Spring key for development of West Virginia defensive line
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West Virginia is going to be without several players on the defensive line this spring.
But that’s where depth comes into play for a group that is as deep and talented as any on the roster.
Junior defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor will be out for the duration of spring after an upper body injury he sustained in the bowl game but he will be healthy for the summer.
Sophomore Edward Vesterinen also won’t be suiting up as he recovers from his foot injury that forced him to miss the bowl game as well. Between the two Mesidor played 608 snaps and Vesterinen 122 opening up opportunities.
The final piece will be redshirt senior Dante Stills who will play this spring but the coaching staff plans to limit his contact like they did with running back Leddie Brown last year.
The trio will be back in time for fall camp, but spring is a chance to put your best foot forward and the Mountaineers are hoping to see some players take that step. Redshirt sophomore Sean Martin is one of those and after playing 212 snaps last season the coaches are wanting to see more consistency.
“He’s one of the guys that’s had a great off-season for us and we’re going to bounce him back and forth between the three and the give technique,” head coach Neal Brown said.
Mesidor saw a lot of snaps at nose guard in the early portion of the season but was able to slide to the three and the five as redshirt junior Jordan Jefferson started to develop. He played 313 snaps and became a reliable option on the interior and the coaches want to see more growth.
That flexibility is critical especially given how many players the Mountaineers can use up front and to get a variety of rotations on the field once the season begins to keep players fresh.
Redshirt freshman Hammond Russell is a player that the Mountaineers were able to redshirt last season and that is something that Brown believes will payoff down the road and possibly even this year. The big lineman is progressing well and is going to be in the mix for snaps along with redshirt sophomore Taurus Simmons and redshirt junior Jalen Thornton. Each of those players have put together strong off-seasons.
The final piece of the puzzle is Cincinnati transfer Zeiqui Lawton who sat out during his entire year with the Bearcats with a redshirt. The freshman has already participated in full winter conditioning and is going to have every opportunity to make an impression along the defensive line.
“He’s strong and a really smart football player,” Brown said.
The Mountaineers are going to return their top three players with Stills, Mesidor and redshirt senior Taijh Alston but finding and developing quality depth will be key. This spring is going to open the door for that to occur faster than expected with some of the holes that need filled.
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