The West Virginia Mountaineers hit their bye this week at 3-3 and just 1-2 in conference play. They have question marks at every level on both sides of the ball if they hope to make any kind of impact down the stretch and make it to a bowl game in 2013. One player that they have not had to question, however, has been defensive end Will Clarke who will play a key role in the success of West Virginia the rest of the season.
Last season, the West Virginia defense was one of the worst in the country and played a major role in the team’s spiral after their red-hot start. This season, the defense has been much better and the play of Clarke on the line has been a major reason why. He leads the team in tackles for loss (6.5) and sacks (3) as he has provided a consistent pass rush to give a hand to a Mountaineers’ secondary that can still get burned over the top.
His contribution and ability to produce negative plays for opposing offenses can take so much pressure off the secondary for West Virginia as the cornerbacks aren’t tasked with staying on their receivers all that long. That pressure also can lead to some poor decision making and throws into coverage which results in interceptions (shown by their five picks in the last two weeks) and swing the momentum in favor of West Virginia.
Their overall numbers continue to struggle a bit (playing the Baylor Bears will do that) but Clarke is doing great things for the team on the defensive line. If he continues to play at this high level, he’s going to keep West Virginia in the hunt for wins deep into the season.