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Mountaineers Football Preseason Depth Chart Predictions 2021

With another month of August here before anyone could even catch their breaths, another Mountaineer football season prepares to get underway about two weeks away from the team’s first matchup at Maryland on September 4.

With the season just around the corner, it seems like it’s perfect time to predict what positions will be filled up by which player across the entire West Virginia football team. In this piece, each position is broken down into which Mountaineers are going to fill the top two spots at each spot on the football field.

Offense

Quarterback

  1. Jarret Doege
  2. Garrett Greene

Explanation: Head coach Neal Brown has explained a few times how well Doege has looked under center through practices so far and is a no doubt choice to take the primary snaps again this season. With the loss of former Mountaineer Austin Kendall, that leaves room for Greene to come in and make an impact in times that Doege may not see the field or when the Mountaineers want another scoring option on the turf at the same time.

Running Back

  1. Leddie Brown
  2. Tony Mathis Jr.

Explanation: Brown is the undoubtedly favorite of this room as well as the whole offensive side of the ball looking to make a monster impact his senior year after rushing for 1,010 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Mathis Jr. has been impressing in practice through Fall camp so far as Brown said the other day, “He won an award from the weight room staff in the winter and won another award in the summer. He’s been a real bright spot in camp and that’s going to be huge for our football team.”

Wide Receiver (X)

  1. Bryce Ford Wheaton
  2. Kaden Prather

Explanation: Ford Wheaton has been praised by many around the program and even national analysts and player rankings over the offseason. Last season, Ford Wheaton caught 27 passes for 416 yards and three touchdowns and is expected to be one of the leaders of the receiver’s room alongside Winston Wright Jr.

Wide Receiver (H)

  1. Sam James
  2. Sam Brown

Explanation: James will see an upscale in his playing time this season after starting in only three games last season and seeing action in nine games overall. He was able to snatch a pair of touchdowns and go for 300 yards through the air game last year. Brown will play his redshirt freshman season after playing in seven games last year and making only eight receptions for 92 yards.

Wide Receiver (SL)

  1. Winston Wright Jr.
  2. Reese Smith

Explanation: Another veteran leader of this Mountaineer football team is receiver Winston Wright Jr. who has versatility playing on both offense in the slot and out wide and special teams in his time in the blue and gold. The redshirt freshman from Kentucky, Smith saw action in 10 games last year, more playing time than a number of returning offensive threats. Through those 10 games he was able to total 128 yards of receiving and his longest reception was a 39-yard gain.

Wide Receiver (Z)

  1. Sean Ryan
  2. Isaiah Esdale

Explanation: A transfer originally from Temple, Ryan has shown that he can be a downfield threat if Doege and the Mountaineer offense need an option out wide. Last season, Ryan was tied for fourth on the team in receptions with 19 and also went for a total of 219 yards from scrimmage. Esdale, also an original transfer from Eastern Arizona College will be playing his redshirt senior year and expects a heavier workload than his 12 catches last year.

Tight End

  1. Mike O’Laughlin
  2. T.J. Banks

Explanation: O’Laughlin is currently one of the only injured Mountaineers sidelined as of now but expects to be back in time for the Maryland game the first weekend of September. Banks will add some needed depth at the tight end position this year after playing in 10 games last season.

Left Tackle

  1. Brandon Yates
  2. Ja’Quay Hubbard

Explanation: Offensive line coach Matt Moore has explained that Hubbard will be the clear second string left tackle this season behind Yates when he said “He’s changed his body, he’s doing some really good things… that kid he plays with a kind of effort that as a coach, you want to do everything you can to make him, he plays with unbelievable effort.”

Left Guard

  1. James Gmiter
  2. Jordan White

Explanation: The veteran Gmiter went a span of five games last season not allowing a single sack and a big part of the type of season running back Leddie Brown was able to put together on the ground. Gmiter apparently has been taking snaps at center throughout camp as well and should be able to easily win this starting battle at the guard position.

Center

  1. Zach Frazier
  2. James Gmiter

Explanation: Defensive line coach A.J. Jackson explained that Frazier going up against Akheem Mesidor has been his favorite linemen battle to watch so far through camp. Frazier is in only his sophomore year after starting in nine of 10 games last season. Frazier was also the only true freshman offensive lineman to start on the offensive line since 1980.

Right Guard

  1. Doug Nester
  2. Donovan Beaver

Explanation: Nester is the big lineman that transfers over from longtime West Virginia rival, Virginia Tech. All signs have pointed at the fact that Nester has been progressing rapidly through camp and will most likely start the first weekend in College Park, Maryland. Nester’s time in Blacksburg saw him help lead the Hokies to No. 4 in the Power 5 in rushing yards with 240.1 yards on the ground.

