The West Virginia Mountaineers are going to look a lot different when they first take the field in August against Pittsburgh. The team has seen an exodus of players on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, but not all of the transfers and graduations may be a detriment to the team as the overall team speed, according to head coach Neal Brown, seems to be improving.
One spot this will be seen is at linebacker, where the Mountaineers will be without senior Josh Chandler-Semedo, who’s off-again, on-again, off-again decision puts the position up for battle. The coaching staff, ever prudent in their searches for replacements, identified former West Virginia commit Lee Kpogba as a viable alternative and secured him.
Kpogba (pronounced KOE-BA) originally committed to West Virginia in 2017 but decommitted later in that recruiting cycle. He eventually signed with the Syracuse Orangemen, playing in 2019 and 2020. In 2020, during the COVID pandemic, he had 42 tackles including 33 solo and 1 sack. He was suspended and left the program, enrolling in East Mississippi Community College, yes that EMCC program from Netflix’s “Last Chance U”.
Kpogba joined the Mountaineers in this latest recruiting cycle and brings speed to a position that has desperately needed an injection of it.
“Lee Kpogba at Mike Linebacker [middle linebacker], I think he has a bright future. He runs. We needed speed at that spot and he did some nice things here on day one”, said West Virginia head coach Neal Brown as he addressed the media following the start of spring practice.
The “need for speed” while conjuring images of Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, was sorely lacking in the West Virginia defense in 2021. Josh Chandler-Semedo was one of the top tacklers in the nation last year, totaling over 100 stops, but of those 100 stops, only 5.5 were for a loss and only 1.5 were sacks. Jared Bartlett actually fared better, gaining 6 TFLs in only 38 stops, but the 38 stops remained a problem.
When you think of the great middle linebackers in the history of football, you think of sideline to sideline guys who could run down ballcarriers and rush the passer. Kpogba, with the injection of speed at a spot that was lacking last year, may give West Virginia a new wrinkle in their defense and a new bounce in their step if he can make opposing teams view him that way.