Now that their 2019 slate of games is complete, it’s on to the next phase of the climb for West Virginia football.
The season is far from over for the Mountaineer coaching staff, who immediately went on the recruiting trail hoping to bring in the next class of players for their program. Their 5-7 record for the year shows that they have a lot of growing to do, and Neal Brown and his staff know exactly which areas they need to improve.
On defense, Brown says it’s clear: they need to add three defensive linemen, at least three defensive backs, and possibly even another linebacker.
Out of those, Vic Koenning says it’s a no brainer which position group they need to emphasize.
“Defensive line and DBs. Without hesistation,” said the defensive coordinator. “We do gotta get a guy that can be someone on the edge speed-wise, but we’ve gotten a fair number of sacks this year, just some because of scheme, some because of guys winning inside battles.”
West Virginia did have one of the fiercest defensive lines in the Big 12, racking up 33 sacks in 2019 (second in the conference). It’s still a passing league, and the best way to stop a quarterback is to get him before he throws it — which is why Brown says adding those defensive linemen is “critical in our league.”
“We’ve gotta get better edge pressure, and we’ve got to learn how to blitz, and take the edges and kind of get some explosion and how to finish,” Koenning added. “We’ve had so many times we’ve had sacks where we couldn’t get him down, we were just a step away or we didn’t have the right angle. And so those are all things that we’ll continue to get better.”
West Virginia’s secondary didn’t exactly slouch it through the season this year, either, but with critical guys like Keith Washington, Hakeem Bailey and Josh Norwood moving on, they have to fill some big shoes.
They’re already off to a good start with that position group, receiving verbal commitments from a pair of three-star prospects in cornerbacks David Vincent-Okoli of Gaithersburg, Maryland and Jairo Faverus of Bristol, England. In addition, junior college prospect Jackie Matthews has verbally signaled his intention to join the Mountaineers.
West Virginia’s offensive focus mainly stays in the trenches as well. The Mountaineers had the worst offense in the Big 12, and their woes began on the ground (they averaged just 73.2 rushing yards per game). In order to get better in that phase, Brown says they need to bring in an offensive lineman, a running back (which he says is an “important piece” to their class) and at least one wide receiver.
“We have got to get better at offensive line, we’ve got to bring in some guys,” said co-offensive coordinator Matt Moore. “We’ve got some really good commits that we’re really excited about. They’re going to be young, but they’re the kind of kids we’re looking for from a physical standpoint.”
The Mountaineers have already pulled in verbal commitments in those positions form four-star commits from the New York/New Jersey area — running back Lamy Constant of Brooklyn, NY, and offensive guard Chris Mayo of Hightstown, New Jersey. They are still looking to bring in talent on the offensive line, though, and they’re looking beyond high schools to make that happen.
“We’ve got a couple spots looking for a possible transfer or junior college, older guy we’ve gotta bring in,” Moore said. “So I think that, and the running back position — we’ve got to have some guys that can make some plays. Really the O-line and the running backs, that’s where we’ve gotta pick it up, and we’ve definitely gotta get our run game going.”
Brown and his staff will find out if their hard work paid off when the early signing period concludes on Dec. 20. Transfers will be finalized on Jan. 15, 2020, with the full recruiting class rounding out at the end of the regular period on April 1, 2020.