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Growth of Jacolby Spells as Player Key for WVU Defense in 2023



WVU Football CB Jacolby Spells and LB Lee Kpogba

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. Excuses don’t really matter, but one reason for the struggles of the WVU defense last season, especially the secondary, is it was forced to put players in roles they weren’t ready for. While that was a negative of 2022, it could be a blessing in disguise in 2023.

Cornerback Jacoby Spells fits that bill perfectly and is someone the coaching staff keeps mentioning as a player who they expect to be far better with seasoning under his belt. WVU assistant defensive coordinator ShaDon Brown doubled down on that feeling during his first press conference since the spring.

“The guy who has probably made the biggest jump in the room is Jacolby Spells,” said Brown.

Spells, a three-star recruit out of high school, played in nine games during the 2022 season and already has a big play West Virginia football fans may remember for awhile to his credit. However, despite securing the win over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg with an interception, there’s a feeling around the WVU coaching staff that Spells has the talent to be much better than he was throughout his freshman season.

Jacolby Spells

True Freshman Jacolby Spells wears the coal miners helmet after his pick-6. (WVSN photo by Kelsie LeRose)

Brown also went into detail on what Spells did well, what mistakes he made due to his lack of experience and what type of player he could become a few months ago.

“It’s a lot different coming from high school football coming to playing in power 5 football on an island out there at corner. And I thought last year he had some plays where he flashed and some plays where he didn’t,” said Brown with his honest assessment of Spells’ season. “It’s what I call growing pains. That’s any freshman at any position is going to have growing pains,” he made sure to add to emphasize how young Spells still is in his career.

The Sky is the Limit for West Virginia Football CB Jacolby Spells

What Mistakes Did Spells Make?

Brown even went so far as to highlight how mistakes made by cornerbacks are going to be more evident than most other positions. “One guy can make a mistake and all you guys (the media) see it and can write about it and fans and parents can see it, right? But playing a position inside, whether it’s defensive line or linebacker, nobody ever sees that. They don’t see that. So at corner it’s really magnified,” Brown said.

He didn’t go into grave detail on which plays and mistakes Spells made, although they have all likely been brought up in film session and hammered home to the sophomore ever since. Brown did generalize what he’s referring to by saying, “he had some mistakes last year and some of those mistakes were just physically not being ready to compete at that level consistently at that level, doing it over and over and over.”

In 2022, Spells recorded 13 total tackles with nine of them as solo tackles and that game sealing interception against the Hokies as his lone pick. He saw action on 245 overall plays, including a single game high of 64 in the win over Baylor.

Why Will Spells be Better?

The Fort Lauderdale, Florida native is now listed at 5-foot-11 and 183 pounds. The extra weight and strength from where he was at this time a year ago may aid him be more prepared for any one-on-one battles with receivers and to stay upright more often.

WVU fans already think of Spells fondly for helping to keep the Black Diamond Trophy in Morgantown, but there’s the potential to see many more big time plays from him as well. It’s clear his coaches definitely expect more from Spells.

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