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Meet the Mountaineers: Projecting Every Starter for The 2020 Season

Cody Nespor

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Over the last three weeks, I went over the entire West Virginia football roster heading into the 2020 season position by position.

In that 15-part series, called ‘Meet the Mountaineers’, I look at each position’s key departures from last season and all the returners and new additions on the 2020 roster. We also talked about what battles there will be for each position as camp starts and projected who I think the starter at each position will be to begin the season.

In this story, I will compile all the starter projections I made throughout the series and make one full list projecting WVU’s entire starting lineup. I will also link out to every story I wrote on each individual position so you can easily go and read more about any specific position if you want to.

Quarterback: R-Jr. Jarret Doege

After a strong showing at the end of the year, Doege would appear to have the edge on Austin Kendall at the moment. Without a Spring game or spring practices, however, it is hard to guess how much each has progressed since the end of the year. What we do know is that Doege was much more effective and productive in his playing time in 2019 than Kendall was.

Running Back: Jr. Leddie Brown

All offseason head coach Neal Brown has been tabbing Leddie Brown as the team’s feature back for 2020. So long as he stays healthy, Brown should get enough carries to have a pretty nice season when all is said and long, as long as he can be more productive than in 2019.

Wide Receiver: R-So. Sam James, R-Sr. T.J. Simmons, Jr. Sean Ryan

James, Simmons and Ryan were WVU’s starting receivers at the beginning of the season last year. With all three back for 2020, they should be in line to start again.

Center: R-Sr. Chase Behrndt

As much excitement as there is surrounding Zach Frazier at the moment, we saw with Briason Mays last season how much a young center can struggle against Big 12 defensive linemen. With Behrndt fully healthy, he does look like WVU’s best center heading into the season.

Left Guard: R-Sr. Mike Brown

Right Guard: R-So. James Gmiter

Both Brown and Gmiter established themselves at guard last season and their spots should be relatively safe for 2020. The only cause for concern would be if Mays or Frazier beats Behrndt out at center. Behrndt’s position flexibility means he could play either guard spot if he is not the guy at center.

Left Tackle: R-So. Junior Uzebu

Right Tackle: Jr. John Hughes

Offensive tackle might be the most up-in-the-air position on WVU’s roster so projecting starters is a little difficult. In the end, I do not believe that Brown and Moore would move Hughes out to tackle if they did not think he would start there. On the other side, Brown has talked very highly of Uzebu and the improvements he has made since last Fall. With Moore’s aversion to playing young linemen, I could see Uzebu’s one extra year of seniority putting him over the top compared to Parker Moorer or Brandon Yates.

Tight End: R-So. Mike O’Laughlin

O’Laughlin more or less already as the starting tight end job locked down. Even if Charles Finley or T.J. Banks had a breakout camp, O’Laughlin played well enough last season to secure a portion of the tight end snaps for 2020 no matter what.

Fullback: R-Jr. Jackson Knipper

With O’Laughlin playing tight end, Knipper should get most, if not all, of the fullback snaps this season. A Western Michigan transfer prior to last season, Knipper has played in eight career games.

Defensive Tackle: 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.

Defensive End: R-Sr. Jeffery Pooler Jr.

Pooler was WVU’s week one starter last season and improved considerably as the year went on.

Bandit: Jr. Vandarius Cowan

Cowan’s upside, coupled with the fact that he has barely played since coming to WVU makes him a bit of a wildcard, but I believe in the performance he had against Texas last season.

Mike Linebacker: Jr. Josh Chandler-Semedo

Expect Chandler-Semedo to constantly be on the field and to constantly be around the football.

Will Linebacker: R-Jr. Exree Loe

Loe played exceedingly well at times last year and should also have a very big role.

Cornerback: R-Jr. Dreshun Miller, So. Nicktroy Forunte

Had he not gotten injured last preseason, Miller would have played a lot of snaps for WVU last season. The one benefit from the injury would be that he has now had an entire year to familiarize himself with the playbook and that he will have the next two seasons of eligibility to play for the Mountaineers. For Fortune, he would not have played as much as he did last season if the coaching staff did not believe in his talent.

Spear: So. Tykee Smith

WVU did not add any new spears this offseason, so unless someone already on the roster learns the positions, Smith seems guaranteed to start.

Cat Safety: Sr. Sean Mahone

Mahone’s play last season should also secure him the starting role.

Free Safety: R-Sr. Scottie Young Jr.

As for Young starting over Kerry Martin, I do not think Brown would have brought Young in if he did not intend to start him.

Kicker: R-Sr. Evan Staley

I think Staley will stay on as the team’s primary placekicker, but I could see Casey Legg acting as a sort of situational weapon, handling the long kicks and kickoffs.

Punter: Sr. Tyler Sumpter

Sumpter is pretty easy to peg as the starter, I doubt Brown would bring him onto the team for one season and he not be the punter.

Long Snapper: R-Sr. Kyle Poland

I have no idea how long snappers are evaluated, but Brown has shown that he values experience in the past and, as a fifth-year senior, Poland has the edge over J.P. Hadley.

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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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