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Brown Eyeing Line Help, Secondary Depth With Final Scholarships

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Even while working remotely, West Virginia head coach Neal Brown has not stopped evaluating his football team.

During a video call Wednesday morning, Brown said the team is still looking to use its final few scholarships to add to the 2020 roster.

“We’ve got two, possibly three (open scholarships), but we’ve got at least two,” Brown said. “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.”

Those three areas, offensive line, defensive line and the secondary, are where the Mountaineers will see the most turnover from 2019 to 2020. Brown has talked about adding graduate transfers in the past and those three position groups could stand to benefit from adding experience.

Offensive Line

Brown will need to replace three starters along the offensive line in 2020. Both tackles, Colton McKivitz and Kelby Wickline, graduated following the season and center/guard Josh Sills was injury early in the year and eventually transferred to Oklahoma State.

Entering this year, WVU returns interior linemen Michael Brown, Briason Mays, James Gmiter, John Hughes and Chase Behrndt, who all saw time last season. Mays and Behrndt split time at center following Sills’s injury, however, Mays struggled at times against Big 12 competition and Behrndt is recovering from surgery this offseason. Brown has talked about the possibility of true freshman Zach Frazier getting some time at center when he gets to campus in the fall.

At tackle, Brown has talked about using young players like sophomore Junior Uzebu or freshmen Parker Moorer and Brandon Yates, all of whom have never seen in-game action. The team will also have junior college transfer Tairiq Stewart when he joins the team in the fall.

Defensive Line

Despite being one of the team’s best units, the Mountaineers struggled to maintain depth along its defensive line all last season. Taijh Alston missed nearly the entire season with an injury, leaving Brown to use mainly a four-man rotation; The Stills brothers, Dante and Darius, Jeffery Pooler Jr., and graduated senior Reese Donahue.

Brown specified he was looking at the interior of the defensive line. Alston and Jeffery mainly play on the ends, leaving just the Stills Brothers returning from last season’s team on the interior. As good as they were, Darius was All-Big 12 First team, Dante was All-Big 12 Second Team, Brown will need more depth beyond just those two. Sophomore Jordan Jefferson saw some playing time as a true freshman last season and the team will have JUCO transfer Quay Mays as well.

Secondary

WVU’s secondary might have taken the hardest-hit from graduations after last season. Three starters, Keith Washington, Hakeem Bailey and Josh Norwood all graduated and signed UDFA contracts with NFL teams.

At safety, the team will return Kerry Martin Jr., Noah Guzman and Sean Mahone, who all saw starting time last season. WVU also added JUCO All-American Jackie Mathews to the group. Freshman All-American Tykee Smith will also return at spear. Cornerback, however, is where question marks exist.

Sophomore corner Nicktroy Fortune is the only corner who saw significant playing time in 2019. Fortune playing in 11 games and made two starts down the stretch. Classmate Tae Mayo played some, but not even enough to burn his redshirt, so he will enter 2020 still a freshman. Other than those two there will be Dreshun Miller, who missed all of 2019 with an injury and true freshman Jairo Faverus, coming over from Europe, and Daryl Porter Jr.

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Cody spent the last two years getting his master's degree in journalism from WVU. 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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