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2016 West Virginia Football Position Previews: Defensive Line

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The Mountaineer defensive line is by far the strongest unit on Tony Gibson’s rebuilt defense.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at West Virginia Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve got nothing to worry about here. Our defensive line is experienced, stacked and just down-right good. West Virginia has arguably the best d-line in the conference and, honestly, there are only two or three teams that could give them trouble every snap. Baylor, despite losing four of their five starters on o-line, still look like they’ll have another great front five and TCU who lost a couple of starting guards, but all of their front five have major game experience.

STARTERS

WVU’s defensive line will be centered around defensive end Noble Nwachukwu. Nwachukwu, a redshirt senior, started all 13 games for the Mountaineers last season. He saw 785 defensive snaps and finished with 47 tackles which includes 8.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Nwachukwu’s average of 0.65 sacks per game was 5 th in the Big 12. His impressive stats and build make him a shoo-in for getting picked in the second or third round next April.

Opposite Nwachukwu at defensive end will be another returning starter and redshirt senior in Christian Brown. In his 13 games last season, saw 571 defensive snaps and 33 tackles which included two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss.

The one big question for the defensive line this offseason had been who would replace Kyle Rose at nose tackle. Rose was just about as productive as Nwachukwu and had 46 tackles for the season.

Replacing Rose will be senior Darrien Howard. Howard saw considerable playing time at TCU last year and had a couple of tackles in the Georgia Southern, Oklahoma State and Iowa State games. He was also dubbed an “Iron Mountaineer” at the Gold-Blue Game at The Greenbrier this past spring.

BACKUPS

The depth of WVU’s d-line has somewhat depleted. One of the factors is that redshirt junior and Morgantown-native Jon Lewis moved from defensive end to tight end over the offseason. However, looking to possible get some playing time are Florida recruits Alec Shriner and Adam Shuler II. Shriner, a redshirt freshman, finished his high school career with 104 tackles and five sacks over his three years playing for Oviedo High. Shuler, also a redshirt freshman, is a little more unproven. He missed the majority of his senior season at Lyman High due to injuries. Despite this, in his brief time at Lyman he recorded 45 tackles and six sacks. If called upon, we’ll see if a three season layoff is what he needed to get back in the game.

CONCLUSION

With Nwachukwu and Brown back, I see no reason why WVU can’t keep most of the Big 12 contained on the ground game. The only thing that there is to fear is the lack of depth. If we lose any of the starting three, it could be trouble.

Grade: B+