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 finished the entire offense, talking about the seldom-used tight ends and fullbacks. Tomorrow we will start on the defense with one of the most talented positions on the entire roster, defensive tackle.
West Virginia’s defense in 2019 was very close to the textbook definition of good but not great.
Overall, the defense was solid. WVU was fifth in the Big 12 in yards allowed per game (399.3) and eighth in points allowed per game (28.8). There were no glaring weaknesses in the starting lineup and the defense kept the Mountaineers in most of their games into the fourth quarter, with the exception of Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
Despite having good players and producing decent results, the defense lacked high-end talent and dominant performances. Outside of Darius and Dante Stills, the WVU defense lacked any real standout performers and outside of the game against Baylor it had few, if any, standout performances.
Heading into 2020, the Mountaineer coaching staff will be tasked with trying to up the play of the defense while replacing several key players from 2019. The defensive coaching staff will also have to deal with uncertainty as camp begins as defensive coordinator Vic Koenning is currently on administrative leave after being accused of racism and mistreatment by sophomore safety Kerry Martin.
On the field, WVU needs to replace two starting defensive linemen, two starting linebackers and three starting secondary players. The good news is that first team All-Big 12 defensive tacke Darius Stills decided to return to WVU for one last season of playing next to his brother instead of heading off to the NFL. The defense should also be fully healthy heading into 2020, something the team almost never saw last season.
Aside from some new starters, the defense will also be lead by a couple of new coaches.
Blake Seiler (special teams/inside linebackers) and Al Pogue (outside linebackers) left for new jobs this offseason. To replace them, head coach Neal Brown brought in Dontae Wright from Western Michigan and Jeff Koonz from Ole Miss.
West Virginia will be Wright’s first time coaching at a power five school, but Brown said he likes Wright’s track record thus far.
“He’s really a teacher, that’s what struck me when he came and visited with us, is what kind of teacher he was,” Brown said after the hiring was announced. “I think he relates well to all types of kids and I’ve been impressed watching him over the first couple weeks.”
Koonz, on the other hand, is a veteran of the Big 12 conference, having coached at Texas and Iowa State in the past. He said he came to WVU looking to build long-term success.
“The standard last year wasn’t met, just like coach Brown has said, but we are building it with the right foundation,” Koonz said. “If you don’t build it with the right foundation, you’re not going to have success long term. Everything that we’re doing is for long-term success and to have a basis for being able to do it every single year.”
Returning from last season’s staff will be Jahmile Addae coaching the defensive backs and Jordan Lesley coaching the defensive line. Former West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel will also be making his return to WVU as a defensive analyst this season.
Blake Seiler – Defensive Coordinator, Old Dominion
Al Pogue – Defensive Assistant, Auburn
Vic Koenning – Defensive Coordinator*
Jahmile Addae – Defensive Backs
Jordan Lesley – Defensive Line
Dontae Wright – Outside Linebackers (Western Michigan)
Jeff Koonz – Inside Linebackers/Special Teams Coordinator (Ole Miss)
*Currently on administrative leave
Update: July 22, 2020
WVU and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning have agreed to mutually separate.