As we inch closer to the start of the 2021 season, the WVU coaching staff is hoping that some of their newcomers can develop into reliable contributors. Whether it be on offense, defense, or special teams, the staff believes the 2021 recruiting class is a good one and has more than a handful of players that are going to be ready as soon as this fall.
We detail each newcomer’s projected role below.
OL Doug Nester (Virginia Tech)
Nester has experience playing at tackle but it seems that first through the first few weeks of camp, WVU likes him best on the inside at right guard. He and redshirt freshman Jordan White are in a battle for the starting job but Nester seems to have an edge. Earlier this week, offensive line coach Matt Moore complimented Nester’s improvement conditioning and says he has no problem playing him 80 snaps a game.
DL Darel Middleton (Tennessee)
There’s no doubt that Middleton is the biggest dude on the Mountaineer defensive line. He just has to get back into playing shape. Neal Brown said it’s going to take some time for him to get back up to speed but that he will be a contributor and be in the defensive line rotation.
LB Lance Dixon (Penn State)
Similar to Middleton, Dixon stands out in the linebacker room in terms of his size and athleticism but is also working on getting back into elite shape. Exree Loe is currently listed as the starting WILL linebacker with Dixon as the backup. Loe has been a great special teams defender throughout his career but hasn’t had a big role defensively. If he struggles with consistency, Dixon will get his shot.
LB Deshawn Stevens (Maine)
West Virginia needed to add another linebacker that concentrated on stuffing the run; Stevens does just that. During his time at Maine, he totaled 128 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks. He will back up Josh Chandler-Semedo at MIKE and could work some at bandit as well.
CB Charles Woods (Illinois State)
Woods had a terrific career at Illinois State and will now hope to find the same success at the Power Five level. He will be in the 2nd group of corners that rotate into the game as Nicktroy Fortune and Jackie Matthews man down the starting spots. He is also getting some time at safety.
CB Caleb Coleman (Hutchinson CC)
Coleman got his start at the junior college level and is still in need of development. He isn’t listed on the two-deep at the moment, so we will likely see him on special teams at the beginning of the year.
QB Will “Goose” Crowder
With Doege back in the starting spot and Greene returning as the backup, there is no need for Crowder to see the field unless there is an injury. He can use this as a redshirt year and continue to grow in the team’s developmental program.
RB Justin Johnson Jr.
Johnson is impressing the coaching staff early on and they expected him to. According to running backs coach Chad Scott, “he’s had the best summer of any freshman we’ve been around”. Johnson and Tony Mathis Jr. are fighting it out to be the backup to Leddie Brown. Mathis is ahead right now and I expect it to stay that way. That said, Johnson will get his fair share of touches in 2021.
RB Jaylen Anderson
Anderson has yet to arrive in Morgantown as he is dealing with the NCAA clearinghouse. Neal Brown has not given any indication of when he will arrive or if he will at all.
WR Kaden Prather
Prather is going to be a go-to guy in the Mountaineer offense for years to come. He’ll be learning behind Bryce Ford-Wheaton at the X receiver spot. Despite the depth West Virginia has in the wideout room, Prather has the talent to establish a role even if it’s a small one in year one.
TE Treylan Davis & TE Victor Wikstrom
I’m lumping these two together because it takes some time for tight ends to really grow into their bodies and play with the level of physicality that the coaching staff wants out of them. Both will almost certainly redshirt while Mike O’Laughlin, T.J. Banks, and Charles Finley will be the three tight ends they use throughout the season.
OT Wyatt Milum
It’s rare that you see a true freshman offensive lineman start but Zach Frazier did it a year ago for WVU and now, Milum could be the 2nd in as many years. Milum was the highest-rated recruit in WVU’s 2021 recruiting class and is in a “dog fight” for the starting right tackle job with Parker Moorer.
OT Tomas Rimac
Rimac is an under-the-radar guy that will develop into a quality Big 12 offensive lineman but a redshirt year is needed.
DL Hammond Russell
Although his name hasn’t been mentioned all that much, Russell could be someone that WVU rolls out there for a few games to see if he is ready to be a contributor in year one. If not, he will be redshirted.
DL Brayden Dudley
Like Rimac on the offensive side of the ball, Dudley will need a year to develop. A redshirt seems to be the route here.
DL Edward Vesterinen
The coaching staff has loved the energy and the work ethic Vesterinen has brought to the table. They believe he is a little ahead of schedule in terms of his development, so there’s a good chance that he will see some action in 2021.
LB Ja’Corey Hammett
Hammett is currently working on rehabbing a torn ACL that he suffered during his senior season. Once he returns to full health, he will be a major factor in the linebacking unit. However, that may not be until 2022.
CB Andrew Wilson-Lamp
Wilson-Lamp, a high school wide receiver, is still learning how to play the cornerback position. He has done a nice job thus far in his transition but seeing major playing time on defense wouldn’t be ideal. Down the line, he could develop into one of the best corners on the roster. For now, he can make an impact on special teams.
S Aubrey Burks, S Saint McLeod. S Davis Mallinger
All three of these guys are going to need to develop a little faster than some of the other freshmen simply based on need. The Mountaineers are a little thin at the safety spot beyond the starters, so Burks, McLeod, and Mallinger will all have a chance to see the field this fall in some capacity.