Another Loss For WVU ‘D’

Lineman McDougle looking for transfer


MORGANTOWN — With the Gold/Blue Scrimmage a week away, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen and defensive coordinator Tony Gibson received yet some more bad news.

ESPN freshman All-American Lamonte McDougle has elected to transfer.

McDougle, who recorded 23 tackles and two sacks in nine starts during WVU’s 7-6 campaign in 2017, apparently wants an opportunity to play in a system which allows defensive linemen to record more impressive stats.

Something that defensive linemen for the Mountaineers rarely accumulate because of Gibson’s use of the 3-3-5 alignment — a defense which depends on three linemen charged with gap control rather than using them to create havoc in the opposition’s backfield.

“I wouldn’t say a lot,” Gibson explained during Tuesday’s press conference when asked what he was happy about. “I would say I’m happy right now with our safeties. I like where they’re at. (Redshirt senior safety) Toyous (Avery) has been out the last few days, so we’ve been getting to rep (junior safety) JoVanni (Stewart) there a little bit.

“I think (redshirt senior safety) Dravon (Askew-Henry) is doing really well at Spur, and (sophomore safety) Kenny (Robinson) and (redshirt junior safety) Josh Norwood are doing a good job at free safety. So, I like where those guys are at right now.

“On our (defensive) line, I really like (sophomore defensive lineman) Darius (Stills), (junior defensive lineman) Reese (Donahue), (senior defensive lineman) Zeke (Ezekiel Rose), (redshirt sophomore defensive lineman) (Jeffery) Pooler (Jr.). Those four guys are showing progress, so we’re good there. We need a few more guys to step up.”

But, the pool of players from which Gibson, and defensive line coach Bruce Tall, has to choose from is quickly depleting, especially after the exit of Adam Shuler, who was expected to be a starter at defensive end but elected to not return so that he could transfer to a school that would also allow him to continue his track and field career.

Juco transfer Jalen Harvey also decided to not return prior to the spring and Jon Lewis and Xavier Pegues have graduated.

That leaves Gibson and Tall with Rose, Donahue and Stills as well as little used Jeffery Pooler and Stone Wolfley. Transfer Brenon Thrift has one year of eligibility after being on the scout team last fall while walk-ons Connor Barwis, Nate Green and Sam Cookman will see added work during the final days of spring.

Fans can also expect to see incoming freshmen Dante Stills, Tyrese Allen and James Gmiter earlier than expected if they can emulate McDougle’s learning curve from a year ago.

The remainder of the defensive unit appears to be solid.

“Linebackers, I like (redshirt sophomore linebacker) Tonk (Dylan Tonkery) at Mike right now,” Gibson said. (Redshirt sophomore linebacker) (Charlie) Benton is getting a lot more reps now with (senior linebacker) (Quondarius) Qualls out. And (freshman linebacker) (Josh) Chandler, the young kid, he’s getting a lot of reps at Will. And then, (redshirt sophomore linebacker) (Zach) Sandwisch and (redshirt sophomore linebacker) (Brendan) Ferns and (junior linebacker) (Adam) Hensley, guys that have been here, are coming along.

“At corner, we have three guys, four guys right now that are really playing as well as they’ve ever played here. (Redshirt junior cornerback) (Hakeem) Bailey, obviously, has a year more experience. (Redshirt sophomore cornerback) Jake Long, (redshirt sophomore cornerback) Sean Mahone, (redshirt junior cornerback) Keith Washington, (sophomore cornerback) (Derrek) Pitts (Jr.), they are getting to go up, obviously, against probably the best quarterback in the country, in my opinion, and some pretty good wide receivers. They do a good job of holding up, and we just have to continue to keep getting better.”

And, hope for no more defections or injuries this spring.