It’s been a comeback season of sorts for the West Virginia Mountaineers. They started off with a close loss to Alabama, one of the best teams in the country, followed by two victories against Towson and Maryland. Then it was a loss to Oklahoma, and now a win against Kansas. But, for the Mountaineers to compete on a consistent basis with the Bama’s and OU’s of the college football world, the defense must get bigger up front. Literally.
In both losses, WVU was crushed by their respective opponents’ offensive lines. The Mountaineers gave up 301 yards rushing to the Sooners; 242 of those were to freshman running back Samaje Perine. Against Alabama, the Mountaineers allowed 288 yards on the ground, with TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry both going over 100 yards. Even versus Maryland, who WVU beat, they gave up 163 rushing yards, but the Terps averaged over 6 yards per carry. If Dana Holgerson’s staff is serious about competing for Big 12 titles, and eventually, National Titles, the run defense has to get better.
The Mountaineers have switched from a 4-3, to a 3-4 defense, this year. But, they don’t have the right personnel to use it effectively just yet. Up front the Mountaineers average 283 pounds on the line, and their nose tackle, Kyle Rose, is only 294 pounds. They need bigger, two gap players in order to be able to hold up on the front line. Look at the Notre Dame defensive line that spearheaded one of the best line’s in the nation last season. Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix III, and Kapron Lewis-Moore were all well over 300 pounds. In order to run a 3-4 defense effectively, WVU has to get massive players up front. That will, in turn, hide the linebackers and allow them make the plays.
Alabama, who also runs a 3-4, has enormous guys up front as well. None of them weigh less than 300 pounds, and thanks to their depth, they are able to bring in multiple players of the like in waves.
But there is good news for WVU: their recruiting ties in Florida are once again strong, and they are starting to effectively recruit in Texas. So getting the bigger recruits to come to Morgantown should start to become a little easier. Even the “lower rated” recruits from Florida/Texas can be difference makers with the right coaching. Programs such as UCF, and TCU, who aren’t usually at the tops of the recruiting ranks, have developed nationally recognized programs thanks to good recruiting, and great coaching.
For as long as Dana Holgerson is in control of the program, the West Virginia offense will always be able to light up the scoreboard. But in order to compete with the teams at the top of the Big 12, getting bigger up front defensively is going to be a necessity. First, they must find the players with the right size, then work on getting the depth. With no defense, WVU will always be just a middle of the pack team, that can “pull off the big upset” on occasion. That’s not what the University, coaches, players or fans want here. For as long as I can remember, a National Title has been the ultimate goal in Morgantown. The saying is true: offense wins games, but defense wins championships. Here at WVU, there is no defense…. yet.