Youth on WVU defensive line will step up


WVU has some solid veterans on the defensive line entering the 2016 season.

There’s Noble Nwachukwu, who is gaining steam as one of the top defenders in the Big 12 Conference, along with fellow seniors Christian Brown and Darren Howard.

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Those three aforementioned players will likely start on the line in West Virginia’s 3-3-5 set. Their veteran presence and overall ability should give WVU one of the best defensive line units in the Big 12. With them in play, the Mountaineers are able to compensate for the fact that the linebacking corps behind them will be the most inexperienced unit on the team.

That’s not to say the defensive line won’t have to unleash a youth movement. WVU will have to cycle some players in and out on the lines.

Players like Jaleel Fields and Larry Jefferson could potentially see extended playing time in 2016 because they are ready for this chance at the highest level of college football.

This tandem caught the eye of their position coach, Bruce Tall. The veteran coach, in his second stint as an assistant coach with WVU, has developed his own personal style of what he expects out of his players.

Fields and Jefferson fit into his schemes in the best way possible.

"“I think some of the younger guys are stronger,” Tall told The Intelligencer. “It’s just that they don’t have some of that natural strength that the older guys have who have been doing it for years. We have a good group of older guys who help the younger guys and bring them up to par. They’re closer than you would think strength wise (the younger guys).”"

Fields, a 6-foot-1, 290-pound native of Aliquippa, Pa., played in four games last season. He had eight total tackles, with five being solo stops. He served as a backup to provide depth where needed. He avoided injury and was able to get into the flow of things to prepare him for this season, where he will see an increased role.

The same goes for Jefferson. He is older than Fields, but they are about equal in terms of development and execution. Jefferson is a redshirt senior, but he has yet to earn a start in his time at WVU. He played in nine games last season, but only had two total tackles.

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Jefferson is an intimidating figure at 6-foot-4, 216 pounds. His lankier frame allows him to swarm around blockers and, potentially, make him a sack master on the gridiron. Jefferson could find a role as a keen third-down package, kind of like Bruce Irvin’s role with the Mountaineers in 2010.

Other young defensive line players like Xavier Pegues, Adam Shuler and D.J. Carozza added even more depth to a unit that should be deep and talented in 2016.