MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The countdown to kickoff of the 2023 WVU football season has begun, and the Sept. 2 season opener against Penn State is quickly approaching.
A long time has passed since the Mountaineers last took the field in the rain in Stillwater at last season’s end. Since that win over the Cowboys, West Virginia has made multiple changes to its coaching staff, and has welcomed numerous new players into the program.
Before WVU takes the field for official practices this fall, here’s a review of the Mountaineer roster and coaching staff. This story will be updated over the coming days as we continue to preview each position group.
- Head Coach and Offensive Assistants
- Running Backs
- Wide Receivers
- Tight Ends
- Offensive Line
- Defensive Assistants
- Defensive Line
- Linebackers / Bandits
- Special Teams
Neal Brown enters his fifth year in charge of the Mountaineer football program. Chad Scott has been elevated to offensive coordinator and will continue to oversee the talented running back room. Scott will continue to coach from the field this fall, though who will be calling plays on gameday is still to be determined.
WVU will enter fall camp with junior Garrett Greene and redshirt freshman Nicco Marchiol competing for the starting quarterback job. Greene has a couple of starts under his belt, and Marchiol is the crown jewel of Neal Brown’s 2022 recruiting class. Brown’s confidence in both of the quarterbacks has kept him from adding another veteran presence through the transfer portal.
Even though WVU’s running back room lost its veteran leadership with the departure of Tony Mathis, it still remains one of the deepest position groups. Chad Scott’s offense will once again have options in the backfield as he plans to use multiple running backs each game.
West Virginia’s quarterbacks will be throwing to a plethora of new targets on the outside this fall. Each of West Virginia’s top four pass catchers from last year, in terms of receiving yards, exited the program this offseason, so there are a handful of opportunities for snaps for which to compete among inbound transfers and former rotational players.
Neal Brown knows he needs to see an increase in his tight-end production. None of West Virginia’s tight ends scored a touchdown in 2022. The group as a whole hauled in just 16 receptions for 153 yards last season.
With the two leading tight ends from 2022 exiting the program after last season, Brown decided to make a splash in the transfer portal.
Experienced. Talented. Versatile. Those are just three ways to describe the WVU offensive line, which returns a majority of its starters once again this fall. Anchored by All-American Zach Frazier, the group is expected to be West Virginia’s most dependable position room this fall.
There were zero personnel changes on the defensive side of the coaching staff. Jordan Lesley is back for his fifth year with the Mountaineers and fourth season at least partially in charge of the defense. Practically every defensive assistant is tasked with replacing at least one key contributor from his unit, and the internal feeling is that side of the football needs to see improvements this fall.
With the departure of three of the most veteran players on the defensive line, position coach Andrew Jackson not only must replace their leadership but also their production. A Mountain State native is expected to lead the charge up front in Sean Martin. He is the only defensive lineman who started for WVU last season.
In previous seasons, WVU’s defensive production has run through the mike linebacker position. Following the departure of multiple key defensive linemen, it’s likely that position will be relied upon even more heavily in the fall. Second-year Mountaineer Lee Kpogba returns to that position after leading the Mountaineers in stops a season ago, while veteran Jared Bartlett will lead the bandits.
West Virginia went to the portal in the offseason to try to add depth and experience to this position group, but a few returners do possess experience. Former walk-on Malachi Ruffin provided a spark to a turnover-starved secondary with some big plays last season, while youngsters Jacolby Spells and Andrew Wilson-Lamp picked up some valuable experience — and made some impact plays — throughout 2022. Expect speedster Montre Miller, a transfer from Kent State, to also make an impact in his first season in different shades of gold and blue.
Turnovers are not the defining factor for a defense, and they are a product of a variety of factors, but it’s rarely a good sign to be in last place in any statistic. WVU had the fewest interceptions (four) in the Big 12 last year. They also surrendered the second-most passing yards per game (262.7) in the conference.
With the return of two starters, and a pair of veteran additions via the transfer portal to challenge them, safeties coach Dontae Wright’s position group is expected to make a leap.
WVU’s special teams unit was the deciding factor in quite a few games for the Mountaineers last season. Now the program is tasked with replacing a number of starters in that phase, including Casey Legg, one of the top kickers in WVU history.