Slotting Them In - Defense

Last week we looked at the newcomers on the offensive side of the football and how they might fit in when they arrive on campus. Today, we switch over to the defensive side.

A couple rules before we start. First, we might move some players around from the positions they were recruited for - hey, it's our site! But we won't do that blindly - we'll have reasons for it.

Second, we'll try to note where academics may come into play, but remember that's a fluid situation that seems to change almost daily. We won't know who will be on the field until about halfway through fall camp, and it's not even spring yet!

Finally, remember that the redesigned WVU defense is still being worked on, and will likely go through changes and modifications right through fall practice. We expect even more shuffling and position changing, especiallyd uring spring.


Assuming WVU goes with three down linemen, we're looking at two different types of players. The nose guard, who plays head up over the center, will have to be strong, able to angle quickly to avoid double teams, and keep defenders off the mike linebacker behind him.

Among the incoming players, the nose suits Rachid Stoury to a T. In fact, were WVU playing a 4-3 look, Stoury might not have gotten an offer. However, with his short stature and low center, he's perfectly suited for the position.

We expect returnee David Upchurch to man this spot as the starter, so Story could be looking at a redshirt.

At tackle, expect juco Fred Blueford to get an immediate look for playing time. WVU will be looking for tall and strong players at this spot, and at 6-5, 280, Blueford fits the bill. Big Warren Young, who was pursued late by Auburn, might also have a chance to play in 2002. Craig Wilson, a defensive end during his high school days, will also probably begin his career at this spot.

One other player who could figure is defensive end Pat Liebig. Depending on how other players qualify, Liebig could enroll in the fall or delay his entry until next January.

Blueford, Young and Wilson will join returning toughman Tim Love and inconsistent Jason Davis as the likely first line of defense.

A group of young players with very little experience, including Ben Lynch, Rod Olds, Earnest Hunter and Matt Ameri, will be counted on for depth alongside end Kevin Freeman. West Virginian Kelvin Dubouse, should he earn his eligibility after sitting out this season, could also make some noise.


Immediate help is needed due to graduation and lack of depth, so this is yet another spot where newcomers have a chance to see some playing time.

Juco graduate and January enrollee Leandre Washington will get the advantage of spring practice to make an impact at one of the outside linebacker spots, so we would be surprised if he is not figuring in the two deep roster by fall.

Jay Henry of high school power Jenks (OK) might have a slight leg on up his competitors to avoid a redshirt, but Taylor Ownbey and Ben Clemmons will also get a chance to fill in.

Akeem Jackson might also be in the picture at linebacker, but he could also play one of the combination safety/linebacker spots that will be carried over from last year's defense.

Finally, Pennsylvanian Kevin McLee could also get a look here, even though the signing day comments about McLee were geared toward the offensive side of the ball. McLee looked good during summer camp linebacking drills, so we wouldn't be surprised to see him on defense at some point, assuming that he qualifies. If that were to happen, one of the other LBs could move to fullback.

This crop of players will compete with returning star Grant Wiley, pass rushing specialst James Davis and another cast of young faces. Adam Lehnortt has some playing time on defense, but behind him special teams performers and redshirts like Shane Graham, Scott Gyorko and Alex Lake will have to grow up quickly.

The addition of Derrick Pope, should he decide to sign with the Mountaineers, would also help a great deal from the depth perspective.


This is the most diverse group on the defense. At this point, WVU plans to employ some of the same alignments as last year's defense, with two cornerbacks, a free safety, and two combination linebacker/safety types. For the sake of this article, we'll call this last position "rovers", although the nomenclature for the actual positions hasn't been settled yet.

WVU signed a host of cornerback/safety types, as the defensive backfield was hard hit by graduation. Freshmen Adam Jones, Mike Lorello, Tywan Napper, Jamil Tyson and Krys Williams will enter a big derby for playing time behind holdovers Lance Frazier, Brian King and Lew Daniels. Jahmile Addae could be in the picutre at free safety, or possibly at one of the rover spots.

Dwayne Mundle, who enrolled in January, is expected to be an immediate competitor for a backfield position as well. His additional year of school in Canada (equivalent to a prep school year in the U.S.) gives him a definite maturity advantage.

Of the fall enrollees, Jones could make the biggest initial impact, but we expect at least two of these players to avoid a redshirt. The second could be Napper, but qualifying is a big hurdle for him at this point.

At the "rover" spots, project Joe Hunter could be an intriguing subject to watch. Hunter's all-around athletic ability caught the coaches' eyes, but his lack of formal football training will likely be the biggest roadblock for him to overcome. As mentioned previously, Akeem Jackson could also step into one of these positions.

The returnees and other candidates at the rovers include Angel Estrada and a group of question marks, mostly due to lack of previous playing time. Arthur Harrison and Brown Faavae (who is sitting out this year due to academics) seem to be the most suited to this position, although Faavae could also end up as a safety.

Overall, expect to see a good bit of shuffling through the spring as players get tried out at multiple positions. The outside linebacker and "rover" spots could see some traffic, but we expect most of the musical chairs to take place in the secondary, as the coaches try to find the right mix of cover corners, multipurpose safeties, and speedy rovers to make their visions of the 2002 Mountaineer defense a fearsome reality.

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