The entire West Virginia football team will have to deal with some major changes this season. None of those is more prevalent than the move to the Big XII.
Luckily for the offense, it will be in the second year of a system that improved the team's points per game by more than 12 in its first season. That offense also returns almost every playmaker from a year ago, bringing even more familiarity to the unit.
The defense, however, loses Jeff Casteel, who had been the coordinator since 2002. Not only does that mean that the players will be working with a new coach, Joe DeForest, but a new system. The 3-3-5 that we've all become accustomed to will make way to a more traditional 3-4 formation.
"I feel like we picked up on it pretty well," said nose tackle Jorge Wright. "Spring was about two months ago, so we picked up on it pretty well, but we always have room for improvement- much improvement."
Wright started 12 games for the Mountaineers last year and will be the lone senior starter on the defensive line this season. Will Clarke is the other returning starter, having started 11 games combined at defensive end and defensive tackle last year.
That leaves two of the unit's starts from last season, Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller, to be replaced. That presents a loss in experience, but the drop-off in talent is not as far as you may think. The younger players coming in this season have the ability to form a solid line, and Wright likes what he's seen out of the group thus far.
"I feel real good about the depth at that position," he said, "because I guess people have stepped up to the plate and learned the playbook, and our coaches feel confident. We have Shaq (Rowell), (Kyle) Rose, and Imarjaye (Albury) coming in, and everybody, so I feel real good about the depth on the D-line."
With the new conference, that depth will be more important than ever. Players from every position will have to get used to the increase in snaps throughout the season, and there's a good chance there will be increased substitutions.
"It's very important to have depth at the D-line position," Wright continued, "pretty much any position, because when you play in a certain amount of snaps, you want to be fresh enough that every snap that you play is a hundred percent."
So, this offseason has been just as much about conditioning as it has been learning new schemes, and with about a month left until camp opens, there will still be plenty of strength and conditioning for the players. For Wright, it's about time for a change of pace.
"I wouldn't say looking forward to camp," he laughed, "but I want to play football and get out of this whole weight room and running aspect."
As tiring as the workouts may be, Wright's using them to help get to where he needs to be once camp finally does start.
"My goal is to know that when I go into camp my body is at the point that I want it to be," he said. "You know, I'm as strong as I want to be, I'm in shape the way I want to be, and just in a better mental state to where I want to be for camp."
Wright may be ready for the strength and conditioning to come to an end and to have a change in routine, but since the Orange Bowl ended in January, this defense has already had its fair share of change, and that will only continue once West Virginia's inaugural season in the Big XII is under way.