Five Players to Watch in 2020 on Defense
2019 may not have ended with a bowl game for the Mountaineers but there were plenty of bright spots on the team. The future of the West Virginia football program is being handed off to a new group of individuals who shined during this past season and some who are new to Morgantown. Aside of the easy answer of the Stills brothers, below are a few guys who had a productive 2019 season and will look to bring that same energy into 2020.
Mahone grew down the stretch of the 2019 season as Mountaineer fans heard his name more frequently. He led the Mountaineers in tackles with 80 on the season; he also finished with five tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception, and one forced fumble.
Look for Mahone to continue to grow over the offseason and don't be surprised to see him as the captain of this defense going into 2020.
Chandler stepped up as a leader in 2019 as he was second on the team with 71 tackles. Chandler may not have led the team statistically but he was always involved in every play on the field.
Look for Chandler to be that extra pass rusher for this defense next season as his sack number should rise. His quickness allows the defensive coaches to also utilize him in the pass coverage which will be key against Big 12 opponents.
Starting as a true freshman, Smith was put into a situation where he was asked to play significant playing time immediately. Smith finished with 53 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack, and two interceptions on the season including an incredible pick six against Oklahoma State.
Smith is a smart football player who I expect to continue to grow during his time in Morgantown. Look for the coaches to begin to give him more freedom on his own side of the field next year and make him responsible for stopping opposing running attacks on his side.
Kerry Martin Jr.
Martin Jr. was another true freshman who was asked to play significant snaps immediately. And just like Tykee Smith, Martin Jr. took advantage of the opportunity and played well for the Mountaineers in 2019. Martin Jr. finished 2019 with 50 tackles and five pass deflections.
Head Coach Neal Brown spoke very highly of Martin Jr. over the season and you could tell he was trusting him more and more. Look for the Charleston, WV native to be more involved in the coverage in 2020.
Jeffery Pooler Jr.
Pooler Jr. had a great 2019 season as he finished with 24 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. Despite not getting as many snaps as others on the defensive line, Pooler Jr. was able to make the most out of his playing time and contributed, especially towards the end of the season.
As I am writing this up, we don't know if Darius Stills will be coming back, but either way, Pooler Jr. is going to see more snaps and Mountaineer fans will see more opposing quarterbacks on the ground in 2020.
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