MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — They’re the last line of defense, and in the Big 12 Conference, they’re among the most decisive players on the field.

WVU fans will look to their secondary to help carry on WVU’s recent success on defense, but there will be plenty of new faces in that room that might be unfamiliar. The Mountaineers have experience with that, though, as much of their 2021 secondary was comprised of new starters.

Defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley does have plenty of talent to work with for the fall, and it all starts with one of the team’s top returners.

Here is what WVU’s defensive back rotation will look like:

Cornerbacks

Charles Woods, senior

Charles Woods warms up during a WVU football spring practice in 2022. (Photo: Jamie Green)

WVU’s top returner in the secondary burst onto the scene in 2021 with a breakout performance in his hometown against TCU, logging five total tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery in WVU’s win. He kept the pace up through the end of the season, finishing the campaign with 29 tackles, two fumble recoveries and two picks en route to an all-conference honorable mention from Pro Football Focus, which was especially laudatory of Woods.

The Illinois State transfer is already getting high marks for year two in Morgantown. After a strong spring season, Athlon Sports named Woods to its Preseason All-Big 12 Third Team, while Phil Steele tabbed him on his All-Big 12 Fourth Team.

Malachi Ruffin runs through a drill during a 2022 WVU football spring practice. (Photo: Jamie Green/Gold and Blue Nation)

Malachi Ruffin, redshirt senior

Listed as a safety on the team’s roster, Ruffin has played cornerback for WVU over the last two seasons. He started at the position in the Gold-Blue Spring Game, logging three tackles.

Ruffin has played in 21 games for the Mountaineers and finished the 2021 season with 10 total tackles.

Andrew Wilson-Lamp, redshirt freshman

Wilson-Lamp played in four games as a freshman in 2021 but went the whole season without logging any stats. In the spring game, however, he did record a tackle and a pass break-up.

Aubrey Burks (20) defends Kaden Prather (3) while the ball is in the air at the 2022 Gold-Blue Spring Game. (Photo: Ryan Decker/Gold and Blue Nation)

Originally recruited as a wide receiver, Wilson-Lamp flipped to WVU’s defense, and his coaching staff said he has fought through those growing pains and made a positive adjustment to cornerback.

Marcis Floyd, redshirt junior

Floyd comes to West Virginia with a wealth of Division I football experience, departing Murray State in the offseason with four interceptions and 46 total tackles to his name. The two-time All-OVC selection enrolled in WVU in January and immediately got to work with the Mountaineers.

WVU fans got their first look at Floyd in the spring game when he logged a pair of tackles for the Gold team.

Aubrey Burks (22) celebrates after making an interception in the 2022 Gold-Blue Spring Game. (Photo: Ryan Decker/Gold and Blue Nation)

Safeties

Aubrey Burks, sophomore

Burks got some solid playing time at the start of the season as Alonzo Addae’s backup at the outset of the season, but a season-ending injury against TCU cut his season short after just six games. Still, he finished the season with two solo stops.

This year, Burks is poised to take a bigger role in the defense. He led the Gold-Blue Spring Game with five total tackles and was the only Mountaineer to nab an interception in the spring game as well.

WVU safety Davis Mallinger works on his footwork during WVU’s spring football practice on April 2, 2022. (Photo: Anjelica Trinone)

Davis Mallinger, redshirt freshman

Mallinger contributed on special teams in 2021 and will likely get a bigger role in that phase in 2022. His biggest role growth will be in the secondary rotation after logging two solo stops in his first season with the Old Gold and Blue.

In the spring game, the Floridian started at spear for the Gold team, recording a tackle.

Jasir Cox, senior

Cox was an All-Missouri Valley Football Conference linebacker at North Dakota State and was third on the team with 58 tackles as the Bison went on to win the 2021 FCS National Championship. At WVU, however, he will slot in as a spear, the team’s hybrid safety-linebacker position.

Cox has some skills as a defensive back. He nabbed three picks last season, good for second on the team, including two against Illinois State (the former squad of Charles Woods).

Naim Muhammad, redshirt sophomore

Muhammad caught some bad luck as a redshirt freshman in 2021, missing the entire regular season with an injury. He did, however, appear in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl at spear for his fifth appearance as a Mountaineer.

Key Departures:

Alonzo Addae (graduation/CFL), Sean Mahone (graduation/NFL), Scottie Young (graduation), Nicktroy Fortune (transfer), Daryl Porter Jr. (transfer), Jackie Matthews (transfer)

Check out some of our previous roster reviews: