West Virginia Preview 2006 - Defense
West Virginia Mountaineers
Preview 2006 - WV Defense
What you need to know ...
The defense didn't get nearly the credit the offense
received last season, but it was the better of the two finishing
15th in the nation in total D (as opposed to the offense, which
finished 50th), and 13th in scoring defense. The only worry is
in the secondary where almost everyone needs to be replaced.
Eric Wicks is a strong safety to build around, but it's asking a
lot to replace last year's all-star group. The front six in the
3-3-5 alignment should be tremendous with one of the Big East's
best linebacking corps and enough depth to make wholesale
Tackles: Kevin McLee,
Keilen Dykes, 5
Interceptions: Several with 1
Star of the defense: Senior LB Kevin McLee
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior CBs
Antonio Lewis and Larry Williams
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Marc Magro
Best pro prospect: McLee
Top three all-star candidates: 1) McLee, 2) SS Eric
Wicks, 3) LB Jay Henry
Strength of the defense: Depth on the front six, middle
Weakness of the defense:
The line should grow into one of the strengths of the
defense with size and depth. The one thing missing is a sure-thing pure
pass rusher, although Johnny Dingle is expected to become one. There's
good experience despite the loss of all-star Ernest Hunter, and there
should be enough quality depth to do come up with several different
The key to the unit: Get in the backfield more. That's mostly the
job of the back eight to take care of, but this group needs to hit more
Defensive Line Rating: 7.5
- DE Johnny Dingle, Jr. - 13 tackles, 3 sacks, 3.5 TFL
A pure pass rusher who didn't produce all that much last year, the
255-pound junior will get the first look on the outside after playing
behind Craig Wilson last year. He has the speed to be the team's sack
leader now that the full-time job is his.
- NT Pat Liebeg, Jr. - 14 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
Coming back from a knee injury, Liebeg became a nice backup behind
Ernest Hunter last season. He's a strong 270 pounds who has grown into a
terror in the weight room. He's one of the team's stronger players and
should be a rock on the nose.
Keilen Dykes, Jr. - 29 tackles, 5 sacks, 8 TFL
Back for yet another year as a starter, Dykes has been steady, but
hasn't lived up to his potential. He's 6-4, 290 pounds and athletic
enough to be a dominant interior pass rusher. Consistency is the key
needing to be the type of lineman who demands double teams.
- NT Craig Wilson, Sr. - 31 tackles, 1 sack, 4 TFL
Wilson has moved around on the line spending most of his time on the end
last season. While he could certainly move back to the end, he saw most
of his time at nose tackle this spring providing more quickness up
front. The 260-pound senior isn't a pass rusher, but he's active.
- DE Warren Young, Sr. - 22 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL
More of a tackle than an end at 295 pounds, Young is versatile enough to
play anywhere on the line. He'll start off being used occasionally on
running downs to add more bulk up front replacing the 255-pound Johnny
Dingle, but he'll be moved around when needed.
- DT Doug Slavonic, Soph. - 4 tackles
At 6-8 and 260 pounds, Slavonic should be a tough tackle to throw over.
While he'll still need to do some work to be a consistent, every down
tackle, his sheer size makes him too interesting not to see more time
behind Keilen Dykes.
This group should be really, really good. Kevin McLee is a
big weakside linebacker who should be one of the Big East's best
all-around defenders, while Jay Henry and Marc Margo can each star in
the middle. The question is on the strongside where Bobby Hathaway and
Reed Williams have to replace Jeff Noechel. There are plenty of good
backups and several nice young prospects waiting in the wings.
The key to the unit: Get everyone on the field. If
this isn't the Big East's deepest linebacking corps, it's number two.
With all the talent, there's no reason not to form a strong rotation.
Linebacker Rating: 8
- Kevin "Boo" McLee, Sr. - 78 tackles, 2 sacks, 7 TFL, 1
interception, 5 broken up passes, 2 fumble recoveries
McLee needed to come through on the outside last year, and he did in a
big way finishing second on the team in tackles on the way to All-Big
East honors. He's a huge weakside linebacker at 255 pounds who's
surprisingly good against the pass. When turned loose, he a can be a
great pass rusher with good closing speed. Now he should be a fringe
- Jay Henry, Sr. - 62 tackles, 2 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 4 forced fumbles
The Academic All-American certainly knows what he's doing as the
quarterback of the front seven and has grown into a strong leader. He's
a huge hitter able to play anywhere in the linebacking corps and on
special teams. With the emergence of Marc Magro, Henry might see a
little bit of time on the outside to get everyone on the field.
- Bobby Hathaway, Jr. - 27 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 broken up pass
A nice reserve last season, Hathaway appears ready to start on the
strongside. He's a smart defender who should grow into a strong player
against the run cleaning up when teams run away from Kevin McLee and Jay
- Marc Magro, Jr. - 41 tackles, 3 sacks, 6 TFL, 2 forced fumbles
While Jay Henry might be the heart-and-soul leader of the defense, it
wouldn't be a shock if Magro took over the starting job in the middle
with bigger size at 240 pounds and tremendous strength. There needs to
be a spot somewhere for him on the field, but he'll likely be a key
backup early on.
