The West Virginia Mountaineers were the only team in the Big 12 the Oklahoma Sooners didn’t face in 2020.
COVID pauses prevented the two sides from locking horns on the gridiron, but the Mountaineers will visit Norman on Sept. 25.
Led by their defense, West Virginia finished 6-4 in 2020, posting a pedestrian 4-4 mark in Big 12 play.
But the anchor of the Mountaineer defense has moved on to greener pastures.
All-American and 2020 Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Darius Stills has moved on to the NFL, signing an undrafted free agent deal with the Las Vegas Raiders. The Mountaineers will have to replace his 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks next season, though his brother Dante Stills, an outstanding player in his own right, did elect to return for the 2021 season.
Rising sophomore Akheem Mesidor will go a long way toward replacing Darius Stills, however.
Mesidor led West Virginia with 5.0 sacks as a true freshman, also adding 6.5 tackles for loss as a constant presence in opposing backfield.
Oklahoma Sooners 2021 Schedule
- Sept. 4: at Tulane Green Wave
- Sept. 11: vs. Western Carolina Catamounts
- Sept. 18: vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Sept. 25: vs. West Virginia Mountaineers
- Oct. 2: at Kansas State Wildcats
- Oct. 9: vs. Texas Longhorns
- Oct. 16: vs. TCU Horned Frogs
- Oct. 23: at Kansas Jayhawks
- Oct. 30: vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders
- Nov. 13: at Baylor Bears
- Nov. 20: vs. Iowa State Cyclones
- Nov. 27: at Oklahoma State Cowboys
And the Mountaineers will need a solid pass rush, as they’re dealing with losses on the back end of their defense as well.
Third-Team All-American safety Tykee Smith announced his intentions to transfer from the program in March, the latest in a steady stream of defenders who have opted to leave the program since Neal Brown’s arrival.
Cornerback Dreshun Miller also transferred out of Morgantown after starting most of the year. Thankfully for the WVU defense, plenty of young players have rotated throughout the back end of the defense, so they will have some experience to rely on to pair with Nicktroy Fortune, the returning starting corner.
On the offensive side of the ball, Brown finally found his quarterback in Jarret Doege.
Throwing for 2,587 yards and 14 touchdowns a year ago, Doege’s best asset is that he took care of the football for the Mountaineer offense, only surrendering four interceptions.
Doege’s emergence also coincided with a breakout season from running back Leddie Brown.
Rushing for 1,010 yards and nine touchdowns, Brown also made plays in the passing game, finishing 2020 with 202 yards and two more touchdowns on 31 catches.
Wide receiver Winston Wright led the Mountaineers with 553 receiving yards on 47 catches, but Bryce Ford-Wheaton and T.J. Simmons helped the passing attack stay balanced, adding 416 and 401 receiving yards, respectively.
All three wide receivers are expected to return, as well as a large chunk of the offensive line, meaning the West Virginia offense should take a step forward in 2021.
But Brown’s team will still have to contend with a tumultuous travel schedule in the Big 12. Since joining the conference, it’s been a tale of two West Virginias: the scary team at home versus a unit that has struggled on the road.
The Mountaineers will have to overcome their road struggles to emerge victorious in Norman and notch the program’s first victory agains the Sooners since joining the conference.