Heading into the 2015 season the WVU defense figured to be the core strength of the Mountaineers football team but injuries and inconsistency made things tough on Tony Gibson’s unit. There are positive signs for this unit’s future and a strong defensive 2016 recruiting class could ease the rebuilding process. There are plenty of talented prospects still available for the Mountaineers heading into national signing day.
Starting with the defensive line, where the Mountaineers will look to replace nose tackle Kyle Rose. WVU has already secured a early enrollee in defensive lineman Jeffery Pooler who looks to be the freshman favorite to earn early playing time next season. Still available for the Mountaineers are DT Tyrell Chavis, who is a natural defensive tackle in the 3-3-5 scheme but at the moment appears to be trending in Marshall’s direction. Along with Chavis, WVU is still in the running for DE Jordan Woods who will visit WVU next weekend when the Mountaineers coaching staff will attempt to land him before he heads back to Florida. Woods would provide WVU with a natural pass rusher which is an area that they didn’t succeed very well in this past season. A new name to the process is defensive end Joey Fisher, who recently decommited from Maryland, that the coaching staff has just started recruiting. There is mutual interest from both parties for Fisher to visit but at the moment it remains to be see if one can get scheduled. Fisher has yet to receive an offer from the Mountaineers.
At the linebacker position is where the coaching staff has focused their attention due to the losses that they face from last season. The Mountaineers will have to replace Jared Barber, Nick Kwiatkoski, and Shaq Pettaway. The biggest name on the board here is linebacker Brendan Ferns, who’s brother Michael currently plays for the Mountaineers. The competition for Ferns is Penn State and at the moment it is neck and neck between the two schools for Ferns who has official visits set to both over the next two weekends. Two more names on the board are committed elsewhere but have told me that WVU is still an option for them. Vosean Joseph (Florida) and Emmett Rice (Florida State) both visited WVU during the Texas Tech game and are intrigued by the idea of early playing time at WVU.
The defensive backfield is the biggest concern given the amount of talent that is departing. Karl Joseph, Terrell Chestnut, KJ Dillon, Daryl Worley, and Ricky Rumph are all departing from last year’s team. WVU is turning to the JUCO ranks in hopes of replacing some of that talent at cornerback with Mike Daniels and Elijah Battle. Daniels is the favorite to be the next Mountaineer given his excitement for WVU and with a visit next weekend, the coaching staff could have one spot in the secondary locked down. Battle is a little bit different since he was committed to WVU and then on JUCO signing day flipped to Minnesota. There were some issues getting him into Minnesota as an early enroller so it appears that the Golden Gophers have moved on and West Virginia has moved in. A couple of high school seniors to watch for are Jassir Jordan and Tony Butler. Butler is down to WVU and Nebraska and I feel that the Cornhuskers will land the talented prospect given their late push for him. Jordan appears to be a lock if the coaching staff will take him. Another interesting name to watch for defensive backfield with the hire of former Arizona safety coach Matt Caponi is current Arizona S commit London Iakopo, who also holds an offer from the Mountaineers. However, Iakopo reportedly does not intend to visit WVU before national signing day.
The defense will face a rebuilding season in 2016 but a strong finish to this year’s recruiting class could make that process much easier and make the future much brighter for the Mountaineers.