EDITOR's NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Checking them out
This game, mismatch it should be, could have had the interesting story plot of Ron Dickerson Jr. as head coach at Gardner-Webb, with his father and former Temple coach Ron Dickerson Sr. on the staff. Alas, the younger Dickerson resigned abruptly in January.
GWU alum Carroll McCray came from Division II North Greenville to take the job, and will try to reverse the Runnin' Bulldogs' 7-15 record over the past two seasons.
The biggest problem was the pass defense, or lack thereof. The Bulldogs gave up 2,693 yards and 22 TDs vs. only seven interceptions for an efficiency rating of 161.01 - 117th in the FCS. Injuries in the secondary didn't help, as true freshmen and even a backup QB were pressed into duty.
The offense is more experienced, at least at the skill positions. Lucas Beatty (2,483 yards, 12 TDs, 13 interceptions) is a third-year full-time starter, with top targets Kenny Cook (48-666, seven TDs) and Seth Cranfill (37-366) returning. The top running back is gone, but Juanne Blount (489 yards, six TDs) and J.J. Hubbard return. The junior-laden line has some experience, but last year's core group graduated.
The front is the strength of the defense, with tackle Matt Goods and end Preston Pemasa (seven tackles for loss) back. At linebacker, Tanner Burch (113 tackles, 7.5 for loss) was the leading tackler of 2012 and Shaquille Reddick (6.5 TFLs, two sacks) has been used as a hybrid player.
Free safety Drew White (33 tackles) may emerge as the leader of what will be a young secondary. The kicking game is up in the air - a soccer player was used in the spring, and several freshmen will get their shot.