2018 West Virginia Football Position Preview: The Defensive Line

Mountaineer coaches are optimistic that a largely unproven D-Line could prove to be a strength this season.

The West Virginia defensive line is intriguing this year. The unit has the potential to be very good and even reasonably deep, despite the fact that they will rely on youngsters to both start and add that ever coveted depth. The problem is that very little of that talent or depth has proven itself reliably on the field. Lamonte McDougle’s decision to transfer after a productive freshman campaign, as well as the departures of Jaleel Fields and Adam Shuler will at the very least impact depth if not production along the defensive line.

The two deep listed below doesn’t foretell the whole story of what is to come this season for the DL unit. Tony Gibson may have been being a bit facetious recently when he made comments that he would play four down lineman at a time in a 4-2-5 alignment, but it speaks to the apparent depth at one or both of the DL and LB positions. Regardless of if we ever see four big guys out there at once, the DL will need more than 6 viable options in the trenches.

The Starters

Nose Tackle

Darius Stills is a three star, in state prospect out of Fairmont. He’ll step into a starter role as a sophomore after spelling fellow freshman Lamonte McDougle last season, who has since transferred to Washington State. During the spring, the coaching staff was adamant that Stills was taking huge strides and developing into an impact player. As most know, Darius is the son of Mountaineer great Gary Stills, who was an All Big East standout before getting drafted in the third round and spending a long career in the NFL. The hope is that Darius, and eventually his brother Dante (who we’ll get to in a minute) will be able to replicate some of their father’s productivity.

Defensive End

Ezekiel Rose and Reese Donahue are listed as the top two ends. Before coming to Morgantown, Rose was featured on Last Chance U on Netflix as a member of East Mississippi CC. Rose appeared in all 13 games for the Mountaineers in 2017 and started in three. Rose showed flashes of talent and athleticism a year ago. If he can just become more consistent it will go a along way to securing the weak side and hopefully providing some pressure on Big 12 quarterbacks.

Just a Junior, Reese Donahue was already appeared in 25 games and made 13 career starts. The Milton, WV native brings the most experience to his group of starters. Despite the experience, he has only managed to record 1.5 sacks in that action. While Donahue has proven to be reliable, he will need to make more of his time and up his production for the Mountaineer front to be successful.

The Backups

Nose Tackle

As a redshirt senior, Kenny Bigelow, Jr transferred to Morgantwon from USC. During his extended time playing college football, Bigelow has missed two full seasons and was was only able to appear in six before hanging it up last season. At 307, he’s the second biggest player on the D line roster, and should be able to help clog the middle if he can manage to stay on the field.

While Dante Stills is not listed on the 2 deep above, the four star freshmen and brother of the aforementioned Darius is thought by many to be the future of the position at WVU. Stills was the number one ranked prospect in the state of West Virginia. He turned heads when he arrived on campus looking much more like a man than a boy, and has turned heads during workouts and practice. He needs to find ways to produce on the field as a freshman. Defensive Coordinator Tony Gibson has assured everyone in interviews that Dante will play, but to what extent, and maybe even at what position remain to be seen.

Defensive End

Jabril Robinson and Jeffery Pooler, Jr are listed as the second string ends. Pooler got on the field in five games last season as a redshirt freshman and failed to register a stat.

Jabril Robinson is a graduate transfer from Clemson. While his production numbers aren’t awe-inspiring, he showed signs and saw the field on one of the deepest and most talented offensive line groups in the country. He is listed as an end for the Mountaineers, despite playing at one of the tackle spots in Clemson’s 4-3 scheme. Hopefully, once he learns his position, Robinson, who was buried behind unbelievable NFL talent and depth at Clemson, can better show off his own talent.

Beyond that, even with excellent injury luck, others will have to prove viable. Only time will tell who it will be.

Highlights

Source: Smoking Musket