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West Virginia head coach Neal Brown is set to begin his second season in Morgantown, but 2020 may be his “Year 1” after a 5-7 “Year 0.” Much of the Mountaineers’ 2019 was spent trying to get the most out of transfer quarterback Austin Kendall before making the switch to transfer quarterback Jarret Doege later in the year.
Brown is still trying to figure out how to replicate the high-powered offenses of his predecessor, Dana Holgorsen, and that is a task that should continue in his second season at WVU. Plenty of questions exist for the 2020 Mountaineers, but they do return two brothers on the defensive line who are known commodities across the conference. Senior Darius Stills and his brother, junior Dante Stills, are set to be the foundation of Mountaineer defensive coordinator Vic Koenning’s defense in 2020.
Darius, a 6-foot-1, 282-pound nose tackle, received All-Big 12 First Team honors in 2019 following a season where he had 47 total tackles, 14.5 TFL, and 7 sacks.
Dante, measuring 6-foot-3, 275 pounds, mostly played end in WVU’s front. 11.5 of his 24 total tackles in 2019 were for loss, including 7 sacks. He received All-Big 12 Second Team accolades.
WVU played a variety of fronts and personnel packages last year, but the duo out of Fairmont, W.Va. were mainstays along the defensive line.
Texas knows the benefit of a disruptive nose tackle in odd fronts. Poona Ford was an All-Big 12 First Team selection and the conference’s defensive lineman of the year in 2017. When the defender closest to the ball can have immediate influence on a play, it can disrupt the flow of the offense in both the passing and running games.
Darius has that ability and flashed it versus Texas last year recording 3.0 TFL and a sack in WVU’s 42-31 loss in Morgantown. In 2020, Texas will be breaking in a new center, whether it be tackle convert Derek Kerstetter or a player groomed to play the position like Rafiti Ghirmai. Darius gave Zach Shackelford his money’s worth and the same can be expected for whoever Texas’ center is in 2020.
Dante often plays inside the tackle’s shoulder but can bounce inside to 3-tech or outside the tackle at 5-tech depending on situation. Having Sam Cosmi on the left side will help Texas in that battle, but uncertainty on the right side could leave the Longhorns susceptible to a plus pass-rusher like Dante.
Though WVU is moving from a potential “Year 0” to “Year 1” under Brown, they’ll have two standout defensive players to build around who can cause problems for any Big 12 offense.