Sophomore nose tackle Akheem Mesidor is one of the top playmakers on the WVU football defense. He’s currently third on the team in tackles for loss with seven and third in sacks with 3.5, but if you look at just his numbers over the last few games, it shows that his production has dropped.
After tallying nine tackles in the season opener, to say opposing offenses took notice of Mesidor would be an understatement. He hasn’t had more than four tackles in one showing since. Defense coordinator Jordan Lesley said while the numbers do show a decrease, it’s a combination of getting more attention from offense lines and the extra load the team is asking Mesidor to carry, adding “isn’t quite fair to him.”
But if you want proof of how Mesidor can impact the game in ways that go beyond the stat sheet, look no further than the win over Texas. He only had one tackle, but he helped create defensive back Sean Mahone’s interception late in the fourth quarter.
That play helped WVU seal a 31-23 win over the Longhorns, keeping their bowl hopes alive.
“We put in a pass rush deal that we normally do not do where guys don’t really have a certain responsibility. They are working off the guy on their side. So, Akheem read the protection, ends up right in [Texas quarterback Casey] Thompson’s line of sight with his hand up. That makes the ball goes a foot or so higher,” Lesley said. “[Thompson] sails it because of his hand, and that’s just what he needed to miss his receiver and hit Sean Mahone. All he needed to do was catch the ball. It was a great play by Sean, I’m not saying that, but it was caused by Akheem Mesidor.”
That was just one example of how a play up front by Mesidor created a turning point for his teammates at other positions.
Lesley has been trying to instill in his defensive linemen that there are more ways to measure a successful pass rush than just with tackles for loss and sacks. While Mesidor’s play on that fourth down pick was evidence of that, the defensive lineman admits it’s challenging to look at his numbers and still equate them with success.
“It is frustrating due to the fact I really want to make plays, get tackles, sacks and TFLs, but what’s most important is doing my job,” Mesidor said. “So if I have to take up double teams to free linebackers or take up double teams so my teammates can have other one-on-one opportunities, I’m glad to do it.”