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West Virginia Mountaineers Defensive Preview

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

West Virginia has some excellent names, both in positions and personnel. The depth chart has positions listed as “Cat”, “Bandit”, and “Spear”, and dudes with names like Stone Wolfley, Quondarius Qualls, Exree Loe, a guy with the first name Nicktroy, and a kicker with the last name Legg. Hell, they have a dude named Zach Sandwisch who plays the Bandit position! Bandit Sandwisch!

...Anyway, here’s the defensive preview.

NCAA Football: James Madison at West Virginia
Reese Donahue
Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive End

Jeffrey Pooler, Jr. – R-JR: 3 tackles/1 TFL/0 sacks/0 PDs

Taijh Alston – R-SO: 1 tackle/1 TFL/1 sack/0 PDs

Nose Guard

Darius Stills – JR: 6 tackles/1 TFL/1 sack/0 PDs

Brenon Thrift – R-SR: x

Jordan Jefferson – FR: x

Defensive Tackle

Reese Donahue – SR: 1 tackle/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 PDs

Dante Stills – SO: 3 tackles/2 TFLs/1 sack/1 PD

Stone Wolfley – R-SR: x

The matchup: Missouri offensive line vs. closed running lanes

The Missouri run game became an opportunistic tool last week— mainly because our line couldn’t create any running lanes for our backs. For all the beef on our line, the big boys only created 2.8 yards of space for Badie and Rountree to attack. That’s simply not going to cut it - ever - and the West Virginia front seven is not a remedy for that. They logged 4 sacks in 24 passing attempts and held James Madison to 172 yards on 44 rushes. Odom recruits gigantic dudes to man the line and they need to demonstrate that implied power much more frequently than they did last week.

NCAA Football: James Madison at West Virginia
Quondarius Qualls
Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Bandit

Quondarius Qualls – R-SR: 2 tackles/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 PDs

Zach Sandwisch – R-JR: x

Mike Linebacker

Dylan Tonkery – R-JR: 5 tackles/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 PDs

Jake Abbott – R-SO: x

Will Linebacker

Josh Chandler – SO: 14 tackles/0 TFLs/0 sacks/1 PD

Exree Loe – R-SO: 2 tackles/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 PDs

Deamonte Lindsay – R-SR: 2 tackles/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 PDs

Spear

JoVanni Stewart – SR: 3 tackles/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 PDs

Kwantel Raines – R-FR: 1 tackle/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 PDs

The matchup: Rountree vs. redemption

You are all well aware of the positive story lines swirling around Rountree this offseason, but his skill set wasn’t needed on Saturday once the Tigers had to pass more, and even when he was on the field, he was our least successful runner by far at 40%. Now, he certainly wasn’t done any favors by the line, but when given an opening to attack, both he and Badie needed to generate more than 2 (!!) extra yards. The Mountaineer linebackers were very active in their first game and logged almost a third of the team’s total tackles. If the Tiger line is doing their job, then Rountree (and Badie) need to be athletic in space and generate much more explosive run plays than they did against Wyoming.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Iowa State
Josh Norwood
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerback

Keith Washington II – R-SR: 2 tackles/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 PDs/1 INT

Nicktroy Fortune – FR: 1 tackle/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 PDs

Cat Safety

Sean Mahone – R-JR: 6 tackles/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 PDs

Tykee Smith – FR: 2 tackles/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 PDs

Noah Guzman – SO: x

Free Safety

Josh Norwood – R-SR: 5 tackles/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 PDs

Kerry Martin, Jr. – FR: 3 tackles/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 PDs

Cornerback

Hakeem Bailey – R-SR: 4 tackles/0 TFLs/0 sacks/3 PDs

Tavian Mayo – FR: x

The matchup: Knox vs. Bailey

West Virignia’s biggest havoc contributor last week was Hakeem Bailey, mostly thanks to 3 passes broken up. Josh Norwood is the big name at the safety position, and Keith Washington is active in the interception department, but Bailey was lock-down last week and will probably be sic’d on Knox. Does he erase one side of the field while Norwood prowls the other half? Can Knox break free to open up Johnson and Okwuegbunam underneath? If the receivers can shake the confidence of Bailey, the entire secondary needs to compensate and make our passing game hum.

Kicker

Evan Staley – R-JR: 2-2 FGs/Long of 43/2-2 XP

Casey Legg – R-FR: x

Punter

Josh Growden – R-SR: 8 punts/323 yards/40.4 avg/Long of 60

Kolton McGhee – FR: x

Kick Returner

Sam James – R-FR: 3 returns/54 yards/18 avg/22 long

Keith Washington II – R-SR: x

Kennedy McKoy – SR: x

Punt Returner

Alec Sinkfield – R-SO: 1 return/4 yards/4 avg/4 long

The matchup: the return game vs. the world

I will say, despite the general malaise that befalls you whenever your team loses a game, the one thing I was immediately impressed with was the special teams return unit. Yes, Richaud Floyd made a super-dumb-bad mistake in letting that one punt go, but the returns overall were much better (No one held! Huzzah!). KEEP THAT GOING, PLEASE. The Mountaineer return unit wasn’t anything flashy, but their Punter, Josh Growden, uncorked some great punts to keep James Madison pinned. All you need is ten yards on a return to mitigate the effect and hopefully, Floyd gets some clean shots at doing so.