Meet the Mountaineers is a series previewing every position on West Virginia’s football team for 2020. Every day we will focus on a different position group and look at all the players we will see there in 2020. Yesterday we went over WVU’s linebackers. Tomorrow we will stay in the secondary with safeties.
As with offensive tackle on the other side of the ball, West Virginia will need to start two new players at cornerback this season.
Last season’s starters, Keith Washington II and Hakeem Bailey both graduated following the season and both signed as undrafted free agents into the NFL, Washington with the Saints and Bailey with Seattle.
Washington and Bailey both had productive senior seasons and, more importantly, stayed most healthy throughout the season, limiting how much playing time the corners behind them could get.
One of the only times there was playing time available was against Iowa State, when Washington was out with an injury and Bailey was ejected in the second half. Without either starting corner, head coach Neal Brown had to turn to then-true freshmen Nicktroy Fortune and Tae Mayo.
Fortune played 80 snaps against ISU and proved that he was capable enough to take some of the pressure off of Washington and Bailey. Fortune played in 11 games throughout the season, playing on more than 40 snaps four times. Mayo, on the other hand, gave up a touchdown against ISU and actually did not play against for the rest of the season, preserving his redshirt.
The following week at Oklahoma, Washington was again out with an injury and Bailey had to sit out the first half due to his ejection the week prior. Fortune started on one side of the field, but instead of starting Mayo on the other, Brown moved safety Josh Norwood to corner for the first half.
Heading into the season, neither Fortune nor Mayo were going to be the team’s primary backup at cornerback. Junior Dreshun Miller had come to WVU in January as a JUCO transfer from Eastern Arizona College and was supposed to play a big role on WVU’s defense. Unfortunately, Miller suffered a knee injury in the preseason that took away his entire 2019 season, forcing him to redshirt instead.
A healthy Miller in 2020 is looking like one of the team’s top options at corner this season. Receiver Isiah Esdale lives with Miller and played with him at Eastern Arizona and believes that he can be a big factor in the Mountaineer defense.
“(Miller’s going to bring) some lockdown D on that side,” Esdale said during the 2019 season. “I can’t remember him giving up a deep ball in junior college. He’s going to bring a lot, he’s a great player.”
Brown also added three cornerback recruits in this season’s recruiting class that might have an opportunity to play, David Vincent-Okoli, Jairo Faverus and Daryl Porter. JUCO transfer Jackie Matthews played cornerback at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College last season, but Brown has said that he will play safety at WVU.
Keith Washinton – Graduation, UDFA with New Orleans
Hakeem Bailey – Graduation, UDFA with Kansas City
Returning Players (2019 Stats):
So. Nicktroy Fortune (17 tackles, 2 PBU)
R-Fr. Tae Mayo (2 tackles)
R-Jr. Dreshun Miller
R-So. Malachi Ruffin
R-Fr. Tacorey Turner
R-Sr. Alonzo Addae
R-Jr. Quamaezius Mosby
Fr. David Vincent-Okoli
Fr. Jairo Faverus
Fr. Daryl Porter
With only Fortune getting significant playing time last season, there will be a lot of unknowns among the cornerbacks to start the year. Even a guy like Miller, who Brown and company seem to like, has never played in an actual game yet. The three primary options right now seem to be Fortune, Miller and Mayo, but any of the new recruits could impress enough to see playing time as well.
R-Jr. Dreshun Miller
So. Nicktroy Fortune
Had he not gotten injured last preseason, Miller would have played a lot of snaps for WVU last season. The one benefit from the injury would be that he has now had an entire year to familiarize himself with the playbook and that he will have the next two seasons of eligibility to play for the Mountaineers. For Fortune, he would not have played as much as he did last season if the coaching staff did not believe in his talent. I would expect Mayo to also contend for a starting spot, but otherwise play a similar role to what Fotrune’s was last season.