4. College Football News Preview 2020: West Virginia Mountaineers Defense 3 Things To Know
– The defense figured it out in the second half of the season. It had major issues against Oklahoma and Texas early, but it didn’t allow more than 20 points in four of the last five games as it was able to help grind down the tempo a bit. The pass rush was among the best in the Big 12, and the run defense was okay, but there have to be a whole lot more big play producers.
Five of the top seven and seven of the top ten tacklers are back, starting with the pass rushing brother tandem of Dante and Darius Sills – they tied for the team lead with seven sacks. The 282-pound Darius worked on the nose, the 275-pound Dante worked as more of a bulky end, and between them the defense has the stars to build around.
Longtime veteran Reese Donahue is gone, and the developed depth is a bit lacking, but overall the line should be a plus.
– Second-leading tackler Josh Chandler isn’t all that big, but the 224-pounder is a good hitter at any of the spots in the linebacking corps. He has to hold up, though – he missed a little time last year with a knee injury – with the overall depth just okay.
Dylan Tonkery is a longtime part of the puzzle – he’s not huge at 228 pounds, but he has the versatility to play inside or out – and junior Exree Loe is a quick option for the outside. In this D, though, the secondary has to make most of the plays.
– The defensive backs can pop. Senior safety Sean Mahome led the team with 80 tackles, and sophomores Tykee Smith and Kerry Martin appear to be ready for bigger roles after good first runs. Adding even more help is Arizona transfer Scottie Young, who was third on the Wildcats with 66 tackles last year.
The corners are going to need a little time and seasoning around all-star sophomore Nicktroy Fortune on one side. The hope is for JUCO transfer Jackie Matthews and promising redshirt freshman Tae Mayo to play big roles right away.