With the 2021 West Virginia football season in the rearview mirror and another bowl game appearance in the books, the Mountaineers will be working with quite the roster and schedule again in 2022.
West Virginia’s season ended in a disappointing way on Tuesday night, losing to Minnesota in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. The story of the game was the Golden Gophers rushing attack which scored the two touchdowns of the night while freshman Ky Thomas ran over the Mountaineers for 147 yards.
Luckily, head coach Neal Brown will have a large group of players coming back to Morgantown next season as well as a solid group of 2022 commitments incoming next year. Let’s take a look at a few storylines heading into next season.
Brown explained in his postgame press conference against Minnesota that it shouldn’t be “all doom and gloom” because there’s a number of players coming back for next season on the team. Doege will have an extra year of eligibility remaining but that may not be the smartest decision for the Mountaineer gunslinger. The Mountaineers will also be greeting freshman quarterback Nicco Marchiol to Morgantown.
Continuing on offense, the Mountaineers will carry their running back who they started in the bowl game in Mathis as the number one in the backfield with Justin Johnson Jr. behind him set to be a sophomore next fall. Out wide, Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Winston Wright Jr. will also be seniors. Not to mention, Kaden Prather will only be a sophomore and showed flashes of a top tier playmaker his freshman season. Also, injured tight end Mike O’Laughlin will look to be finishing his career on a high note alongside redshirt sophomore Tyler Finley next year.
The offensive line will mainly stay intact with tackles Brandon Yates and Wyatt Milum returning along with guards James Gmiter and Doug Nester and center Zach Frazier. The oldest of the group of linemen will be the seniors Gmiter and Nester.
Senior defensive lineman Dante Stills will also have the option to come back for another season but may decide to follow in his brothers footsteps and enter the NFL Draft process. If Stills decides to go to the NFL, the Mountaineers will still be with junior Akheem Mesidor and redshirt senior Taijh Alston. Linebacker Jared Bartlett will be a redshirt junior along with Lance Dixon, while Exree Loe will be a redshirt senior.
The secondary may be the thinner of the rooms coming back as redshirt senior Scottie Young has already graduated but redshirt senior Jackie Matthews and senior Nicktroy Fortune will also have an extra year of eligibility.
The incoming class of Mountaineers in 2022 will include 20 signed letter of intents and three transfers onto Brown’s team. The pair of four star commitments the Mountaineers were able to secure were American Heritage High School cornerback Jacolby Spells and the quarterback Marchiol who comes from Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona. The 5-foot-11-inch Spells was rated No. 223 overall and finished his high school football career No. 27 in his class.
Some of the other highest rated recruits that Brown and his staff were able to secure commitments from included the No. 9 nationally ranked player and No. 1 ranked at his position, East Mississippi Community College linebacker Lee Kpogba. No. 25 nationally ranked and No. 4 at his position, Jones College cornerback Marques McLaurin will add some depth in the West Virginia secondary. While Kpogba also held offers from Indiana, Louisville and South Carolina, McLaurin received other offers from Louisiana Monroe, Southern Miss and Toledo.
Other key names to watch out for when practices roll around next summer will be linebackers Travious Lathan, Raleigh Collins III, Aric Burton and Asani Redwood and safeties Christian Stokes, Mumu Bin-Wahad and Tyrin Woodby.
West Virginia will begin their season on the road in Pittsburgh taking on longtime rival Pitt at Heinz Field on Saturday, September 3. Following the Pitt matchup, Kansas will come to Morgantown for a Big 12 game before the non-conference slate wraps up against Towson on Saturday, Sep. 17 and at Virginia Tech on Saturday, Sep. 24. in Blacksburg.
The Mountaineers then play four Texas teams in a row beginning on Saturday, Oct. 1 followed by Baylor, Texas Tech and TCU. The final four games of the season will be at Iowa State on Saturday, Nov. 5, against Oklahoma on Saturday, Nov. 12, versus Kansas State on Saturday, Nov. 19 and at Oklahoma State on Saturday, Nov. 26.
Photo by Dale Sparks, All Pro Photography