West Virginia lost some key contributors in its secondary from the 2020 season. It finished No. 1 in the nation among Power 5 schools in total defense and No. 1 nationally in passing yards allowed with 159.6 per game. It may be without a few playmakers in the secondary, but with the talent returning, starting safety Alonzo Addae said this defense has even bigger expectations for 2021.
“Definitely don’t expect a drop off at all. If anything, we have bigger and better expectations for ourselves. Obviously, last year we had great success but at the same time, we didn’t get to the place we wanted to be — at the end of the day we were able to play for a Big 12 Championship. That’s our main goal right now, so no drop off at all,” Addae said. “We have the talent to be able to do the same things, if not better, so I hope Mountaineer Nation is expecting to see a greater defense out there.”
Addae and Sean Mahone are the top two returners and both held starting roles in 2020. The room did lose Tykee Smith but it has some promising newcomers, including Scottie Young, that have something to prove.
Here’s a closer look at the safeties:
Alonzo Addae — redshirt senior
“The individual stuff will come. At the end of the day, it’s about building up my teammates and making sure we are all on the same page to have team success.”
Addae not only brings talent, but he also possesses the leadership qualities the secondary needs this upcoming season. In his first year competing as a Mountaineer, he finished second on the team in tackles with 66 total, including 38 solo. He tied for the team-high with two interceptions and finished No. 2 in pass breakups with five. Addae also forced a fumble last season. In his WVU debut, he tallied seven tackles, an interception and a pass break up, setting the tone for what was to come.
When Addae made his decision to use his extra year of eligibility with the program, it wasn’t just about proving he could take his game one step further.
“After coming here thee years ago and having to sit out that first year, being presented with the opportunity to come back was almost like a blessing. It was like it couldn’t have happened any better, especially with me coming here and expecting to play two seasons and having to sit one,” he said. “It was a big deal for me, especially being a senior leader to build up the next generation of Mountaineers.”
Now, that doesn’t mean he isn’t just as hungry to one up his production from last season.
“The most interceptions I’ve ever had in a season is four, so this year I’m trying to get five,” Addae said. “I’m always trying to better my game and do better than the previous year so I feel like the opportunity to put five interceptions on my slate will be great for me.”
Sean Mahone — redshirt senior
Mahone joins Addae in using his extra year of eligibility in 2021. He is one of the most experienced players on the WVU roster and has been with the program since 2016. Over his four-year career, he’s played in 42 games and amassed 143 total tackles, seven TFLs, two sacks, two interceptions, five passes defended, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries.
He started all 10 games last season and tallied 54 tackles, two TFLs, one interception, and four PBUs. Mahone led WVU in tackles as a junior with 80, including two sacks, five TFLs, a forced fumble, an interception, and a pass breakup.
Scottie Young — redshirt senior
After playing at Arizona from 2017-19, Young transferred to WVU. He sat out during the regular season but impressed in his role on the scout team. However, he was allowed to play in the bowl game with the Mountaineers and made four total tackles that game, three solo. His work throughout the year and in his WVU debut didn’t go unnoticed by his head coach.
“He’s made a lot of plays this spring and made a lot of progress in bowl prep. He did a really great job on scout team, very similar to Alonzo Addae — Alonzo did a great job on scout team and you could really see him getting better, he really used the developmental group and Scottie followed his same path. Scottie really grew from a leadership standpoint so he’s got a lot of trust with our team,” Coach Brown said. “I thought he played at a high level in the bowl game and has followed that up playing both our spear and safety positions. I think he has a chance to be an upper-level guy in our league.”
Addae agrees that his fellow DB is poised for a break-out year in 2021: “Expectations should be through the roof for him. I don’t see no limit to the things he can do on the field.”
At Arizona, Young started 29 of the 32 total games he played in and amassed more than 150 tackles, seven pass breakups, and five interceptions. In his final season with the program, he was the this-leading tackler with 66 total stops, 50 solo, and also logged 2.5 TFLs, 3 PBU, and one pick.
