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
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
Instead of being worried about Smith and the team’s development,
Stewart and the Mountaineers have been dealt a potentially severe
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
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
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
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
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
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