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WVU has lost a lot of defensive play-makers. Can Missouri take advantage?

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West Virginia still has solid defensive experience, but the Mountaineers have to replace a ton of disruptive talent.

NCAA Football: Liberty at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Defense

Defensive Line

DE

  • Noble Nwachukwu (6’2, 275, Sr.) — 42.0 tackles, 13.0 TFL (8.5 sacks), 1 PBU, 1 FF
  • Adam Shuler II (6’4, 270, RSFr.) — 247 Composite rating: 0.8492

NT

  • Darrien Howard (6’1, 297, Sr.) — 14.5 tackles, 3.0 TFL (1 sack), 1 PBU
  • Alec Shriner (6’4, 286, RSFr.) — 247 Composite rating: 0.8305

DE

  • Christian Brown (6’2, 298, Sr.) — 28.5 tackles, 4.5 TFL (2 sacks)
  • Jon Lewis (6’3, 265, Jr.)

WVU’s run defense was outstanding last year, but three of the top six linemen and each of the top four linebackers are gone. There’s a lot of play-making to replace, and there’s going to be pressure on Nwachukwu to produce up front. (Alternately, there’s going to be pressure on Mizzou’s tackles to keep him from producing.)

Linebacking Corps

SAM

  • Justin Arndt (5’11, 215, Sr.) — 7.5 tackles
  • Zach Sandwisch (6’2, 222, Fr.) — 247 Composite rating: 0.8531

MIKE

  • Al-Rasheed Benton (6’1, 235, Jr.) -- 17.5 tackles, 4 TFL
  • Hodari Christian (6’0, 225, Jr.) -- 3.0 tackles, 1 FF

WILL

  • Sean Walters (6’2, 228, Sr.) -- 16.5 tackles, 1 TFL (1 sack)
  • David Long (5’11, 225, RSFr.) -- 247 Composite rating: 0.8550

Lots and lots of play-making to replace here. Benton’s a keeper, though, and at the least the Mountaineers are still starting juniors and seniors. These guys have been around.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Secondary

CB

  • Antonio Crawford (5’10, 185, Sr.) — Miami transfer; 18.0 tackles, 1 TFL (1 sack), 5 PBU, 1 FF
  • Nana Kyeremeh (5’11, 192, Sr.) — 17.5 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FF

FS

  • Jeremy Tyler (5’11, 210, Sr.) — 19.5 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FF
  • Toyous Avery (5’10, 200, So.) -- 247 Composite rating: 0.8093

SPUR

  • Kyzir White (6’3, 212, Jr.) — 247 Composite rating: 0.9010
  • Marvin Gross Jr. (6’3, 208, Jr.) -- 12.5 tackles

BS

  • Jarrod Harper (6’0, 210, Sr.) — 32.5 tackles, 3 TFL, 4 PBU
  • Khairi Sharif (5’8, 184, Sr.) — 5.5 tackles

CB

  • Rasul Douglas (6’2, 208, Sr.) — 7.0 tackles, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FF
  • Maurice Fleming (5’11, 203, Sr.)

The five starting defensive backs have combined for 10 career starts — nine from Harper and one from Tyler (plus one from backup Kyeremeh). Again, there’s a ton of play-making prowess to replace here, but Dana Holgorsen has done a good enough job of retaining and nurturing talent (and supplementing it with JUCOs) that this unit doesn’t start the year loaded with and reliant on freshmen.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Special Teams

K

  • Mike Molina (5’8, 180, Jr.) -- 7 kickoffs, 63.6 average (3 touchbacks)
  • Josh Lambert (6’0, 203, Sr.) — 53-54 PAT, 17-19 FG under 40, 4-9 FG over 40

P

  • Billy Kinney (6’4, 207, So.)
  • Jonn Young (6’0, 202, Fr.)

KR

  • Shelton Gibson (5’11, 195, Jr.) — 11 KR, 32.8 average, 1 TD
  • Gary Jennings (6’2, 207, So.)

PR

  • Gary Jennings (6’2, 207, So.) -- 13 PR, 5.3 average

WVU’s special teams unit graded out 37th in Special Teams S&P+, and a lot of that had to do with the kick returns of Gibson and Jovon Durante and the punting of Nick O’Toole. Gibson’s back, O’Toole is not.

NCAA Football: Liberty at West Virginia Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports