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WVU short on pass rushers

| Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, 11:04 p.m.
West Virginia Mountaineers linebacker Terence Garvin (28) fights off a stiff arm to sack Baylor Bears quarterback Nick Florence (11) during the 2nd quarter at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, WV on September 29, 2012. West Virginia opened their inaugural Big 12 Conference game by defeating Baylor 70-63. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review

When mentioning his most productive defensive players, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen highlighted four primary contributors — nose tackle Shaq Rowell, defensive tackle Jorge Wright and linebackers Josh Francis and Terence Garvin — who are all in their final college seasons.

“Nobody wants to hear this, but we are doing a decent job against the run. We are playing physical up front,” Holgorsen said. “But they have to do a better job of rushing. We are not getting any pressure on the quarterback.”

WVU has the lowest-ranked pass defense in NCAA football.

“We can't have receivers running double or triple moves on people, and then have the quarterback throwing the ball as far as he can and hitting every one of them,” Holgorsen said.

In an effort to address a season-long problem, Holgorsen and his coaching staff scouted junior college players during WVU's bye week as potential replacements for their departing seniors.

The No. 21 Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) host TCU (5-3, 2-3) on Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.

Players of interest include defensive ends Randy Gregory of Arizona Western College and Za'Darius Smith of East Mississippi Community College. Another player on the Mountaineers' radar is defensive tackle Toby Johnson of Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College.

“We got away for a couple of days and went recruiting. I think we need some junior college help,” Holgorsen said. “We hit the junior colleges and will continue to do so.”

Johnson, Gregory and Smith are all highly coveted defenders; any one of them would be considered a coup for WVU, which needs to beef up its defensive front.

The Mountaineers also targeted wide receiver Jatavius Stewart of Hutchinson Community College as a potential replacement for Tavon Austin. Stewart is considered the top receiver in the junior college ranks.

Junior college players are valued for their ability to contribute right away. The Mountaineers, however, also received commitments from several high school defenders who will be expected to join defensive tackle Kyle Rose and linebackers Isaiah Bruce and Jared Barber in 2013.

Those incoming recruits include defensive ends De'Asian Richardson of Orange Park, Fla., and Isaac McDonald of Hialeah, Fla., inside linebackers Darrien Howard of Dayton, Ohio, and Al-Rasheed Benton of Newark, N.J., and outside linebacker Hodari Christian of McKeesport. Howard was named to the 2013 Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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