MORGANTOWN, WV (West Virginia Illustrated) – Year two of the Neal Brown era is right around the corner and West Virginia’s team is starting to fall into place.
While the team’s official 2020 schedule is still yet to be unveiled under the new nine-plus-one scheduling model, WVU Director of Athletics Shane Lyons indicated that the Mountaineers’ season could begin at home against Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 12. Before that happens, though, be sure you know what to expect when the Mountaineers take the field.
Below are the previews for each position group, and if you want more information, click each link.
- Outlook: Neal Brown is back for 2020 after going 5-7 in his debut season. His staff is mostly intact, however there are some new faces and new responsibilities after some departures and moving of furniture.
- Key returners: Austin Kendall (r-Sr., 9 starts), Jarret Doege (r-Jr., 3 starts)
- Outlook: The Mountaineers got off to a good start behind Kendall at 3-1, but a five-game skid led to a switch at the position to Doege. The new starter led WVU to a 2-1 finish with a pair of upsets on the road. Despite the change, Neal Brown hasn’t been quick to name a starter for week one.
- Key returners: Leddie Brown (Jr., 3 starts), Alec Sinkfield (r-Jr., 2 starts)
- Outlook: WVU’s rushing attack tread near the bottom of the nation in 2019, but just one loss on the roster from a year ago means that top returners like Brown and Sinkfield get another shot at a big year.
- Key returners: Mike O’Laughlin (r-So., 4 starts), TJ Banks (r-So., 0 starts)
- Outlook: The Mountaineers didn’t target tight ends all that much in 2019, catching just 10 balls for 42 yards, but it appears O’Laughlin and Banks are the top two guys competing for time at the position.
- Key returners: Chase Behrndt (r-Sr., 13 starts), James Gmiter (r-So., 10 starts), Briason Mays (r-So., 7 starts), Mike Brown (r-Sr., 6 starts), John Hughes (Jr., 0 starts)
- Outlook: WVU’s offensive line last season suffered from inexperience, and that showed up on the stats sheet — especially in the run game. They did, however, do a good job of keeping WVU’s quarterbacks on two feet. This season they obviously boast more experience and will look to build on their performance a year ago.
- Key returners: Darius Stills (Sr., 11 starts), Dante Stills (Jr., 3 starts), Taijh Alston (r-Jr., 0 starts), Jeffery Pooler Jr. (r-Sr., 7 starts), Jordan Jefferson (So., 1 start)
- Outlook: The defensive line may be WVU’s strongest position group, boasting a lot of quality experience. Most of this comes from the Stills brothers of Fairmont, with Darius hoping to build on his All-Big 12 first team 2019 season this year (he’s already off to a good start as the conference’s preseason defensive player of the year).
- Key returners: Josh Chandler-Semedo (Jr., 9 starts), Dylan Tonkery (r-Sr., 25 starts), Jared Bartlett (r-Fr.), Exree Loe (r-Jr., 3 starts)
- Outlook: WVU’s linebacking corps will largely look the same, led by Josh Chandler-Semedo and Dylan Tonkery, two of WVU’s top tacklers a season ago.
- Key Returners: Nicktroy Fortune (So., 2 starts), Tae Mayo (r-Fr.), Alonzo Addae (Transfer from New Hampshire)
- Outlook: The losses of Keith Washington and Hakeem Bailey will be difficult for the young group to make up for. Fortune boasts some starting experience with a pair of quality starts, while Mayo, Addae and Dreshun Miller looking to add some depth.
- Key Returners: Sean Mahone (r-Sr., 12 starts), Tykee Smith (So., 8 starts), Noah Guzman (Jr., 1 start)
- Outlook: Mahone and Smith will likely be the starters this year. Mahone was one of the top tacklers for WVU last season, ranking 12th in the conference with 6.7 stops every contest after switching from corner to safety. Smith played well enough in his true freshman campaign to earn All-Big 12 Honorable Mention and FWAA Freshman All-American nods.
- Note: Our Interactive Roster Breakdown for the safety position was written and published before sophomore Kerry Martin Jr. opted out of the 2020 season.
- Key Returners: K Evan Staley (r-Sr., 34 appearances), Kolton McGhee (r-Fr.), Kyle Poland (r-Sr., 1 appearance)
- Staley, the seventh-most prolific kicker in WVU history, is back for his senior season — but it will be the losses of punter Josh Growden and longsnapper Rex Sunahara that raise the question marks. Kolton McGhee will likely make his college debut at punter this season, while Kyle Poland will look to become a regular for the first time in his career as a senior.