Right Tackle

  1. Parker Moorer
  2. John Hughes

Explanation: Moorer may finally be seeking the starting role he has been looking for the past two years in Morgantown. Coaches say he’s made great strides and the fact that he played in all 10 games last season gives him an edge at the position. Hughes also played in all 10 games as Matt Moore has put together a deep offensive line room with multiple starter-caliber players at each position.

Defense

Defensive End

  1. Taij Alston
  2. Lanell Carr

Explanation: Alston didn’t see any playing time last season, due to a season-ending knee injury in 2019, until the Liberty Bowl in which West Virginia took down Army. Alston has been a part of this unit for a few years now but will finally get his chance to capitalize this season with a healthy knee and a good showing in practices. Carr will only be a redshirt freshman but certainly doesn’t play like one these days. Brown has talked about Carr a number of times and the high level of play he is delivering right now.

Nose Guard

  1. Akheem Mesidor
  2. Jordan Jefferson

Explanation: Like stated above, Akheem Mesidor and Zach Frazier have been duking it out on the practice field all summer and Mesidor looks ready for another strong year in Morgantown. In his list of accolades from freshman year, the list includes being named an ESPN True Freshman All-American First Team which is no easy task to complete. Jefferson is a big bodied dude on the defensive line side of the ball who is able to make an impact and rush the backfield on any given snap.

Defensive Tackle

  1. Dante Stills
  2. Sean Martin

Explanation: The Mountaineers being able to hold onto one of the Stills brothers for another year will make for another defensive onslaught this year as Stills will be one of the leaders in trying to break into opposing offense’s backfields. Martin looks to make a jump in his redshirt freshman season after splitting time between defense and special team his freshman year.

Bandit

  1. Vandarius Cowan
  2. Jared Bartlett

Explanation: Unfortunately, Cowan’s redshirt junior year was broken up because of a knee injury that forced him to sit out from week three through nine. Cowan will be looking for a big load of productivity his redshirt senior year. Bartlett’s strong position is the bandit, so this is where we will see most of his playing time at as he tied for second on the team in sacks last season with 3.5 takedowns.

Middle Linebacker

  1. Josh Chandler-Semedo
  2. Deshawn Stevens

Explanation: Chandler-Semedo is entering his senior year after starting in nine games and only missing one because of a minor injury. He led the team with 64 tackles last year and will look to continue his hard hitting to take offenses out of scoring position. Stevens transfers over from Maine where he was a team captain in 2019.

Will Linebacker

  1. Exree Loe
  2. Lance Dixon

Explanation: Neal Brown has explained a few times that he believes Exree Loe’s “time is now” to be the best college football player he can be for the Mountaineers. The guy who was named WVU Special Teams MVP in 2020 is a versatile linebacker and registered as many as 12 tackles in one game against TCU last season. Dixon is a big bruiser transfer from Penn State who will bring his talents from one big DI school to another and is expected to see the field a good amount.

Right Cornerback

  1. Jackie Matthews
  2. Charles Woods

Explanation: Matthews may be one of the most improved players from last season as the cornerback only started in one game and played in all 10 matchups. Charles Woods is a transfer from Illinois State who seems to have great field vision while picking off the quarterback six times with the Red Birds.

Left Cornerback

  1. Nicktroy Fortune
  2. Daryl Porter Jr.

Explanation: Fortune has said that he feels “confident, not cocky” coming into this season and rightfully so. The junior cornerback from Roswell, Georgia has already made quite an impact at WVU starting in all 10 games last year and notched a career-high eight tackles at Iowa State his sophomore year.

Spear Safety

  1. Scottie Young Jr.
  2. Naim Muhammad

Explanation: Young Jr. has seemed to enjoy himself since he’s transferred from the west coast and is a super competitor, something needed in the game of football. “I’ve always wanted to just be the best in whatever I did no matter what, we could be playing checkers I would want to beat you every time,” said Young Jr.

Free Safety

  1. Alonzo Addae
  2. Kerry Martin Jr.

Explanation: Addae will be playing his tail off this season for his redshirt senior year. Addae is best at free safety as he also has a good vision for the field and tied for eighth in the Big 12 in interceptions last season. The last time that Martin Jr. took the field in 2019, he was a tackling machine producing 50 total tackles.

Cat Safety

  1. Sean Mahone
  2. Kerry Martin Jr.

Explanation: Mahone has been in Morgantown since 2016 when he redshirted and will be a redshirt senior in 2021. Mahone will be the starter over Kerry Martin Jr. currently with 143 total tackles for his career in Morgantown.

Special Teams

Kickers/Punters

  1. Evan Staley
  2. Tyler Sumpter
  3. Casey Legg

Long Snapper

  1. J.P. Hadley
  2. Austin Brinkman

Kickoff/Punt Returner

  1. Winston Wright Jr.
  2. Tony Mathis Jr.
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