With loss of Jaleel Fields and Adam Shuler, WVU’s depth on the defensive line has dipped to a dangerous level.
On the recruiting front West Virginia did not close many of their hopeful targets. The Mountaineers were able to sign ESPN 300 in-state target Dante Stills but failed to sign any defensive ends in the 2018 class. Alex Williams, a defensive end from Pickering, Ohio, originally committed to the Mountaineers but flipped to Ohio State at the last moment during the early signing period in December. The Mountaineers made a hard push to sign junior college standout Emmitt Gooden on signing day in February. The coaching staff had Gooden on campus in late January where he was sighted watching the men’s basketball game against Kentucky with defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. Despite these efforts though Gooden committed to Tennessee and deprived the Mountaineers of another prized defensive talent.
A defensive line that lacked depth during the 2017 season is quickly heading in the same direction. There are only three scholarship defensive ends currently listed on the roster. While Ezekiel Rose, Reese Donahue and Stone Wolfley all played meaningful snaps in 2017, there is little depth at a position where four to five players typically rotate through during a game. Making matters worse defensive lineman often fight injuries and WVU now has no margin or error for the 2018 season. With the fast-paced offenses of the Big 12, it is key for defenses to be able to keep pressure on the quarterback late in the game. When depth becomes an issue, defensive lineman become tired and are unable to keep pressure on the opposing quarterback. In a league known for elite quarterbacks and prolific passing attacks, this is a dangerous situation for the Mountaineer defense.
The coaching staff with likely look to try and move a player from defensive tackle to defensive end. It is a tough time to try and lure transfers but WVU will be searching hard for graduate transfers like they have in the past with players like Shaquille Riddick. Adding additional defensive ends will be key in the next couple months as the team heads towards the beginning of the season.