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The Offensive Line is the Final Thing on Neal Brown’s Offseason Checklist

Cody Nespor

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A few weeks ago West Virginia head coach Neal Brown clearly laid out his roster plans for this offseason.

Brown highlighted the offensive and defensive lines and the secondary as areas where he would be interested in adding transfer players.

“We’ve got two, possibly three (open scholarships), but we’ve got at least two,” Brown said during a video call with reporters. “I think the spots where we have needs; offensive line, I’d like to potentially add an interior defensive lineman and then we’re thin in the secondary. Those are the three areas that, if we can find the right fit, that we’d like to add to our roster whenever we do return.”

In the last couple of days, Brown has successfully filled two of those three desires.

Over the weekend, Arizona grad transfer Scottie Young announced his commitment to WVU. Young, a safety, helps to bolster the Mountaineer secondary that graduated three starting players after last season.

Young brings some much-needed experience to that group, joining fellow safeties Sean Mahone and Kerry Martin Jr. The addition of Young could also free up JUCO transfer Jackie Matthews to play cornerback, whereas Brown’s initial plan was to play Matthews at safety.

Just yesterday, Brown received some more good news, with former Maryland pass rusher Bryce Brand announcing his commitment to transfer to West Virginia. At 5-foot-11, 248 pounds, Brand is not the interior lineman that Brown had talked about wanting, but he will still add experience and depth to WVU’s defensive line.

If Brand plays defensive end, he would join a rotation with Jeffery Pooler Jr. and Taijh Alston, while the Stills brothers, Dante and Darius, and Jordan Jefferson played along the interior. If Brand plays bandit linebacker, he could rotate with Vandarius Cowan and Dylan Tonkery. Either way, depth along the defensive line was a concern last season and Brand should help to mitigate that.

That just leaves the offensive line on Brown’s offseason wishlist, an area that might desperately need some help.

With the graduation of tackles Colton McKivitz and Kelby Wickline and the transfer of Josh Sills, WVU’s offensive line is severely lacking playing experience.

The team will return interior linemen Michael Brown, Briason Mays, James Gmiter, John Hughes and Chase Behrndt, who all saw some playing time last season. Any of those five can play at guard and Mays and Behrndt can play center. The team will also have true freshman Zach Fraizer in the mix at center when he gets to campus in the fall.

At tackle, however, the team returns virtually no playing experience. This offseason Brown has talked about having to rely on young players like Junior Uzebu, Parker Moorer or Brandon Yates, none of whom have seen in-game action before. The team will also have JUCO tackle Tairiq Stewart when he joins the team in the fall.

If Brown were to add another transfer this offseason, center and tackle appear to be the most likely areas.

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Cody is currently a second-year graduate student at West Virginia University studying journalism. His graduate research focuses on the effects newspaper closures have on local communities. He graduated from Slippery Rock University in 2018 with a degree in digital media production. He was born and raised in Mercer, Pennsylvania.

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