December 1, 2011; Tampa, FL, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers helmet on the bench during the second half against the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium. West Virginia Mountaineers defeated the South Florida Bulls 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Knowing the Big 12: West Virginia Mountaineers

The ninth and final Big 12 opponent on the schedule for the Kansas Jayhawks in 2012 will be the West Virginia Mountaineers. The 2012 season will be the Mountaineers’ first season in the Big 12 Conference. They will be coming from the Big East Conference. West Virginia finished last season with an overall record of 10-3 and a Big East Conference record of 5-2. West Virginia did not play any Big 12 teams in 2011. Their last game was a 70-33 victory over Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl.

The biggest strength for the Mountaineers’ offense in 2012 will be their passing game. WVU is returning is leading passer and it’s top two leading receivers from 2011. Taking the helm for West Virginia as they enter the Big 12 will be Geno Smith. In 2011, Smith recorded 4,385 passing yards on 346 completions. He also threw 31 touchdowns compared to his seven interceptions. If there is any word to describe Smith, it is careful and his interception numbers prove it.

Both Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey will be returning as two key targets for Geno Smith in 2012. Austin and Bailey were the best two wide receivers on the team for the Mountaineers last season. Bailey recorded 1,279 receiving yards on 72 receptions with twelve touchdowns while Austin recorded 1,186 receiving yards on 101 receptions with eight touchdowns. These two will be just what the doctor ordered for the Mountaineers in 2011.

West Virginia will be without their leading rusher from 2011, Dustin Garrison, because of a setback in his recovery from ACL surgery. Last season as a freshman, Garrison rushed for 742 yards on 136 carries with six rushing touchdowns. The Mountaineers are going to be playing this one on the safe side as Garrison will not starting in the Week 1 game against Marshall.

Shawne Alston will start for West Virginia in their first game against Marshall this weekend. Last year, Alston was the second leading rusher on the team at WVU. He recorded 416 yards on 97 carries and twelve touchdowns. It was announced this week by Dana Holgorsen that Alston would be starting for West Virginia in their season opener.

The West Virginia defense lost three key players during this past offseason. Najee Goode (ILB), Bruce Irvin (DE), and Julian Miller (DE) all entered the NFL during the offseason. The one thing that all these players did well at West Virginia was to make the tackles in the backfield. All of them had double-digit numbers on the stat sheet in tackles for loss in 2011.

The Mountaineers will need to figure out what they are going to do in order to replace these three amazing defensive players.

2012 West Virginia Mountaineers Schedule -

Marshall 9/1
James Madison 9/15
Maryland 9/22
Baylor 9/29
@Texas 10/6
@Texas Tech 10/13
Kansas State 10/20
TCU 11/3
@Oklahoma State 11/10
Oklahoma 11/17
@Iowa State 11/23
Kansas 12/1

Other “Knowing the Big 12″ Previews -

TCU Horned Frogs
Kansas State Wildcats
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma Sooners
Texas Longhorns
Baylor Bears
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Iowa State Cyclones

For more on West Virginia, check out Hail WV.

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Tags: Big 12 Conference Dustin Garrison Geno Smith Shawne Alston West Virginia Football

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