MORGANTOWN, W.Va–Three years ago Taijh Alston chose East Carolina over West Virginia but a twist of fate landed him in the Mountain State now.
Alston committed to play for the Pirates but a knee injury sidelined him just days before the season began.
After redshirting at ECU, 6-foot-2, 264-pound defensive lineman decided he needed more and went the JUCO route.
And it was after his redshirt freshman season at Copiah Lincoln Community College, the Mountaineers came knocking again. It was then Alston knew he belonged at WVU.
“I was about to come to West Virginia out of high school,It was between East Carolina and West Virginia,” Alston said. “But I just stayed close to home but I feel that wasn’t the best place for me so I went JUCO. When they offered me again when I went JUCO, I just knew it was the right fit for me.”
Now, the Mountaineers’ young defense is excited to get the redshirt sophomore on the field.
“He brings a lot to the table for us,” senior defensive lineman Reese Donahue said. “He’s a good speed guy, length size and for him. I say just getting here and I say that as if he hasn’t been here long but this being his first year here, I say he’s done very well. I think he has adapted to everything that’s happened so far. He can be a very good player this year and for years to come. He’s going to just keep improving.”
Third downs are an area where Alston can be a game changer for WVU.
“I’m a good speed rusher on third down. I can play first and second down too but I just feel that I’m a good pass rusher and I can add that to the team to help and keep working,” he said.
While the switch from JUCO to Division I can be challenging, the Lumberton, N.C. native is up for the task at hand thanks to strength and conditioning coach Mike Joseph and his staff.
“It’s a big change because it’s a big change from JUCO to Division I but I feel like coach Mike’s (Joseph), strength and conditioning, it helped me a lot,” Alston said. “I feel like everything goes good, I just work hard and do my plays and focus on my assignments.”
Joseph has really helped Alston bulk up.
“When I got here I was 226,” he said. “Now, I’m 250 so it helps a lot. And with coach Mike even though I put on the weight I haven’t got any slower. Everything is still the same. I’m still as athletic as I was in JUCO.”
Another aspect of the game that the Union Pines High School graduate has improved on is with the pass rush and defensive line coach Jordan Lesley has been instrumental with that.
“Coach Lesley he helped me a lot with that (pass rush) because before I can here at JUCO I was just flying up the field with the pass rush but now he’s showing me a lot more with my hands,” Alston said. “Now as I pass rush I work my hands and it helps me in the long run. I’m just thankful of that.”
With the season just over a week away, Alston is ready to get on the field and introduce himself to the opposition’s quarterback.
Cover Photo Credit: Will Wotring/The Dominion Post & WVMetroNews