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Final Grades: All-American Tykee Smith Led Strong Group of WVU Safeties in 2020

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(photo via WVU Athletics/Ben Queen - USA Today Sports)

This will be an ongoing series with WVSN’s Cody Nespor and Tom Bragg grading the performance of each position group during the 2020 West Virginia University football season.

Previous grades: quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, tight ends, offensive linedefensive line, linebackers and cornerbacks. Today we look at the WVU safeties:

CODY NESPOR:

Anchored by All-American Tykee Smith, WVU’s safeties bookended the Mountaineers’ dynamic defense. Smith, first-year starter Alonzo Addae and senior Sean Mahone combined for five interceptions, 14 pass breakups and over 150 total tackles. Addae (66), Smith (61) and Mahone (54) finished second, fourth and fifth on the team in total tackles, respectively.

Combining with WVU’s corners the Mountaineers had the best pass defense in the Big 12 this season, allowing just 159.6 yards per game. WVU opponents only passed for more than 200 yards twice in 2020, and were held under 150 passing yards four times. The Mountaineers also allowed only a single pass of over 50 yards all season.

As good as 2020 was for WVU’s safeties, the future looks bright as well. Addae has announced he will use the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility and return for 2021. The Mountaineers will also welcome back into the fold sophomore Kerry Martin, a former Capital Highs standout who played as a true freshman in 2019 before opting out of the 2020 season. Arizona transfer Scottie Young, who was ineligible for all but the final game of 2020, will also be back. Mahone, a redshirt-senior, has not announced his decision for 2021, but either way WVU’s defense looks strong on the back end.

GRADE: A

TOM BRAGG:

Tykee Smith was pretty darn good as a freshman then broke out as one of the best safeties in the country as a sophomore in 2020. Granted, Smith plays “spear” for WVU, which is not a “traditional” safety role but combines aspects of that with some linebacker elements also involved, but he’s one of the best at it anywhere and was a force for West Virginia’s defense this season.

Sean Mahone was a steady hand at the back end of the defense during Neal Brown’s first two seasons at West Virginia, and Alonzo Addae blossomed into a playmaker in his first year of eligibility with WVU.

As Cody mentioned, this position appears well-stocked going forward even if Mahone decides not to come back. If Mahone does come back, this could be the deepest position on the roster in 2021.

GRADE: A

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Tom Bragg covers WVU, Marshall, high schools and other sports for West Virginia Sports Now. Tom spent more than a decade as a sports journalist based in West Virginia covering high school, college, youth and professional sports for newspapers in Huntington, Fairmont and Charleston before joining WVSN in 2020. Tom is a graduate of Marshall University's W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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