MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia’s secondary was one of the focal points of the offseason.
Neal Brown and his staff brought in multiple transfers with Division I playing experience, with the hope that all the talent and experience would give the Mountaineers (0-2, 0-1 Big 12) the production they needed to go alongside Charles Woods.
Woods, however, has been sidelined with an injury since the first half of the season-opener. He has been ruled out for West Virginia’s third game of the year, this weekend, against Towson (2-0, 0-0 CAA)
With Woods sidelined, new and less-experienced players have been called into action. The results have been mixed.
“You’re in a situation where you’re trying not to stress guys, and the offense forces you to stress guys, particularly outside,” defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said Tuesday.
Woods was officially ruled out of Saturday’s game on Tuesday, according to WVU head coach Neal Brown. The head coach also said sophomore Aubrey Burks’s status is questionable for the contest against the Tigers.
Through the first two weeks of the season, West Virginia’s defense ranks ninth in the conference in passing defense (263.5 yards per game) and total defense (401.5 per game). WVU ranks last in the league in run defense, giving up 138 yards per game on the ground.
In the season opener versus Pittsburgh, West Virginia held Kedon Slovis in check for much of the first half. However, he ended the game having thrown for over 300 yards and one touchdown.
In Week 2, the Mountaineers allowed Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels to throw for 219 yards and a trio of touchdowns.
“Rashad (Ajayi), he’s given up a couple passes but I’m not disappointed in how he’s played,” said Brown. “We can win with how he’s played. (Wesley) McCormick played much better once was able to come back, after having to sit the first half (against Kansas), he played much better in the second half.”
He added, “We hadn’t played good enough at (corner). So, we’re going to give some other guys some opportunities as well.”
One-on-one tackling, and tackling in general, is something that Brown stressed must be improved moving forward, across the board, by his defense.
Entering Week 3, the coaching staff is looking for production out of its secondary.
Asked if the young corners are ready to play, the head coach said the staff will get them ready.
“They need to play. They need to play,” Brown said. “Mumu’s going to play more at safety, probably, than (at) corner. Jacolby’s going to play at corner. We’re going to get those guys ready to play. They’re talented, and it’s our job to get them ready.”
Lesley spoke about getting those young players in a position where they can be successful.
“They both have a nose (for the football),” Lesley added. “They understand assignments, leverage, how to play the ball in the air … DB tendencies in general.”
Neither true-freshman defensive back has recorded a tackle or figured into the stat sheet yet this season, though both have appeared in one game. Fellow freshman Andrew Wilson-Lamp was also spoken about as being a young player who could see more action against Towson.
Towson enters this weekend’s contest averaging just 191 passing yards per game and has been held to three or fewer points in five of the nine quarters of football played this season.
Kickoff between WVU and Towson is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 17. The game will be streamed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.