INSTITUTE, WV (WOWK) – West Virginia State is preparing for year seven under head coach John Pennington.

“They’re coachable, they know how to lead, they hold each other accountable, they have high standards,” said Pennington. “All the things you want as a coach this team has.”

This program is an exciting one to watch right now.

2022 was their first full season on the new field, and they finished 7-4.

“We had the number one rush offense in the region last year,” said Pennington. “So we feel great about the run game. The defense can stop the run, so it’s been a battle with them. The defensive line is great. So we feel like we can run the ball, stop the run, and a quarterback with a lot of experience so that’s a good formula for a good season.”

This will be quarterback Donovan Riddick’s fifth year under center for the Yellow Jackets, his fourth as captain.

“He’s been in some battles and won some big games for us, learned a lot along the way and we can go as far as he takes us,” said Pennington.

“We’ve been here. We know what we have to do this year, and I think we have the pieces to do it,” said Riddick.

One of those pieces is running back Joel Felder, a transfer from FIU.

“I just wanted to show what I was about,” said Felder. “I was a transfer and didn’t play where I was at, so this was my breakout year.”

Felder finished his first season with State totaling 859 yards on the ground and 8 touchdowns. He’s setting the bar even higher this year.

“The single season rushing record is 1,066. I will be breaking that this upcoming season. That’s what I’m looking for,” he said.

“I do want a championship since I’ve been here for quite awhile,” said fifth year defensive back and South Charleston grad Jalen Jones. “But mainly the connection I have with this team. Like I just wanted that to keep going.”

Jones is a weapon on the other side of the ball for State.

Even though he graduated in the spring, he says it was an easy decision to come back and play for one more year.

“Everything is just going up for this program and I can’t wait to see the near future,” said Jones. “That’s one of the reasons I came back. I couldn’t walk away from it. Especially having one year of eligibility, I had to come back.”

Pennington also added 30 new recruits to the roster, 22 are from right here in the Tri-State.

“I mean that’s the heart and soul of our football program,” said Pennington. “Guys from within the local area, and not just West Virginia but also across the river in Ohio and Kentucky.”

There are just over 2 weeks left of fall camp.

West Virginia State will open its 2023 season on August 31st at Morehead State.

The home opener is September 7th against UNC Pembroke.