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Neal Brown Points to Sean Martin as Candidate to Fill Leadership Void for Defense



WVU Football DL Sean Martin with flag

For the first time in a long time, WVU football will not have a Stills brother on the roster to lead the defense. It may not be possible for West Virginia to replace the production, or even intangibles, that Dante Stills brought to the team, but how important is it that the Mountaineers find a new leader for the defense?

During his first press conference of the Spring, head coach Neal Brown was asked which players could fill the leadership void left by Stills and what goes into determining if they are up to the task. After raving about how well Stills (and Bryce Ford-Wheaton) are handling themselves throughout the NFL Draft process, Brown immediately thought of one name as far as a player he feels can a captain type for the defense – Sean Martin.

Martin, who is entering his junior season, finished the 2022 season as a clear starting member of the defensive line. He played in all 12 games, starting eight of them. Martin recorded at least 1.5 tackles for a loss in four of those games and had his best day with a couple sacks in the program’s first win over Oklahoma since joining the Big 12. But it’s not just about production for Brown when it comes to his belief that Martin will step up even more this year, possibly becoming the player everyone else looks to for guidance, much the way the team looked at Stills.

“Sean Martin’s played a bunch of football. He’s as talented as anyone we have. And my expectation is his production is going to match his talent, maybe even exceed that this year. But he’s also one of the best people we have in our program,” said Brown of Martin. Those are some big words and high praise for the Bluefield High School product.

The WVU coach entering his fifth season leading the Mountaineers then expounded on what all goes into a leader. “Who are your leaders? Well, your leaders are your best players, your hardest workers and your best people,” he detailed. Once again, describing everything he feels Martin represents and brings to the team. “Sean Martin, he fits all three of those criteria,” said Brown.

Brown then confirmed his thoughts on Martin. “He’s more comfortable. He’s more confident. Now he can feel like a leader of that group,” he addd.

If Brown’s prediction ends up coming to fruition, WVU football will have its next great defensive player on the defensive line and its next leader in Martin, and be able to get all of that in another West Virginia native. It won’t be fair to expect Martin to be Dante Stills, a player who finished his career at WVU breaking the program’s all-time tackles for loss record and is likely headed to the NFL, but Still’s departure does leave the door open for someone like Martin to step up, something that could be necessary for the Mountaineers to get things turned around.

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