Much has been made about the 2012 Mountaineer defense, or lack therof. In a perfect world we wouldn't have lost five starters, switched almost the entire defensive staff, and switched schemes. To say nothing of the quantum leap from Big East to Big 12 offenses. On the defensive line, especially, depth was an issue. While the unit had two returning starters in Shaq Rowell and Will Clarke, everything after that was a question mark.
For me personally, anytime someone on the defensive line went down with an injury I immediately went into panic mode. Which was followed shortly thereafter by full on riot mode.
I'm the guy doing pushups
Yes, these were indeed dark days for the defensive minded football fans of the Mountaineers. The good news is, those days are over. Both Clarke and Rowell return for their senior year at defensive end and nose guard respectively. More importantly, they're bringing friends with them this year.
Along with Rowell at nose guard is sophomore Christian Brown. By all accounts Brown has made huge strides from where he was a year ago as well as packing on a few extra pounds. What has generally been a tough position for the Mountaineers to recruit looks to at least be solid for this year.
Joining Clarke at defensive end is a bit of a tossup. Chances are very good that Dontrill Hyman will be the other starting defensive end. But having said that, it's easy to see that there are quite a few choices to fill in opposite Clarke. Eric Kinsey saw the field in 12 games as a true freshman. Reports out of camp are that he is pushing Hyman hard for the other starting spot. Noble Nwachukwu, a red shirt freshman is also in the mix. Kyle Rose played in all thirteen games as a redshirt freshman a year ago.With his size, he could also move down to the nose guard position if needed.
The one wild card in all this is Darrien Howard. He was just cleared by the NCAA to join the team and will probably redshirt. But word is that he showed up to camp somewhere between 275 and 300 pounds. He's listed as a linebacker, but it might be that he's growing into a spot on the defensive line.
The addition of Hyman along with the maturing of Kinsey, Rose, and Nwachukwu means the Mountaineers go into 2013 in much better shape at defensive end. An improved Christian Brown also means the center of the defensive line should be strong. It's not a guarantee of anything. But if everything starts up front, the 2013 Mountaineer defense won't look anything like the 2012 version.