The last piece of our Q&A with Moutaineer site, Moutainlair, is our answers to their questions. We wanted to make sure that you got to see those as well. Enjoy....
1. This is something that is fresh in my mind, so I'll go with it first. How has the loss of two offensive linemen during the off season and the suspensions of two more recently affected the team? Was it more of a factor in the Eastern Wash. game?
We were going to have questions at the guard spot even before the two injuries took place. We are very inexperienced up front with the exception of C Brian Daniels who should end up being a second team Big 12 selection. Junior G Devin Head, who started the CSU game and has the second most experience on the line, was suspended for being with OL Ethan Adkins during a DWI. He will return this week for West Virginia but had to earn his spot back this week in practice. I expect him to start at one guard position with true freshman Max Tuioti-Mariner, red shirt freshman Blake Behrens or red shirt freshman Shawn Daniels filling the other spot. Look for Tuioti-Mariner to start. We have two potential studs at tackle who are both over 6'5", 300lbs in Nate Solder and Ryan Miller. Miller was the Gatorade National Player of the Year two years ago and Solder is a converted tight end but both are just sophomores. The Buffs seem to be playing with young guys at every critical position on offense this year.
EWU had a smaller speedy defensive line, probably similar to West Virginia and our big guys up front had a problem containing the speed. The good thing is the Buffs had a week and half to prepare. I guess the line had a come to Jesus meeting and it got heated over film study. They know they need to get better and if they don't, it will be a long game and a quick confidence boost to the Mountaineers defense.
2. How has the fanbase reacted to the hire of Dan Hawkins? He's a very energetic man, and gives tons of quotables without ruffling any feathers outside of a couple parents that wanted their kids to have more off time in the summer. From my point of view, he seems to be generally liked around the country. How much has changed since he took the job?
Coach has definitely brought a lot of energy back to a program that was left for dead by Barnett. He has done an unbelievable job changing the culture that was poisoned by Barnett and the players that he brought in. Hawk has brought in new strong talent, an uptempo offense and a certain confidence that shows in his players. The Buffs are very calm and collected on the field and I think that is a direct reflection of Hawkins. We are still holding judgment on his game day coaching because we are extremely young right now. This team is probably a year away from being a big contender in the Big 12 North.
3. This might go back to the offensive line thing, but you have two solid freshman running backs in Darrell Scott and Rodney Stewart. Scott being the number one ranked running back in last years recruiting class. Describe the anticipation for these two to break out and the frustration if any that neither has really had that break out game.
Zero frustration in Scott and Stewart thus far. We have seen glimpses of the greatness in both players and I am extremely confident that Scott will be a top 3 running back in the next couple of years. The frustration lies in the offensive play calling right now and the offensive line play. Our running game consists of shotgun dive right/dive left when Scott is in the game and shot gun end around left/end around right when Stewart is in the game. Here's to hoping that Hawkins was holding back some formations/plays for this game specifically. I think it would be advantageous for the Buffs to line up under center a few times to get a lead blocker in front of Scott or Stewart like OU does for Murray. If the Buffs don't block upfront it won't matter what formation or play we call, WVU will roll.
4. I'm just noticing the youth, quality, but youth you have at the receiver position. One senior and three sophomores make up the top four receivers on the team. Couple that with Cody Hawkins being a sophomore, this team is really set at all the skill positions for the next three years. What are the expectations? Bowl this year, or are you thinking you should be in contention for the Big 12 North?
Those aren't your typical sophomores at the skill positions. All of them played extensively, except maybe for Kendrick Celestine, last year and contributed. I think we are still wait and see with Cody Hawkins at quarterback in this system. I don't know if he has the skills of Graham Harrell to not be a running quarterback in a spread style offense. He is definitely an adequate quarterback for now. We have a 6'5" 225 lb mobile quarterback coming in next year that could be more successful in this system especially in the zone read running plays.
The program is still a year away from competing against Missouri and Kansas in the Big 12 North. I think we are closer to Kansas than we were last year and we played them really tough but Missouri should give OU a run for its money this year. The Buffs play one hell of a schedule this year, definitely top 10 in terms of difficulty. A bowl appearance this year would have to be thought of as a successful season. Experience has a lot to do with that thought process. We will find out a lot about each team Thursday night. We both have a ton of questions to be answered and game three usually is the game that tells what your squad is made of.
5. The defense hasn't been spectacular against average competition, and yes I'm one to talk (hehehe), any concerns? Is it a group you think is going to come together as the season goes along or is it going to be something the offense will have to contend with.
Contrary to what the scoreboard may say, the defense has been excellent, especially in the second half. You must consider a couple of things. Colorado State scored two touchdowns. The first one came off a turnover inside the Buffs territory at the 28 yard line. The second touchdown was given up on special teams. I would attribute 3 of the points in the game to the Buffalo defense. In the second game, I put 10 of the points on the D. EWU had one real drive, the first of the game, and our cornerbacks were playing way off of the WR's. The next two touchdowns were a result of a Cody Hawkins interception returned for a pick 6 and a special teams fumble inside the Buffs 10 yard line. So in two games, in my opinion, the Buffs have given up 13 points or 6.5 a game. The offense has not helped the defense out by turning it over in bad spots and an anemic running game. That being said, CSU and EWU aren't world beaters and there is still a ton of room for improvement. I think our cornerbacks have over performed compared to expectations, and the defensive line has vastly underachieved as we have not had enough pressure and the linebackers are the strength of this defensive team.
6. Give us some defensive players we need to watch out for. Especially against the run.
Against the run... on the defensive line I never expect anything from our defensive ends as they are and will be until they are gone, underachievers. The key to the line of scrimmage game will be DT's Brandon Nicolas and George Hypolite. I have read mixed reports that WVU is not extremely happy with the OG play thus far which plays into the strength of our defensive line, if we have one. I love LB's Shaun Mohler and Brad Jones. Jones has been getting into a three point stance and rushing the quarterback as a speed end because our defensive ends are so poor. Shaun Mohler is a worker, as Jones is our athletic linebacker. Mohler will grind you out. He is a Ralphie Report favorite. The Buffs can go 5 or 6 deep at linebacker and feel confident. Finally, look for S Ryan Walters to come up and pop White or Devine if he is within reach. He is not a speedster but if you get into his area, he will make you pay.
7. If you were going to compare this team to another CU team from the past, who would it be and what were the results from that year?
I don't think I can answer this question because this team is different from most I know about. The Buffs are extremely young but talented due to Hawkins having to clean house after Barnett left the program. No coach has had to deal with what Hawkins went through to rebuild the program and change the attitude.
8. Predictions for the game?
I am scared of this game. We cannot believe that the line is fluctuating between 2.5 and 3 points. I was thinking anywhere from 4.5 to 6.5. We are also surprised that the majority of the people on the message boards we have checked have the Buffs winning the game, some convincingly. I was at the OU - West Virginia game last year and I don't see the speed gone from the offense and that unit just killed the OU defense, which is twice as good as the Colorado defense. That being said, I have zero confidence in Bill Stewart. I think he may be in over his head, at least from what I have been reading from his interviews. It seems like the WVU team is in a vulnerable spot where they are questioning the schemes and the coaching staff. If the Buffs control the line of scrimmage and can run the ball, jump up to a 10 - 14 point lead like ECU did, I think WVU falls apart and the Buffs can roll. This is going to be an interesting first quarter of the game. All of that being said, I think the Buffs win (can't call it an upset because it is a 3 point spread). Its Thursday night, in Boulder, at altitude, with a coach in Dan Hawkins who I believe is a big game coach and I have more faith in him than I do Bill Stewart.