The WVU football team lost 20 players to graduation last year. The cycle of college football moves on as a new class comes in and underclassmen rotate to become upperclassmen.
It’s hard not to reflect back on what the Mountaineers did lose, though. Of those 20 seniors, 12 came on the defensive side of the ball. Most of those defensive players were veterans who saw playing time early in their WVU football careers.
They had experience and skill, and it all came together in their seniors years to help West Virginia reach the 10-win plateau for the first time in the program’s Big 12 Conference tenure.
Those defensive seniors were Antonio Crawford, Jeremy Tyler, Khairi Sharif, Rasul Douglas, Nana Kyeremeh, Jarrod Harper, Maurice Fleming, Sean Walters, Justin Arndt Darrien Howard, Christian Brown and Noble Nwachukwu.
Most of those players contributed to a solid WVU defense in one way or another.
Nwachukwu, Brown and Howard were some of the biggest guys up front, while Tyler, Douglas and Kyeremeh were shutdown defenders in the secondary.
Arndt was a homegrown product from Martinsburg, West Virginia who progressed greatly through the seasons.
They are all gone now. While there may not be a glaring hole on defense in the depth chart, opposing coaches are certainly taking a look at how they can expose the Mountaineers’ new players this year.
New quarterback Will Grier was the first aspect of the Mountaineers that this unnamed coach mentioned. The Florida transfer has all the talent in the world, it just needs to transfer over to the playing field.
What stood out the most in this coach’s comments were his inquiries on the defense.
"On defense they lost a ton of players, but what gives you trouble is DC Tony Gibson’s scheme. The front doesn’t present as anything. Is it a 3–4? Is it a 3-3-5? It’s just some guys moving around, and then they jump into their gaps at the snap and you have to figure it out. That middle linebacker [Al-Rasheed Benton, 6-foot, 237-pound senior] is always around the ball. On the back end they always seem to have long, big guys. Their hybrid safety [Kyzir White, 6’ 2″, 218] is pretty versatile."
Benton and White have both seen extensive playing time in their WVU football careers. They could be the glue that holds this unit together. Benton is the team’s top linebacker and a senior leader. Last year, he finished second on the team with 80 tackles. He started every game after not seeing much time as a sophomore.
White busted onto the season as a junior coming in from Lackawanna Community College. He started 12 games at safety as he missed the Baylor game with a hand injury. White’s speed and agility got him into the backfield quite often as he was second on the team with three sacks and third on the team with seven tackles for a loss.
According to SI.com, the Mountaineers do not have one player ranked in the publication’s Top 100 players. That isn’t a bad thing. The WVU football team will have to prove that it is a cohesive unit. No one player is better than the guy standing next to him.
Leadership and dependability are boundless across the field, especially on defense. They will just have to make sure they don’t lose a step after last year’s success.