4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE WEST VIRGINIA DEFENSE
– The defense that was good enough to finish in the middle of the Big 12 pack gets back enough talent to be okay, but the secondary that gave up 259 yards per game and allowed 22 touchdowns has overcome some massive personnel losses. Defensive coordinator Casey Vance has a ton of work to do because …
– It only seems like all the safeties entered the transfer portal. What looked like a strength coming into the season is now an issue with Dravon Askey-Henry graduating and second-leading tackler Kenny Robinson deciding to enter the transfer portal coming off a 77-tackle season. Junior Derrek Pitts and backup EJ Brown are bolting, too. Now it’s scrambling time, hoping for juniors Sean Mahone and Jake Long to be ready to fill in the gaps around smallish 5-8 senior Jovanni Stewart.
The corners are in better shape with seniors Josh Norwood – who finished third on the team with 64 tackles – and Keith Washington back. The depth is a wee bit lacking, but Tavian Mayo is a nice-looking recruit who should be ready for either spot.
– Leading tackler David Long is done at one linebacker spot, and now it’s up to promising 234-pound sophomore Josh Chandler to turn into a star. 6-0, 228-pound Dylan Tonkery is a bit undersized on the inside, but he’s got enough range to be okay with a bigger role, but 238-pound senior Shea Campbell is a bigger option coming off a 40-tackle season.
– The expectations are high for a great-looking group of defensive end prospects. 235-pound sophomore hybrid VanDarius Cowan – okay, he’s really a linebacker – promising in a rotation with junior Zach Sandwisch. The hope is for6-4, 245-pound JUCO transfer Taijh Alston to be a pass rushing answer on the other side.
Losing tackle Tyrese Allen to the transfer portal hurts an okay situation in the interior. 6-1, 290-pound junior Darius Stills isn’t massive on the nose, but he’s strong and ultra-quick behind the line. 6-4, 276-pound senior Reese Donahue is a good veteran to anchor the remade line.