Young will be counted on this season as the secondary lost some key players, including safety Tykee Smith. He took over Smith’s starting spot in the bowl game.
Quaemaezius Mosby — redshirt senior
The Wheeling, West Virginia, native started his collegiate career at West Liberty before joining the Mountaineers in 2019. He sat out that season due to transfer rules. Mosby played in three games in 2020, finishing with a tackle.
Malachi Ruffin — redshirt junior
Ruffin redshirted in 2018 and did not see game action in 2019. Ruffin was a main contributor on special teams last season and recorded stats in three games, finishing with four total tackles, three solo. For his efforts in that phase, he was named the team’s most productive player on special teams this spring. Coach Brown said Ruffin was also getting some work at corner this spring due to lack of depth at the position.
L’Trell Bradley — redshirt junior
Bradley played two seasons at Susquehanna University before joining the Mountaineers. The program did not have a 2020 season due to COVID-19. In 2019, he tallied 47 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, two interceptions and six passes defended. His career total through two years with the River Hawks — 19 games, 76 tackles, 53 solo stops, 1.5 TFLs, two interceptions, eight passes defended, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
In the spring game, he finished as the Gold team’s leading tackler, finishing with five total, including four solo.
Kerry Martin Jr. — redshirt sophomore
After a break out freshman season, Martin Jr. opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19/heath concerns. He finished as the sixth-leading tackles in 2019 with 50 total and No. 4 in pass breakups with five. He played in all 12 games and made four starts at free safety.
“He’s back on the scene and I expect nothing less from KJ. He will be a great player for us in the secondary,” Addae said of Martin.
Coach Brown said Martin Jr. was a little rusty to start the spring as expected, but he has grown in the weight room since his freshman season.
Saint McLeod — freshman
McLeod played running back and defensive back at Imhotep Charter High in Philadelphia. His program did not compete in the fall due to the pandemic, but it did have a shortened spring season. He registered 22 tackles, one sack, seven TFLs and an interception through four games as a senior and earned a spot on the Pennsylvania All-State First Team. As a junior, it was 73 tackles, including 46 solo stop, three sacks, five TFLs and two picks. ESPN ranked McLeod as the No. 22 prospect in Pennsylvania.
Coach Brown tabbed McLeod as one of the players from the 2021 class that has the ability to make an immediate impact with the program.
Davis Mallinger — freshman
Mallinger is one of WVU’s eight early enrollees. He was originally listed as “athlete” on the roster but now has an S next to his name. Coach Brown believes Mallinger could make an early impact on special teams this year, and depending on his learning curve, at safety as well. An area of emphasis in the spring/off-season for the newcomer is getting valuable work in the weight room. He’s also already impressed returning starter at the position, Alonzo Addae.
“Sky is the limit for him. He’s a young player, and just got here, but he’s already showed he belongs. He’s fast as fast can be,” Addae said of Mallinger. “He’s a speedy player and will give us great depth in the secondary, so I put no limits on Davis. I think Mountaineer Nation should definitely be excited about him.”
As a receiver in high school, he caught 49 passes for 818 yards and seven touchdowns in 2020. He also tallied 85 rushing yards and one score. He played his senior and junior seasons at Cocoa High in Florida and was named to the 2020 All-Brevard County First Team and All-State First Team 4A.
Avery Wilcox — redshirt freshman
Wilcox was one of two players that snagged an interception in the Gold-Blue game. He returned the pass thrown by Will Crowder 46 yards for a touchdown. He also recorded two tackles.
Tykee Smith tied with Addae for a team-high two interceptions last year and also for No. 2 in pass breakups with five. He was the fourth-leading tackler, finishing with 61 total to go along with eight TFLs. Over his two-year career, he played in 22 games and amassed 114 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, four picks, 13 passes defended, and a forced fumble. Smith entered the transfer portal during the spring. The Mountaineers also lose a trio of players that added depth at the position in Jake Long (transfer portal), Osman Kamara (graduation) and Dante Bonamico (graduation).