Spring football is now in the books, so I figured I'd take a shot at projecting all 11 starters on each side of the ball. Earlier we looked at the offense, now it's time to take a peek at the defense.
DT - Dante Stills
Stills had aspirations to head off to the NFL following his junior season but things didn't go as planned. He felt like he didn't live up to expectations and wanted to come back to improve his draft stock. Although he could return for one more season, he will do everything in his power to avoid having to do that.
NT - Akheem Mesidor
Mesidor was not only impressive as a true freshman but he led the team in sacks with five. I'm not sure that Mesidor will play a "true nose" position but Neal Brown did say that he will play more inside as his body has transformed to playing that and he has handled it well.
DE - Taijh Alston
With Jeffery Pooler Jr. now transferring out of the program, this opens up the door for Taijh Alston to slide right into that starting spot. Alston will be entering his third season at WVU but has not seen much playing time due to a couple of severe injuries. If he can remain healthy throughout the course of the season, he will give the Mountaineers a ton of speed off the edge.
BANDIT - VanDarius Cowan
The potential is through the roof for Cowan but unfortunately, he has dealt with back-to-back season-ending injuries thus allowing him to only appear in six games in his two seasons at WVU since transferring from Alabama. If he remains healthy, he could emerge as one of the best pass rushers in the Big 12 and put himself back on the NFL's radar.
WILL - Josh Chandler-Semedo
Chandler-Semedo is what I call the garbage man. He does a really good job of cleaning up any mistakes made by the defensive line and shuts things down in the running game. He's got some work to do in terms of pass coverage but nothing to be overly concerned about. Also viewed as one of the leaders on the defensive side of the ball.
MIKE - Jared Bartlett
James Thomas is probably the team's only true MIKE linebacker but the coaching staff has put an emphasis on cross-training everyone so that they can be a little more flexible with their lineups/packages. To get the best eleven on the field, defensive coordinator has to find a spot to put Jared Bartlett and the MIKE seems like the best option. He will line up at multiple spots including BANDIT, so don't get too accustomed to seeing him stick on the inside.
SPEAR - Scottie Young
Sure, Tykee Smith's departure hurts but it doesn't hurt nearly as bad when you have a guy like Scottie Young waiting in the wings to take over. He was deemed eligible for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl after being forced to sit out the regular season due to transfer rules. He was an All-Conference performer at Arizona and should fit in perfectly despite not having played the SPEAR position in the past.
LCB - Jackie Matthews
A year ago, West Virginia mainly used Dreshun Miller and Nicktroy Fortune at corner and would occasionally rotate in a third corner. Matthews' development was held back by not being able to practice with the team last spring thanks to the pandemic so he's been playing catch up all along. The staff really likes where he's at and believes he can be a big piece of the defense in 2021.
FS - Alonzo Addae
I'm not sure anyone expected Alonzo Addae to have the year he had in 2020 after transferring in from New Hampshire. He finished the season with 66 tackles, seven pass deflections, and two interceptions. The free safety position is often overlooked on the defense but it's hard to turn your head away from what Addae did a year ago. Opposing Big 12 offenses will be paying close attention to where he's at before every snap.
CAT - Sean Mahone
Mahone was the team's leading tackler in 2019 with 80 tackles and was one of the top tacklers this past season with 54. He's a staple in the West Virginia secondary and is someone that can be relied on in the back end.
RCB - NIcktroy Fortune
Fortune will be entering his third season at WVU and has 12 career starts to his name. He has been fairly solid throughout the first two years of his career but needs to be more aggressive when the ball is in the air. With the lack of experience West Virginia has at corner, it's important for Fortune to play at a high level on a weekly basis.
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