The West Virginia University Mountaineers football program held its fourth practice of fall camp Thursday morning and wore shoulder pads and helmets Thursday.
On Tuesday I followed the attack through our time in training but on Thursday I got a better look at the defense although no contact drills during this time but highlighted some climbers on the defensive side of the ball.
The defensive line gradually widened. Dante Stills has built on his previous four seasons and seems loose on the football pitch – not that he wasn’t before, but there’s a calmness to him. Maybe there is a Stills storm brewing for the 2022 season?
Taijh Alston continues to get lost in the shuffle when it comes to media coverage and may be the most underrated player on defense, with the focus on young high school talent and new linebacking body parts that head to fall camp. However, he was stable along the edge last year, and it could potentially be a very big season for Alston.
The initial question is who can replace Akheem Mesidor along the defensive line? Well, you’re not just replacing a talent like Mesidor, but WVU has a few pieces with Jalen Thornton, Jordan Jefferson, Sean Martin, Braydon Dudley, Hammond Russell IV, and Georgia Tech transfer Mike Lockhart. All look like a Power Five defensive lineman, but time will tell who will step in to take the snaps of Mesidor. I think it will be a team effort.
The defensive staff believe their strength lies in team speed and they start at linebacker. Center linebacker Lee Kpogba has the potential to take the college football world by storm this fall. He has the physique of an All-American and his desire to win could make him a contender for the prestigious honor. He was fierce in the spring and he is locked up during the fall camp.
Will linebacker Lance Dixon has added muscle this offseason and seems more comfortable in the system.
The secondary is full of young hopefuls and transfers but there is a lot of potential within the group led by Charles Woods. Defensive backs coach ShaDon Brown said Woods was the Big 12’s best corner during Thursday’s post-practice press conference. He has the tools to live up to the billing and has taken on the leadership role. I personally saw him working with freshman Mumu Bin-Wahad on the side during the exercises. Passing on his knowledge will do wonders for the young group.
To start on the other side of Woods, I like the second Andrew Wilson-Lamp. It is long and has speed. However, transfer Wesley McCormick (James Madison) and Rashad Ajayi could be up for the opener against Pitt. It’s a solid group that I believe as the season progresses the staff will have pieces to be a bit more flexible in secondary than they were a year ago.
The safeties are a young group but so are the cornerbacks in this room. Young, talented and long. Aubrey Burks saw plenty of action last season, adding Hershey McLaurin, Marcis Floyd, Davis Mallinger and North Dakota State transfer Jasir Cox into the mix will be a fun bunch to watch progress this year.
Much of that defense is a wait and see, but the unit seems eager to prove the Mountaineer defense is still among the best in the league.
No depth chart has been released, and at the start of fall camp, staff place players in positions they believe will suit their talents. Nevertheless, the first punts this week were Preston Fox and Sam James. Reese Smith and Jeremiah Aaron. Sam Jams and Preston Fox seem to be the top two picks so far.
The kick returners were Davis Mallinger, Sam James, Jeremiah Aaron and Andrew Wilson Lamp.
An Inside Look at WVU Fall Camp
Receivers practice making contact on a reception with receivers coach Tony Washington hitting.
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The ball carriers go through reduced drills.
Defensive backs coach Shadon Brown teaches men’s corner coverage drills.
Defensive backs work through open-field tackles.
The defensive line follows a drill that simulates the work of an offensive lineman to get to the quarterback.
The defense cross-trains with receiver drills.
The defense works on ball security.
The offense works on cross-training, drilling into proper tackling technique for “days off” offenses.
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