Now that preparations for West Virginia’s first game of the season next Saturday against Maryland are officially here, it’s time to hit the field for real and see what the Mountaineers are working with while stacking up against other Division I opponents.
Since Neal Brown has taken the helm in Morgantown in early 2019, many believe that the Mountaineers may be sporting the deepest team in the last two years, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
“Overall quality depth across the board,” WVU defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said. “I think the biggest thing going into spring, summer and fall is developing quality depth is what we’re talking about.”
Starting up front with the big men, it’s easy to believe that West Virginia carries a duo of the best offensive stuffers in college football in senior defensive tackle Dante Stills and Akheem Mesidor. As many know, Stills is the younger brother of NFL defensive lineman Darius Stills who played in Morgantown last season and Mesidor has been playing lights out through camp as many see him progressing his talents enough for the next level when it’s all said and done.
One of the linemen on the defensive side of the rock that really stood out in camp this summer was freshman Lanell Carr from De Smet Jesuit in St. Louis, Missouri who apparently has tremendous pass rushing abilities and could be used in a variety of roles.
“Lanell is one of our most naturally gifted pass rushers, just sometimes has a knack for it,” Lesley said. “We’re playing Lanell more as a standup, a little more at bandit and then situationally when we get into some package stuff we use him a little different but that’s what he is and what he’s good at.”
The linebacker position is another one for the Mountaineers that contains a number of quality players who are each capable of taking heavy loads and getting offenses off the field quickly. This season look out for transfers Lance Dixon (Penn State) and DeShawn Stevens (Maine) to make some big time impacts as their names have been murmured throughout camp.
One of the players to make the biggest jump this season could very well be redshirt senior safety Scottie Young.
“Scottie works extremely hard, Scottie loves football, that’s one thing since he got here had to sit out then all the practices, walk-throughs, whatever, he loves ball and I think that’s really starting to show and so he definitely has a leg up,” Lesley said.
West Virginia also returns strong additions to the safety room in redshirt seniors Alonzo Addae and Sean Mahone as well as redshirt sophomore Kerry Martin Jr.
A slew of players at the cornerback position that will undoubtedly see the field a good amount this season are Daryl Porter Jr., Nicktroy Fortune and Jackie Matthews.
Fortune has explained how confident he feels a number of times throughout camp and Matthews is coming off a season in which he played in all 10 games last year.
Certainly, something that has really been beneficial to the program has been the implementation of split-squad practices and having more time to come in and get adjusted and comfortable with the team and type of play that is going on in Milan Puskar Stadium.
“I think getting here early helped them, those split squad practices for us that’s really the huge benefit of it is you can get a lot of quality reps with some younger guys and that’s huge for them,” Lesley said. “That’s some depth that’s got to be sped up in their development a little bit probably a little sooner than you would like but that’s part of it.”