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West Virginia Football 2016 Player Previews: Noble Nwachukwu

The senior defensive end returns to lead a Mountaineer defense that is reloading after losing 8 seniors from its 2015 team. Can the Texas native improve upon his 2015 season and lead the defense in a high powered Big 12?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

2015 Season Stats & Review

Tackles Sacks Tackles for Loss Interceptions Quarterback Hits Forced Fumbles Fumble Recoveries
37 8.5 13 0 6 1 1

The 2015 defense was stacked with household names for Mountaineer fans. Nick Kwiatkoski, Jared Barber, Karl Joseph, Daryl Worley just to name a few were all names fans could rattle off the tip of their tongue. Noble Nwachukwu was often an after-thought. Playing the weakside defensive end position in Tony Gibson's 3-3-5 defense, Noble is tasked with being the pass rusher for the defensive line, but also with being a run setter.

Noble came on strong in the second half of the season, notching 6 of his 8.5 sacks in November and December. He had three sacks against Texas, including a redzone sack of Tyrone Swoopes which caused Texas to abandon their power run game and pass.

2016 Outlook

Noble is already garnering praise as he was named to the Bednarik Watch List. He returns as the Big 12 sack leader in conference games only. He was fifth in the conference last year. With so many new parts on defense, Tony Gibson will lean on his defensive line to control games while the rest of the parts settle into place.

If a defense wants to stop teams in the Big 12, pass rushers are key. More than defensive backs, more than linebackers, more than stopping the run. The Giants have beaten Tom Brady twice in the Super Bowl because they had the ability to control the passing game with their front four. Noble is going to be key for the Mountaineers chances of controlling the high octane offenses in the Big 12. Noble's stats may not represent his impact as teams double team him now that he is a known quantity in the Big 12. But double teams mean that other players are single blocked and should make plays.

Projected 2016 Stats

Tackles Sacks Tackles for Loss Interceptions Quarterback Hits Forced Fumbles Fumble Recoveries
40 9.5 10 0 5 2 1