Neal Brown announces WVU football’s weekly awards

Gold and Blue Nation

The head coach had plenty to praise -- but here are the players who stood out on Saturday

After every victory, West Virginia football coach Neal Brown and his staff pore through the Mountaineers’ film from the previous week to determine which players deserve special recognition for their play.

WVU played its best game of the season as it defeated No. 22 Iowa State on Saturday, so some of this week’s honorees were tough to decide — but here is who Brown and his staff ultimately tapped this week:

Special Teams Player of the Week: Sam James, wide receiver

Junior Sam James is typically known for his play on offense. He has wowed Mountaineer fans for three seasons with his contributions to the pass game, flashing the ability to make difficult catches and gain extra yards with his speed and quickness.

This time around, the Mountaineer from Georgia made a pair of catches for 19 yards — but Brown and his staff saw James make an even bigger impact in WVU’s punt and punt return units.

“Watch Sam James on punt return. Unbelievable strain, fighting to do his job, and then watch him on punt coverage, he’s always the first one down,” Brown said. “We’ve done a really good job with punt coverage and low…net return yards, and he’s a big reason why.”

Defensive Player of the Week: Josh Chandler-Semedo, linebacker

As WVU’s mike linebacker, Chandler-Semedo has been a crucial piece to the WVU defense all season. He showed his value once more against Iowa State, tying his career highs in total tackles (12) and solo stops (9).

Chandler-Semedo had a strong second half of October, totaling 23 total tackles, two tackles-for-loss and a sack since WVU’s bye week.

“He’s playing his best football of his career right now,” Brown said. “I’m excited for him. He’s doing a really good job leading and communicating.”

Offensive Player of the Week: Jarret Doege, quarterback

Jarret Doege had a rocky start to the 2021 season, but showed a massive turnaround against Iowa State. The Lubbock, Texas native threw for 370 yards (the most for his WVU tenure, and the second-most in his college career), while completing 65.3 percent of his passes and adding three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions.

The redshirt junior signal caller handedly won the quarterback battle with Brock Purdy, and became the first passer in the league to reach 2,000 yards.

“He played the best game of his career until this point,” Brown said.

Offensive Lineman of the Week: Wyatt Milum, tackle

Milum was a highly-touted recruit out of Kenova, West Virginia, and he was largely thrown into the fire as a true freshman. As a unit, the offensive line visibly struggled in the beginning of the season — but it seemed to make a turn against Iowa State as it kept Doege on his feet and paved the way for 122 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

The Spring Valley product was a key piece to this, knocking down eight Cyclone defenders in what Brown called the best game of Milum’s young career.

“I thought he played extremely physical, he played hard….He was the most productive offensive lineman, that was Wyatt Milum,” Brown said. “As a true freshman starting against Iowa State, that was an impressive performance,”

Milum even earned praise from his comrades on the offensive line.

“I was proud of him, I think we all were to see him come out and play the way he did,” said guard James Gmiter. “He was very physical, his attention to detail was elite. He really took a step from previous weeks, like even from TCU in one week, he made a tremendous stride.”

Blue Collar Offensive Player of the Week: TJ Banks, tight end

Banks got his second start of the season against Iowa State and showed a massive improvement from his showing in the season opener. The head coach noted that Banks even had a more mature approach to the game, and feels much more comfortable about the offense after the loss of regular starter Mike O’Laughlin for the season.

In addition to his contributions to the run game, Banks caught his first passes of the season and chipped 34 receiving yards in to the Mountaineer pass game.

“He had some runs after catches, that was his most productive game, the best he’s played in his career here,” Brown said.

Blue Collar Defensive Player of the Week: Akheem Mesidor, defensive tackle

The sophomore Mesidor has routinely earned praise from Brown in his weekly press conferences, even in down weeks. Even though his stats haven’t quite shown it, the Ottawa, Ontario, Canada native has been integral to the Mountaineer defense, eating double teams and sticking to his assignments.

Against Iowa State, Mesidor made four tackles (his highest total since the season opener) and a tackle-for-loss.

“Akheem Mesidor is getting double-teamed every single play almost,” Brown said. “He strains.”

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