The West Virginia football team’s coaches were hard at work this offseason compiling a number of newly acquired Mountaineers to the program for the 2021 campaign. This year’s transfer class comes from all different walks of life around the country and various conferences at which they previously played including the Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC and ACC.
The five transfers set to make the biggest or most immediate impacts this season include Virginia Tech offensive lineman Doug Nester, Penn State linebacker Lance Dixon, Maine linebacker Deshawn Stevens, Illinois State cornerback Charles Woods and Tennessee defensive lineman Darel Middleton.
Let’s start out with the offensive lineman transfer from longtime West Virginia rival, Virginia Tech’s Doug Nester. Nester actually grew up and played high school ball down the road in Kenova, West Virginia so it wasn’t too surprising that the big man wanted to take his talents back to his home state. While in Blacksburg, Virginia the lineman played a total of 19 games which included seven starts at right guard. He explains that the guard position has always been his most comfortable position on the line which is why there is no reason for Neal Brown to move him anywhere else during his stay in Morgantown.
“I think it’s definitely easier than tackle just because we’re on an island most of the time out there, but also I’ve been playing guard ever since I was about seven years old. It’s always been my most comfortable position,” Nester said about his favorite position.
With the loss of some key pieces on the defensive side of the ball this offseason, Neal Brown and company have done a tremendous job of replacing some of those holes and making more additions to the deepest defense since Brown has been in Morgantown.
An already crowded defensive lineman room of Dante Stills, Akheem Mesidor, Taijh Alston and Jordan Jefferson will welcome in Tennessee defensive big man Middleton. Middleton has been described by his coaches as a big guy, who’s actually surprisingly lean for his position. While at Tennessee, Middleton collected a total of 43 tackles and a pair of interceptions through two years in Knoxville.
“Middleton has only been here for a couple of weeks. You’ll notice him, he’ll immediately stick out to you tomorrow,” Brown said. “He’s a big guy and credit to him, he’s a lot leaner than he played last year at Tennessee. We need him to be a player. I think it’s going to take him a little bit.”
The linebacker position will also be upgraded with Penn State transfer Dixon coming into the mix for the Mountaineers. Dixon’s strongest position in the middle of the defense lies at WILL linebacker as he will battle against Exree Loe for the top dog spot at the position through summer camp. Dixon also has the opportunity to be a part of the Mountaineers plan for the next four years after playing his redshirt freshman season with the Nittany Lions.
Brown said this in a press conference about his new linebacker: “”Lance Dixon at Will linebacker, athletically, he is what you want. He can run, he’s just got to learn the scheme. He got here in May and we worked him to get in condition because he wasn’t at a place of strength, so I think that’s a work in progress.”
The other linebacker addition the Mountaineers were able to snag for this season is Maine’s Stevens. The linebacker who lines up at 6’2, 255 lbs. was voted a team captain of the Black Bears in 2019 before suffering a season ending injury in their season opener. The most Stevens has played was in 2017 when he saw action in 10 games while taking down the quarterback 2.5 times and making 50 total tackles.
The last but certainly not least of the incoming transfers for the football program this season is Illinois State cornerback Charles Woods, who funny enough has a name of another pretty good player who lined up in the secondary, Charles Woodson.
“He’s a guy that had a really good career at Illinois State,” Brown said. “I like him because he’s a quick learner, he likes football, he just goes to work every day. He’s had a great workman-like attitude since he’s been here.”
Woods comes from Illinois State and will get the chance to play in a much bigger gameday environment with West Virginia. The speedster has also seen action at punt returner where his longest was a 47-yard return in 2019. At his cornerback position, he only saw action in 2019 when he started in all 15 games and picked off the quarterback on four different occasions.
One can obviously see how much the Mountaineers are going to be aided on the defensive side of the ball this year with so many incoming pieces to attack opposing offenses with. Jarret Doege and the West Virginia backfield will also benefit from the blocking of Nester in front of them, so they can make big plays happen for the blue and gold.
(Top Photo: Frank Jansky)