MORGANTOWN W.Va- Prior to the Texas Longhorns coming to town, it was announced that senior Safety JoVanni Stewart had decided to sit out the rest of the season, utilize the four-game redshirt rule, and ultimately transfer from the West Virginia football program, opening up a golden opportunity for true freshman Tykee Smith to make his mark.
At the position lacking the most depth on the entire team, the coaching staff went with Smith to get the start, the guy Neal Brown had been harping on defensive coordinator Vic Koenning to give more snaps in the past.
Smith’s first start for the Mountaineers just so happened to be a particularly meaningful game given the circumstances. Many of his former teammates from Smiths high school, the Imhotep Institute, would be on hand to watch the nationally televised game, as visiting recruits for the Mountaineers, only piling onto the stage he had in front of him.
Although it’s not hard to get uneasy about a true freshman making his first start, at a new position against a top 15 team in the country, Smith continued to take advantage of his snaps, and show the high ceiling of potential that he exhibits at Safety.
“He put himself in a position to play more even before (Stewart’s departure),” said Brown. “He’s a guy that really since he got on campus back in early June has had an infection attitude. There’s no question he’s passionate about football, he loves the weight room, practice, meetings and he
Smith finished with five total tackles and a pass deflection in the game and continued to show the coaching staff why he deserves to play on a consistent basis and is a special talent for the Mountaineers.
Although Smith has shined early in his career, Koenning has expressed he wants him to keep up with the same attitude he has now moving forward, as he still has a lot to learn at the position.
“Tykee needs to keep pressing to get better. I think he will, he’s the kind of kid that wants to be great,” said Koenning. “Hopefully he’ll keep learning and be even more productive in the future.”
Moving forward, it appears Smith will be the guy down the stretch for the Mountaineers. Although Sam Ehlinger certainly presented a big challenge for Smith, he will have even more opportunities to prove himself with Brock Purdy at Iowa State, Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma and Charlie Brewer at Baylor, all on the schedule in the coming weeks for West Virginia.
Cover Photo Credit: William Wotring, The Dominion Post