2014 was a season with a promising beginning for the Mountaineers which turned sharply for the worse with a 3 game regular season losing streak. Rookie JC transfer Skylar Howard did manage to lead the Mountaineers to victory in the regular season closer against Iowa State.
However, a disappointing loss in the Liberty Bowl put an exclamation point on the team and fans frustration. With that behind them, Dana Holgerson and his staff are already back to work for the 2015 season, with a couple of coaching changes and a new Athletic Director.
WVU has many key returning players and the coaching staff will work hard to fill any holes with redshirted freshmen and new commits. WVU has around ten players returning with significant playing time. While the spotlight is currently on recruiting, let’s take a look at 5 returning defensive players to watch in the upcoming season:
Safety Dravon Henry (So.)- #6 (5’11” 198). As a freshman last season, Henry made many plays for the Mountaineers with 36 solo tackles and two key interceptions with one for a touchdown.
He was also named to three honors as a freshman including 247 Sports National True Freshman of the Week, College Football Performance Awards National Defensive Back of the Week and came out on top of 247 Sports list of top true freshman performances.
SPUR KJ Dillon (Sr.)- #9 (6’1” 206). During an impressive junior season Dillon became known as a hard hitter. His position is asked to blitz regularly as a mix of a linebacker and defensive back.
In the 2014 season alone he finished with 26 solo tackles, 12 assists, a sack and two important interceptions with a touchdown. WVU can count on Dillon to be a part of play after play.
Middle linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski– (Sr.)- #35 (6’2” 236). A team captain for the 2014 season, He can arguably be seen as a leader of WVU’s defense as he continues to improve.
Through 2014, Kwaitkoski had 155 tackles in most recent 20 games including 69 stops in the first nine games of the 2014 season.
Safety Karl Joseph (Sr.)-#8 (5’11” 196). A team captain for the 2014 season. Joseph could definitely be a force to be reckoned with as he returns for his senior year. He is a likely future NFL draft pick and is among college football’s top 14 hitters on NFL.com’s list.
He was the only WVU player to be named to the preseason (2014) all Big 12 team. Joseph recorded 62 solo tackles last season along with one interception.
The buzz around the future of WVU’s defense is exciting. The 2015 season will feature these and other experienced defensive players.
Statistics courtesy of:
-espn.com/ BIG 12 Blog