On Saturday afternoon, the West Virginia football team is hosting their 2021 spring game at Milan Puskar Stadium in front of a capacity of 25 percent of fans.
The defense has gone through some changes after the Liberty Bowl win over Army, so let’s preview the defensive side of the ball before Saturday.
The biggest concern immediately is addressing the secondary for the 2021 season. The Mountaineers lost defensive backs coach Jahmille Addae—who went to Georgia. Following the departure of Addae, cornerback Dreshun Miller and safety Tykee Smith transferred from the program. Miller went to Auburn, while Smith joined Addae in Georgia.
West Virginia takes a huge hit on their secondary—which helped tremendously in recording 11 defensive interceptions in 2020.
Nicktroy Fortune will bring some experience to the position. The Mountaineers will need a younger player to step up for the loss of Miller, whether that could be Andrew Wilson-Lamp (Fr.) or Daryl Porter Jr. (So.). In the absence of Smith, Alonzo Addae, Sean Mahone and Scottie Young will all look to step up and replace the All-American.
A player to keep an eye on is cornerback Jackie Matthews. Matthews—a senior from Birmingham, Alabama—has the potential to surge into a big role next season. WVU head coach Neal Brown has stated that Matthews has had a great spring so far.
On the defensive line this year, it is now Dante Stills who will be leading the charge. In 2020, Stills recorded 9.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks in 10 games. A question on the line is if Akheem Mesidor can take that next step from good to great. Mesidor is entering his second year on the team after his spectacular freshman campaign. The Ottawa, Ontario native recorded a team-high 5.0 sacks as a freshman. Mesidor also had 6.5 tackles for loss.
Other than Darius Stills, WVU lost Tony Fields to the NFL draft. Fields was one of the most impactful players on the defensive side of the ball last season. At the linebacker position, Exree Loe and Josh Candler-Semedo will be obvious choices to attempt to replace Fields’ impact. Chandler-Semedo recorded 64 tackles, while Loe had 45. Both will have an impact this season and it will be interesting to see how they’re used on Saturday.
Saturday will begin the retooling of last year’s defense that lost key players in Stills, Fields, Miller and Smith but it’ll be exciting to see these names above attempt to replace the productivity that was lost.
(Top Photo: Ben Queen)