Over the past three seasons, Josh Chandler-Semedo has solidified himself as a key part of West Virginia’s defense. As a senior, his role will be increasing even more as he takes over at mike linebacker.
The guy in that position last season, Tony Fields, is awaiting his NFL fate, so while those are big shoes to fill, Chandler-Semedo is more ready than ever. The bulk of his starts over the past three seasons have come at will linebacker, but he does have experience at mike, including filling in for Fields in the Liberty Bowl.
“I’ve been here for three years, started on the defense for two years, so I’m pretty comfortable rotating around. I know both positions, I’m extremely comfortable,” Chandler-Semedo said. “I’m being dual trained by Coach Koonz. We’ve had a lot of work in the off-season. All year last year, I was the backup mike, as well. I’m extremely comfortable at both spots.”
Most of his reps this spring season have come at that position, and the last time he played in a game in that spot, well, I don’t know if there could have been a better outcome. Chandler-Semedo had a team-high 13 total tackles, including 10 solo, one tackle for loss, one forced fumble, and his interception with 29 seconds left sealed the 3-point win over Army. That earned him the title of the bowl’s MVP and a spot on the USA Today and Associated Press All-Bowl Teams.
“He’s leaner, he’s faster. I think he’s picking up right where he left off in the bowl game,” head coach Neal Brown said. “I think that’s given him a lot of confidence and it’s carried over to this semester.”
Brown said No. 7’s confidence is at an all-time high and that’s helped him progress as a leader.
“Josh is really maturing this semester. He’s growing into a leadership role and figuring out what it means to be a leader, what it means to set the standard every single day,” Brown added.
Chandler-Semedo is growing vocally, but leading the Mountaineers is nothing new for him. The difference heading into his senior season is that he is actually ready to be in that position.
As a sophomore, he earned a spot in the starting lineup and finished as WVU’s second-leading tackler on a team that looked to replace the production of David Long who is now with the Tennessee Titans. That year, it wasn’t just Chandler-Semedo’s talent the defense was counting on.
“I was a sophomore and we were thrown into leadership positions being starters and we had to go out there and be in roles we weren’t necessarily ready for,” he said. “I feel like last year, and especially this year, I’ve grown into that leader. Not only on the field, but knowing how to say it, knowing how to communicate with the younger guys, being able to motivate guys like myself that have been here in college for years, and really just get the best out of everybody.”
Due to a knee injury, he played in six games in 2020 and was No. 3 on the team in tackles. Fields and Alonzo Addae were the two ahead of him.
After learning the ropes at both linebacker spots over the past three years from guys like Long and Fields, it’s safe to say the starting mike spot is in pretty capable hands for 2021.