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WVU Football Report Card: Defense Can’t Afford More Growing Pains

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After grading the West Virginia offense already, it’s now time to evaluate the defense. The defensive unit as obviously not been as strong or consistent as the offense, which has been most of the reason for the team’s struggles in its first quarter of the season.

Here’s the report card for the Mountaineer defense as the team sits at 2-2 (0-1 Big 12) and prepare to travel to Austin, Texas for a Big 12 matchup with the Longhorns.

Defensive Line: C

It might be strange to see a C grade for the aspect of the defense that includes one of the best players on the entire team, but that’s the case with the WVU defensive line. Dante Stills almost single handily wrecked the Backyard Brawl in favor of the Mountaineers, posting six tackles and 1.5 sacks against Pitt. Unfortunately, he was then missing in action the next week in one of the worst losses for the program in recent memory, recording only one tackle all night in the loss to Kansas.

The Kansas game may have just been an aberration, and that’s been covered already, but losing a game that sees your offense generate 42 points as you fail to put pressure on a quarterback who uses his legs to gain yards is just such a big hit. A strong showing in Blacksburg may mean this group has found itself again, which needs to be the situation with a tough stretch of the schedule ahead.

Was the Kansas Game Just an Aberration for WVU Defense?

Secondary: B

Maybe giving a B to a group that has only created one interception, granted it did seal the Black Diamond Trophy staying in Morgantown for the foreseeable future, but the secondary does deserve a bit of a curve this season. The secondary was supposed to be led by Charles Woods, who has been out since early in the Brawl, and it is remains unclear when (or if) he will actually return. Other than Woods, the secondary is full of either youth or transfers lacking experience in the system.

Jacolby Spells could turn out to be an unexpected contributor for the defense, and that was made evident in coming up with the pick late in the win over Virginia Tech. Opposing offenses will undoubtedly try to expose the secondary throughout the rest of the season.

Expect More Big Plays from WVU CB Jacolby Spells

Linebackers: C

Much like the defensive line, WVU’s linebackers came up small in a loss that can still haunt the Mountaineers before the season is over. Jared Bartlett even labeled his performance as just “so so” and that about sums it up perfectly. Defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley talked about there being too many missed tackles in his weekly press conference following the loss to the Jayhawks. Like with the line, this was cleaned up against Virginia Tech, and of course against FCS opponent Towson before that.

Defense: C

As stated earlier, it is fair to argue the Kanas loss was just a really bad at the office, and it is fair to view the Jayhawks as a good team now since they can argue for being worthy of a top 25 ranking, but it is just impossible to grade the defense as anything higher than a C right now. The defense let the offense down in the worst loss of a season that sit at .500 through the four games. Can the defense prove this grade is unfair and that they are as good as many thought they would be in the offseason? Absolutely. Was the defense solid in the loss to Pitt? Yes. Did they post a shutout as the team dominated Towson? Of course, but they that’s expected in that game. Did the defense show up in Blacksburg and help to retain the Black Diamond Trophy? 100%. But does the defense deserve a better grade overall so far? No.

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