The West Virginia University Mountaineers football program held its fourth practice of fall camp Thursday morning, and were in shoulder pads and helmets on Thursday.
On Tuesday I followed the offense throughout our time during practice but on Thursday, I got a better look at the defense, although no contact drills during this period but highlighted some Mountaineers on the defensive side of the ball.
The defensive line has gotten progressively bigger. Dante Stills has built upon his previous four seasons and appears loose on the football field - not that he wasn't before but there is a calmness about him. Maybe there is a Stills storm brewing for the 2022 season?
Taijh Alston continues to get lost in the shuffle as far as media coverage and might be the most underappreciate player on the defense, with attention going to the young talent in the secondary and new pieces in the linebacking corps heading into fall camp. However, he was steady along the edge last year, and this could potentially be a really big season for Alston.
The question upfront is who can fill in for Akheem Mesidor along the defensive line? Well, you don't just replace a talent like Mesidor, but WVU has some pieces with Jalen Thornton, Jordan Jefferson, Sean Martin, Braydon Dudley, Hammond Russell IV and Georgia Tech transfer Mike Lockhart. All of them look the part of a Power Five defensive lineman but time will tell who steps up to take Mesidor's snaps. I suspect it will be a team effort.
The defensive staff believes its strength lies in team speed and it starts at linebacker. Middle linebacker Lee Kpogba has the potential to take over the college football world by storm this fall. He's got the physique of an All-American and his desire to win may make him a contender for the prestigious honor. He was fierce during the spring and he is locked-in during fall camp.
Will linebacker Lance Dixon has added muscle this offseason and appears more comfortable within the system.
The secondary is full of young prospects and transfers but there is a lot of potential within the group led by Charles Woods. Defensive backs coach ShaDon Brown stated Woods was the best corner in the Big 12 during the post practice press conference on Thursday. He has the tools to live up to the billing and has taken on the leadership role. I personally watched him work with freshman Mumu Bin-Wahad off to the side during drills. Passing on his knowledge will do wonders for the young group.
To start on the other side of Woods, I like the sophomore Andrew Wilson-Lamp. He is long and has speed. However, transfer Wesley McCormick (James Madison) and Rashad Ajayi might rise to the occasion by the opener versus Pitt. This is a solid group that I believe as the season rolls along, the staff will have pieces to be a little more flexible in the secondary than they were a year ago.
The safeties are a young group but the same applies to this room as the cornerbacks. Young, talented and long. Aubrey Burks saw a good bit of action last season, adding Hershey McLaurin, Marcis Floyd, Davis Mallinger and North Dakota State transfer Jasir Cox into the mix will be a fun group to watch progress this year.
So much of this defense is a 'wait and see' but the unit looks eager to prove the Mountaineer defense is still among the best in the league.
No depth chart has been released and in the early going of fall camp the staff puts players in positions they feel will suit their talents. Nonetheless, fielding punts the first this week were Preston Fox and Sam James. Reese Smith and Jeremiah Aaron. Sam Jams and Preston Fox appear to be the top two choices thus far.
The kick returners were Davis Mallinger, Sam James, Jeremiah Aaron and Andrew Wilson Lamp.
An Inside look at WVU Fall Camp
The receivers practice taking contact while hauling in a reception with receivers coach Tony Washington delivering the blows.
The running backs going through cut back drills.
Defensive backs coach Shadon Brown instructs the corners in man coverage drills.
The defensive backs working through open field tackling.
The defensive line is taking through a drill that simulates working through offensive lineman to get to the quarterback.
The defense is taking in some cross training with some receiver's drills.
The defense working on ball security.
The offense working on cross training, getting drilled in proper tackling technique for the offenses 'off days'.
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