Another Hit For WVU Defensive Line as McDougle Plans Transfer
West Virginia’s already thin defensive line took another major hit recently when Lamonte McDougle, who excelled as a true freshman last year, made his intention to transfer known to the Mountaineer coaching staff. McDougle earned notice on ESPN’s freshman All-America team after recording 23 tackles and two sacks in nine starts in 2017. Past his statistical numbers, he solidified the interior of a West Virginia defensive line that was attempting to retool following heavy losses. McDougle had not participated in spring drills as he recovered from off-season shoulder surgery.
McDougle’s reasons for transferring were not made entirely clear, but he apparently wants the chance to play in a system that allows defensive linemen to record more impressive statistics. While no system is designed to limit statistical achievement, West Virginia’s use of a three-man defensive front means that linemen are often charged with gap control rather than penetration responsibilities, and are required to tie up blockers to help keep linebackers and safeties free. McDougle had two tackles for loss in 2017.
His departure is the latest from a group that was already hit with the exit of Adam Shuler, who was expected to be a starter at defensive end. Shuler reportedly left to pursue opportunities in track field events, but is still planned to continue his football career. Jalen Harvey, a juco transfer, decided not to return prior to the spring, and both Jon Lewis and Xavier Pegues departed following their senior seasons. WVU is thus left with just one defensive line starter from a year ago (Reese Donahue), where it expected to have all three, plus a couple of relatively experienced backups.
This latest defection, which West Virginia coaches tried repeatedly to prevent, leaves the Mountaineers in a very dicey situation in terms of proven performance and depth. Ezekiel Rose and Reese Donahue will be the starters at ends, with Darius Stills, who, like McDougle, impressed as a true freshman, moving inside to take on nose duties. Past that, only little used Jeffery Pooler and Stone Wolfley return, and neither had any impact on defensive plays from scrimmage a year ago. Brenon Thrift, a transfer with one year of eligibility remaining, did earn praise as a member of the scout team a year ago, but now he will be counted on even more heavily. Walk-ons Connor Barwis, Nate Green and Sam Cookman were also listed on the spring depth chart, but none have any playing experience. Incoming freshmen Dante Stills, Tyrese Allen and James Gmiter will have the same opportunities McDougle and Darius Stills did a year ago to break onto the field during their freshmen campaigns. WVU also has its eyes on a couple of grad transfers who be eligible for the 2018 season and provide immediate help.