- Mortty Ivy, Soph. - 44 tackles, 2 TFL, 5 broken up passes, 2
The star high school quarterback and scout team defender turned in a
whale of a season finishing seventh on the team in tackles even as a
backup. All set to be a top player in the rotation this year, he hurt
his knee this spring and is questionable at best for fall practice. He's
fast, athletic and tough, but he needs to get healthy.
- Reed Williams, Soph. - 5 tackles
Purely a special teamer last year and seeing a little bit of garbage
time on defense. He's a bigger option than Bobby Hathaway on the
strongside with the athleticism to be a dangerous pass rusher.
- Barry Wright, Sr.
The Florida State transfer could quickly find his way into a big role on
the defense. He's far more talented than the backup coming out of spring
ball, Reed Williams, with the athleticism to be a difference maker. He's
6-2 and 220 pounds whith speed, speed and more speed.
The secondary needs to do some patching up
after losing top corners Anthony Mims and Dee McCann and first team
All-Big East safeties Jahmile Addae and Mike Lorello. Safety Eric Wicks
is an all-star who should be one of the team's top tacklers. There's a
lot of practice experience among the new starters, but it could be a
little while before everything starts to come together. Forget about any
The key to the unit: Pick off passes. Last year's
secondary wasn't exactly air tight, but it took away 17 interceptions
and made up for bad plays by coming up with big ones later on. The
mistakes have to even out with the positives.
Secondary Rating: 6.5
- CB Antonio Lewis, Jr. - 23 tackles, 4 broken up passes,
2 TFL, 2 sacks,
Lewis has mostly been known for being an all-star kick returner, but the
5-10, 190-pound junior should do even more as a defender. He has great
speed and is a decent tackler. Now he has to make more big plays when
the ball is in the air.
- SS Eric Wicks, Sr. - 61 tackles, 1 interception, 3 broken up
passes, 3 sacks, 6.5 TFL, 4 forced fumbles
Back at his starting spot, Wicks is a huge hitter and has a knack for
coming up with game-changing plays. The second-team All-Big East
selection only picked off one pass, but he returned it for a 31-yard
touchdown against Syracuse. The team's fifth leading tackler should be
even more consistent and more of a leader.
- FS Abraham Jones, Sr. - 14 tackles, 1 interception
Mostly a big special teamer so far, Jones has nice range with cornerback
speed and 6-1, 190-pound size. Now he has to replace all-star Jahmile Addae
and be the same sort of playmaker. He's one of the team's best
- BS Ridwan Malik, Jr. - 21 tackles, 3 TFL
Malik is a great hitter with a smart, physical style of play. He might
not be Mike Lorello and might not lead the team in tackles, but he'll
come up with a few highlight reel hits and should produce a few
- CB Larry Williams, Jr. - 4 tackles, 1 interception
Mostly a special teamer so far, Williams has good size and tremendous
speed. He was groomed last year to be ready to take over this season,
and he has all the tools to grow into the job even though he'll be
battling with Vaughn Rivers for the starting spot until fall.
- FS Quinton Andrews, RFr.
It's just a question of time before he takes over the free safety spot.
The 5-11, 210-pound Andrews hits like a ton of bricks and has enough
athleticism and talent to be a major playmaker right off the bat.
Abraham Jones isn't a lock for the job.
- CB Vaughn Rivers, Jr. - 2 tackles, 6 catches, 38
One of the team's top return men, Rivers will be in the hunt for a
starting corner job after spending last year at receiver. He has seen a
little bit of time on the defensive side over the years and has the
quickness and overall experience to step in and be decent.
- SS John Holmes, Soph. - 1 tackles
An interesting prospect behind Eric Wicks, Holmes is a former linebacker
with good speed and big-time hitting ability. He's 225 pounds, fast, and
- CB Kent Richardson, RFr.
He'll eventually take over one of the starting jobs. He's one of the
team's fastest players and has enough talent to see time right away even
though he could still use a little more polish.
- BS Akeem Jackson, Sr. - 4 tackles
Purely a special teamer so far, Jackson has been around
long enough to finally start to make an impact on defense backing up
Ridwan Malik at boundary safety. While he's a solid tackler, his cover
skills are mediocre.
The kickers are young, but they should be among the most
talented in the nation. Next year they could be one of the team's
biggest strengths. Vaughn Rivers will handle most of the return game
after averaging 12.2 yards per punt return and 23.9 yards per kick
return, but the slightly more dangerous Antonio Lewis will also get his
share of tries.
The key to the unit: The young kickers have to live
up to their immense talent as soon as possible.
Special Teams Rating: 8
- PK Pat McAfee, Soph. - 11-18 FGs, 48-49 extra points
McAfee has a great leg and is fantastic on kickoffs. He struggled a
little bit too much on his consistency on field goals last season
failing to show off enough of his range missing four kicks from beyond
40. An talent, experienced sophomore, he should be steadier.
- P Scott Kozlowski, RFr.
Phil Brady was nice and steady, but he wasn't
anywhere near the player Kozlowski is expected to be. Considered to be
the nation's number one punting prospect a few years ago, Kozlowski has
a huge leg averaging 46.3 yards per game as a high school senior.