MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Last year’s three headed monster of Tony Gibson’s Nickel 3-3-5 consisted of Christian Brown, Damien Howard and All-Big 12 honorable mention Noble Nwachukwu. The big three combined for 141 tackles, nine sacks, and 18 tackles for loss last season. This year the front line of the defense will feature three new starters, led by redshirt-sophomore Adam Shuler II.
On one end Shuler will be the first line of defense. Moving from a third-down pass rusher and package specialist to an every-down defensive end should not be difficult for the Florida native. Shuler registered 34 tackles, two tackles for loss and two forced fumbles last season playing behind Nwachukwu. A game planning nightmare for opposing offenses, it will be hard for quarterbacks to miss the 6-foot-4, 275-pound defensive end who found himself in opposing backfields often in limited time on the field. Look for Shuler to garner more recognition throughout the Big 12 with an increased role.
The middle of the defensive front will likely be maintained by Jaleel Fields. The redshirt-junior is coming off of a season-ending knee injury that he suffered during summer workouts last season. Fields has not played since 2015, where he played in four games registering eight tackles.
Looking to bounce back, Fields’ services will best be used to defend the run and clog plays in between the tackles to make linebackers’ jobs easier. At 6-1, 301 pounds, Fields will likely share the role in the middle with transfer Jalen Harvey. The Junior out of Northwest Mississippi Community College will play a big role in the middle as Fields gets back to game speed. Harvey, from Birmingham, AL, in 12 games at NMCC had 27 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss in 12 games The three-star recruit is capable and brings imposing size at 6-2, 340.
At the other defensive end position, West Virginia native Reese Donahue will be looking to build on his true freshman season. Donahue, in his first year in Morgantown, saw limited playing time in 12 games recording 12 tackles. The sophomore from Ona, WV will compete to make the job his full time, but in certain situations and packages he will share time with Jon Lewis. Lewis, a Morgantown, native will add depth and experience in packages after playing in all 13 games last season.
Players to watch: Xavier Pegues (has not played since 2014).
(Feature Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff, BGS)