Quarterback Colin Klein tied a NCAA record last season with 27 rushing touchdowns. He carried 317 times for 1,141 yards and the 6 foot, 5 inch 225-pound Klein is back for his senior season and this time more capable of throwing the ball.
He only threw 218 passes and had 13 touchdowns and six interceptions, but four of his top five pass-catchers, three of his top four receivers and his tight end are back for 2012.
"They had ups and downs and every day was not a great day, but he's throwing with guys now who have been in the system, so he's had that much more time on the job, so to speak, to work together on things," Coach Bill Snyder said. "They have a good feel for each other and Collin has a better understanding of those individuals and they have a better understanding of Collin."
The Red Raiders have 4,000-yard passer Seth Dodge and eight other starters back on offense, but the focus is on defense. Second-year Coach Tommy Tuberville replaced his defensive coordinator and two defensive assistants in the offseason.
The Red Raiders were No. 120 out of 120 FBS teams in rush defense, No. 113 is pass efficiency defense, No. 14 in total defense and No. 117 in scoring defense. Tech's new coordinator, Art Kaufman, has done the job for 10 years in Division I football, most recently at North Carolina.
"You can't play good defense unless you have a starting point and I believe our technique and fundamentals were so poor last year - our run technique and taking on blocks and using your hands - so we want back to basics on that," Tuberville said. "We worked together on that and we understand what we have to do. We went back and looked at the film of just how poorly we played and now the coaches continue to be on the same page."
The Bears had their best season in school history, but lost Heisman Trophy quarterback Robert Griffin III. Coach Art Briles has an unusual convenience in place, though. Griffin's backup and presumes successor, senior Nick Florence, started in 2009 after Griffin was lost to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He has watched and waited the past two seasons.
"It is an advantage," Briles said. "He's a very mature guy. He's already graduated college. He's already married. He has a good grasp of what's expected at that position after playing it and after watching Robert."
Florence has played 17 games and started seven. He's 180-for-290 for 1,992 yards, eight touchdowns and nine interceptions in his career.
Coach Paul Rhoads said he has more depth defense than he had his first three years, but the quarterback situation remains unclear.
Steele Jantz was named the opening day starter last season and is back this season, but after starting just seven games and putting up 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. It was his first season after transferring from City College of San Francisco. He battled a foot injury and was eventually benched in favor of then-freshman Jared Barnett.
He completed a lower percentage of his passes and had six touchdowns and interceptions, but led the Cyclones to a win over Oklahoma before Jantz played most of the bowl win against Rutgers.
"We don't have the full playbook in or as much as we'll have in August, but that being said, I'm very pleased with the frontrunners," Rhoads said. "Jared Barnett really controls he other 10 guys when he's on the field. Steele Jantz has the ability to make more plays because of his capability and his ability to improvise on the run.
The Horned Frogs, like the Mountaineers, begin their first season in the Big 12 in 2012, but something new is nothing new to Coach Gary Patterson.
"It's hard, but I've been in six conferences in the 15 years I've been here," he said. "It's always different, but I've always said it takes two years. You've got to play everyone once at their place and then have everyone at your place. Once you do that, then you have a road map for what you need to do."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.