Morgantown, WV – The 2018 season has had hype surrounding it ever since the end of last years devastating bowl loss to Utah. It might be too early to start throwing out expectations, mostly due to several departures among the defense.
Yesterday, the team learned of sophomore defensive lineman Lamonte McDougle wanting to seek permission to contact other schools. Just a few months ago, fellow starting defensive lineman Adam Shuler announced that he would be leaving the football program and is looking to continue his track career and defensive back Kevin Williams announced his departure earlier this week.
This now leaves the Mountaineers with one returning starter from last years team, junior Reese Donahue. Senior Ezekiel Rose started gaining more playing time as the season went on and eventually took over the job, so you could potentially consider him a returning starter.
Many fans on social media have been questioning what is going on in Morgantown and if there is a reason there have been this many transfers. I, personally, do not have an answer other than it might be possible that those certain players did not want to compete for their job. I will, however, not assume that was the case, it is just the first thing that comes to mind.
Losing Adam Shuler was a big loss, but McDougle leaving the program may be the biggest head scratcher. Not only did McDougle see legitimate playing time as a true freshman, but he started 11 games and may have been the most consistent piece up front for the Mountaineers and was named to the ESPN 1st team All-Big 12 Freshman Team. With that said, it is very rare that a player with that much success as a freshman would want to look elsewhere to play.
So where will the production come from?
It has been noted that sophomore Darius Stills has made a smooth transition to the nose tackle position and has jumped out in the eyes of defensive coordinator Tony Gibson and Head Coach Dana Holgorsen, which may have been what pushed McDougle out of a starting spot. Penn State transfer Brenon Thrift and freshman James Gmiter will also be in position to push for some playing time behind the presumed starter, Stills.
The defensive end position will be anchored down by Reese Donahue and Ezekiel Rose with sophomores Jeffery Pooler and Maverick Wolfley. Freshmen Dante Stills and Tyrese Allen are also fighting for time.
Here’s an overall glance at the defensive line since the end of last season:
Added- Tyrese Allen, Dante Stills, James Gmiter, Brenon Thrift
Departures- Jaleel Fields (transfer), Xavier Pegues (graduation), Jalen Harvey (transfer), Lamonte McDougle (transfer), Adam Shuler (transfer) and Jon Lewis (graduation).
Obviously, more losses than additions, which means that the coaching staff will be hitting the recruiting trail hard and they already have one commit secured with Jalen Thornton out of Cincinnati, OH.