signal caller, who

is the third starter in as many years for West Virginia.

“I want Geno to play fearless and I want him to lead,” Stewart

said. “I want him to get in that huddle and command that respect.

That is what all great quarterbacks do – they commanded that

presence.”

Instead of being worried about Smith and the team’s development,

Stewart and the Mountaineers have been dealt a potentially severe

blow.

Last month, the NCAA cited West Virginia for five major and one

secondary rules violations from 2005 to 2009 involving non-coaching

staff working in coaching roles with players. The latter two years

came under Stewart’s watch.

“That is not on our mind,” Stewart said. “This football team,

led by Bill Stewart, our staff and seniors, is going to concentrate

on the 2010 season with full effort. We will not talk about it

anymore.”

West Virginia caused a stir again as some players wore

lightweight shoulder pads during the first two days of practice,

even though NCAA rules stipulate shoulder pads couldn’t be worn

until the third day.

WVU planned to self-report the violation, and new athletic

director Oliver Luck has pledged his support of Stewart while he

takes time to review the entire program.

On the field, the Mountaineers are trying to re-establish their

dominance of the Big East. They’ve finished second to Cincinnati

each of the last two years under Stewart after winning five

consecutive conference titles.

Stewart came under heavy criticism after the team finished 9-4

last year.

The defense, which led the Big East with 17 interceptions, was

an issue down the stretch. The unit allowed averages of 374.0 yards

and 22.4 points during a season-ending 4-3 stretch that included a

33-21 loss to Florida State in the Gator Bowl, during which the

Seminoles racked up 415 yards.

More defensive struggles could increase the pressure on Smith,

who is expected to be supported by running back Noel Devine and

receiver Jock Sanders.

Devine was second in the conference with 1,465 yards while

adding 13 touchdowns last season. The senior is fifth on the

school’s career rushing list, needing 1,784 yards to overtake

all-time leader Avon Cobourne, who compiled 5,164 yards from

1999-2002.

Sanders led the team with 688 yards a year ago, while his 72

catches ranked second in the Big East but only three went for

scores.

The Mountaineers appear to have an excellent chance to get the

season off to a strong start against Coastal Carolina from the

Football Championship Subdivision.

Stewart, however, is wary of the Chanticleers, who went 5-6 last

year and finished fourth in the Big South.

“I know their coach and he has done a great job with them in the

last few years,” he said. “They will be physical and they will play

hard, because that is how they play ball. It is going to be a good

test for us and we hopefully will get to see some young guys

mature, particularly a quarterback and some receivers.”

Zach MacDowall is back for a third season as Coastal Carolina’s

starting quarterback. The senior completed 55 percent of his passes

for 1,664 yards with nine TDs and 11 picks last year. It was a

significant drop from his sophomore season when he threw for 2,064

yards with 16 scores and six INTs.

MacDowall will have his favorite target back in senior receiver

Brandon Whitley, who had team highs in receptions (30), receiving

yards (469) and TD catches (4) last year.

Coastal Carolina benefited from Hofstra deciding to drop its

football program. Defensive tackle Johnny Hartsfield, linebacker

Chris Thomas and cornerback Dontavious Johnson transferred and will

play immediately.

Hartsfield is slated to start on the defensive line, while

Johnson could emerge as a key member of the secondary.

The Chanticleers lost their only meeting against a ranked

opponent when they opened 2008 by falling 66-10 at No. 22 Penn

State.