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Final Grades: Defensive Line was WVU’s Best Position Group in 2020



(photo via WVU Athletics/William Wotring - The Dominion Post)

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. Last week we graded the quarterbacks on Tuesday, running backs on Wednesday, receivers on Thursday and tight ends on Friday. Today we look at the WVU tight defensive line:


Let’s get to the point: the 2020 WVU defensive line was awesome. We were all fortunate to have front row seats for home grown monsters Darius and Dante Stills at the height of their combined powers — the former of which recently achieved consensus All-American status, and I don’t need to remind you that hasn’t happened in Morgantown since 2006 for you to know that is an accomplishment that puts you in rare company within a college football program. 

Younger brother Dante was pretty darn good too, and true freshman Akheem Mesidor was a breakout star in his first season with the Mountaineers. Other younger players like Jalen Thornton and Jordan Jefferson also showed promise at times and senior Jeffrey Pooler was a steady hand at defensive end. 

WVU’s defense was among the best in the country this season, and it all started with the guys up front. 



WVU’s biggest strength from 2019 got even stronger in 2020. The Stills brothers were the Stills brothers, utterly dominant and perpetually disruptive. And even thought neither Darius or Dante put up the individual statistics from a year ago, they ate up blocks and cleared the way for guys like Tony Fields II and Tykee Smith to rack up a ton of tackles and gain All-Conference and All-American honors of their own. Co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Jordan Lesley was even up for the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach.

Although the D-line is losing its best player in Darius Stills for 2021, between Dante Stills, Jeffery Pooler, Akheem Mesidor and the rotation players Tom mentioned, there is still solid production there. That’s not even mentioning someone like Bluefield’s own Sean Martin, who we have not even really seen yet.

Long story short, West Virginia’s defensive line was dominant on its own while also making the other players on WVU’s defense better as well. How could you ask for more than that?


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Tom has spent the last decade as a sports journalist based in West Virginia, most recently as the WVU beat writer for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and with previous stops at the Charleston Daily Mail, the (Fairmont) Times West Virginian and the Daily Independent in Ashland, Kentucky. He was born and raised in Cross Lanes, West Virginia -- where he currently resides -- and is a 2010 graduate of the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Marshall University.

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