Anyone, and every one, connected with the Mountaineer football team understood the rebuilding process that would hit the program once this year's senior class played its final games for the old gold and blue.
But, with the additional loss of junior Stedman Bailey, who has elected to forego his senior season to place his name into the upcoming NFL draft, as well as receivers Traveres Copeland and Ivan McCartney, fans might want to make sure they purchase a program when they enter Milan Puskar Stadium next fall so they will be able to identify the players who will be attempting to lead WVU to the top of the Big 12.
Let's start with the obvious losses on the offensive side of the football.
The heir apparent (unless you believe that redshirt freshman Ford Chidress is the answer) to Geno Smith at quarterback is sophomore Paul Millard. Smith's numbers-4,205 yards, 369-of-518 and 42 touchdowns with only 6 interceptions-speak for themselves. As do Millard's-87 yards on 9-of-19 attempts with 1 interception in seven games.
Of those 378 receptions all but 63 belonged to Bailey (114), Tavon Austin (114), J.D. Woods (61), Copeland (10), McCartney (9), and Ryan Nehlen (7). The unit that returns was responsible for 17 percent of those receptions and only 13 percent of the yardage.
The rushing attack is a little more stable with the return of Andrew Buie (179-851, 7 TD) and Dustin Garrison (46-207, 2 TD), but will be missing 55 percent of its output from 2011 (1,221 of 2,234 yards).It also will be without starting linemen Jeff Braun, Josh Jenkins and Joe Madsen.
Hit even harder than the offense is the special teams with the departure of seniors Tyler Bitancurt and Corey Smith.
Bitancurt attempted every field goal, connecting on 11-of-19 in his final season, and all 66 PATs-making all but two. WVU?punted football 32 times for a 38.2 yards per kick average and kicking off 34 other times.
The only returning player to even attempt a kick in 2011 was former Parkersburg South standout Michael Molinari, who punted once for 31 yards.
The return game will be hurting just as much as Austin accounted for all 15 punt returns during the season while he (32) and Bailey (10) combined for all but 15 of the Mountaineers' kickoff returns.
Defensively, the outlook is a little bit brighter (if you believe that a team that surrendered 38.1 points and 473.6 yards per game can have a brighter side) as top tacklers Karl Joseph and Isaiah Bruce return as well as several other underclassmen that saw plenty of action during the team's 7-6 campaign.
Gone will be seniors Terrance Garvin, who led the unit with six sacks and was second in tackles for loss with 11.5, and Pat Miller from the secondary and Jorge Wright (2 sacks, 6.5 TFL) from the defensive line. Making matters more difficult for the unit will be the addition of at least two new coaches when WVU opens spring drills.