Dante Stills has big plans for life after college. He hopes of success in the NFL. That’s his plan, and that’s always been his plan. If that will happen or not remains to be seen, but has the 2022 season done him any favors?
The West Virginia defensive lineman is in his his 5th and final year of eligibility, which means this is it for his career as a Mountaineer. WVU fans are already on borrowed time watching Stills in the Old Gold and Blue as there was speculation he would declare for the NFL Draft following the 2020 season. Stills said then that he decided to comeback for two reasons – he wanted to keep improving his game and he was actually relishing the opportunity to step out from his older brother Darius’ shadow. Both reasons that made plenty of sense. And being able to watch two seasons of college tape of Dante as the leader of a defense and without the security of playing alongside Darius is actually something that will aid NFL scouts in truly evaluating the younger of the Stills’ brothers.
They are not the same person or plater, but Darius’ lack of success in the NFL could trigger some to have pause on what type of career Dante could have in the next level. Darius has only been able to be a member of two practice squads since leaving college. After not being drafted, which was surprising at the time, he signed with the Raiders, but didn’t make the team beyond that. He then signed a reserve/future deal with the Chiefs this past January. That didn’t pan out either.
But what about Dante?
Dante Stills’ 2022 season started off with a bang. He totaled six tackles against Pitt and registered 1.5 sacks of Panthers quarterback Kedon Slovis. Stills almost wrecked the game in favor of the Mountaineers. WVU lost, but Still showed up and showed out on a national stage in a game that was full of as much hype and attention as any other he’s ever played in. It was a packed atmosphere, even setting a Pittsburgh sports attendance record. Still’s stock increased that night.
That was then and this is now.
Since the Backyard Brawl, Stills hasn’t been able to display that type of impact in a game again, putting him behind the pace of 36 tackles and 7 sacks, his totals from a season ago. The week after the loss to Pitt, Stills only mustered one tackle in a loss at home to Kansas. WVU really needed Stills that night, but instead, the defense, a unit led by Stills, let down the offense, allowing 49 out of the Jayhawks 55 total points.
It was time for a mental reset after the Kansas loss, both for the team and Stills individually. He only had one tackle, but also didn’t play the whole game and wasn’t needed as his defense posted a shutout in a 65-7 victory (Towson’s only score was thanks to a kickoff return). But the problem for Stills is he’s only had 3 tackles in the last two games combined. WVU beat Virginia Tech pretty handily, and Stills did make some plays in that game that weren’t evident on the stat sheet, but the Mountaineers lost to Texas in a game that saw the Longhorns offense do whatever they wanted, especially in the first half. Just one tackle from Stills in that game and a failed effort by the defensive line to cause any significant havoc goes down as another bad night.
While the season isn’t over yet–something WVU fans are forced to remember in hopes enough wins can happen to salvage respectability– Stills needs to be a lot more productive in the remaining games. It can be argued that Stills is someone opposing coaches scheme for in the hopes of mitigating his impact. And Stills has still been able to make some plays and open up space for others like Sean Martin. Fans will even yell that he’s held on every play, and he is. But he still just needs to find a way do more.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier, but at least WVU and Stills have more time than usual to prepare for their next game, a Thursday night Big 12 battle with Baylor, with a bye coming up this weekend.
When it’s your last chance to highlight what you can do and impress enough people in the NFL to live out your dream, you need to have an impact in more than one game. It’s not to say Stills won’t step up and be great again, but that he simply has to. His brother can also serve as that reminder for him that college success in no way guarantees you even a legit chance at the NFL.