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. We looked at the defensive coaching staff yesterday. Monday we will finish the defensive line by looking at the defensive ends.
While the rest of West Virginia’s defense will undergo significant turnover heading in 2020, the strongest position group from last season, defensive tackle, will remain largely intact.
The fate of WVU’s interior defensive line was in question following last season. Senior starter Reese Donahue was set to graduate and then-junior Darius Stills would have been a sure pick in this year’s NFL draft, had he decided to declare. In December, the fate of defensive tackle became clear, when Darius announced that he would return to the Mountaineers in 2020 to play one final season with his brother, Dante.
Together, Darius and Dante Stills make up one of the best defensive line duos in the country and should be the anchors of WVU’s defense this season. Last season, the Stills brothers combined to make 72 tackles, 26 tackles for loss and 14 sacks. Darius, the older brother, was named to the Al-Big 12 First-Team while Dante was named to the All-Big 12 Second-Team.
Since deciding to return for his senior season, Darius has attracted a lot of attention this Summer, being named the preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, and to the watch lists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy and the Chuck Bednarik Award.
Even though the Mountaineers use a three-man front on defense, Darius and Dante were on the field together often last season. A defensive end is often used as the third down-lineman and the team employs a bandit linebacker for additional pass rush. WVU successfully used a four-man front against Kansas State, however, lack of depth along the line limited the team’s ability to use it.
Behind the fabulous Stills brothers, there will be an opportunity for playing time with Donahue having graduated. Sophomore Jordan Jefferson saw limited time in 11 games last season, making five tackles. Head coach Neal Brown also added junior college recruit Quay Mays from Northwest Mississippi Community Collge. Mays had 29 tackles, four for a loss with one sack last season.
Reese Donahue – Graduation
Returning Players (2019 Stats):
Sr. Darius Stills (47 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 7 sacks)
Jr. Dante Stills (25 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 7 sacks)
So. Jordan Jefferson (5 tackles, 1 TFL)
R-So. Josh Ritchie
R-Fr. Caydan Keeler
R-Jr. Quay Mays (Northwest Missippi C.C.)
Any battles in camp will be for who plays behind the Stills brothers. Jefferson and Mays seem to be the top two choices that could establish themselves in camp this summer.
Sr. Darius Stills
Jr. Dante Stills
The Stills brothers are going to power the defensive line this season. They should both play a ton of snaps and their production could dictate the effectiveness of the entire defense.