MORGANTOWN - The names may have changed, but the expectations for West Virginia's defensive unit will remain the same as the Mountaineers enter the 2012 campaign-the school's first as a member of the Big 12.
"We know we have some big shoes to fill," explained redshirt freshman defensive end Kyle Rose. "You don't replace guys like Bruce (Irvin) and Julian (Miller), but we think we have a lot of guys who are ready to step up and they are excited for having their chance to show what they can do."
One of those expected to see some playing time when the Mountaineers play host to Marshall University on Saturday, Sept. 1, is Rose-a Scout.com Top 75 defensive end when he came out of Centerville High School in Centerville, Ohio.
"We're looking to rotate a lot of guys in," Rose said. "Everyone is trying to get playing time. I'm just hoping to contribute to the team."
Something the now-275 pound lineman did during his senior season at Centerville. Rose, when he finished the 2010 season with 86.5 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries and one interception as Centerville reached the second round of the playoffs.
"It's good, it's real good. We are working real hard in the weight room and trying to get this defense all set up."
Not only will WVU open the season against the Thundering Herd without Irvin, a first round draft pick by Seattle and Miller, but also gone are starting linebacker Najee Goode and defensive backs Eain Smith and Keith Tandy.
Second-year head coach Dana Holgorsen also has found himself having to replace defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and assistants Bill Kirelawich and David Lockwood.
Joe DeForest was brought to Morgantown to serve as the team's defensive coordinator as the Mountaineers move from its accustomed 3-3-5 stack alignment to a more traditional 3-4 setup while Keith Patterson will serve as co-defensive coordinator as well as linebackers coach. Taking over for Kirelawich will be Erik Slaughter, and Daron Roberts moved from the offensive side of the football, where he coached wide receivers and special teams, to work with the cornerbacks on defense.
"I would say the offense is ready to score a bunch of points," Rose said. "The defense, this year, we are going to show people that we are just as good as West Virginia defenses of the past. Winning football games, that's not a one-sided effort.
"I really think that we need both parts coming together. Especially, now since we are playing in the Big 12."
A Big 12 that has produced a number of Heisman Trophy winners and possessed some of the highest scoring offenses in the country.
"I was redshirted last year so, I'm not sure what to expect,'' Rose said. " ut, I'd say the speed of the game and the bigger opponents will be the biggest differences that we are going to see this year. Oklahoma is going to have some bigger guys than, let's say, a Cincinnati."
Rose came out of the spring as the primary backup to senior J.B. Lageman at defensive tackle, but could find himself playing any of the three 'down' positions in WVU's new alignment.
"I use a three technique," explained Rose. "All of the positions compliment one another, so what you learn at one, helps you play the other. The key for all of us is to get to the quarterback and make plays."
That begins with Marshall on Sept. 1.
Headlining the group is Mainland High School (Daytona Beach, Fla.) cornerback Rick Rumph. Also reporting early are defensive lineman Christian Brown (Bridgeton, N.J.), cornerback Nana Kyeremeh (Worthington, OH) and wide receiver Devonte Mathis (Hollywood, Fla.).
Three walk-ons are among the group as Clarksburg's Vincent Fusco will attempt to earn a spot on the offensive line while D.J. Hunt (Raleigh, N.C.) and Isaiah Hayes (Washington, D.C.) will battle for playing time at running back and inside receiver, respectively.