WVU Cornerback Outlook: Major Rebuilding Job Ahead
The biggest graduation losses of any Mountaineer football position from last year are at cornerback, where starters Keith Washington and Hakeem Bailey both have moved on.
Each arrived at WVU from the junior college ranks. A second-team all-Big 12 honoree in 2019, Washington left with six interceptions and 18 pass breakups in his career, including three INTs and nine PBUs in 2019. Bailey finished with two interceptions and 16 pass breakups in his career, and had 57 tackles and nine PBUs last season highlighted by a game-sealing pick at K-State.
West Virginia cornerback coach Jahmile Addae will now be charged with finding – and developing – the replacements for the pair of 2019 starters.
Returning – Alonzo Addae (Sr.), Nicktroy Fortune (Soph.), Tae Mayo (RFr.), Dreshun Miller (Jr.), Naim Muhammad (RFr.), Malachi Ruffin (Soph.), Tacorey Turner (RFr.)
Departed – Hakeem Bailey (Sr.), Devan Wade (Sr.), Keith Washington (Sr.)
Recently enrolled newcomers – Jairo Faverus (Fr.)
Expected to enroll this summer – David Vincent-Okoli (Fr.)
Nicktroy Fortune (6-0, 187 lbs., Soph.) saw significant action last season, playing in 11 games. He even started a couple in midseason when Washington was out with an injury. A native of Roswell, Georgia, Fortune held up pretty well for a first-year player at a position that exposes youngsters, especially in the Big 12 where seemingly every team has high-end receivers. Fortune was credited with 17 tackles and two pass deflections last season.
There is very little game experience returning at the cornerback position beyond Fortune.
Fellow 2019 true freshman Tae Mayo (5-10, 161 lbs., RFr.) did play in a midseason game when Washington was out with his injury, allowing WVU the ability to sub in another corner and give the starters (Fortune and Josh Norwood, as Bailey had to sit the first half because of a targeting penalty the previous week) a little break. Mayo had two tackles in that game against Iowa State but was still able to retain his redshirt. A year in the weightroom will help the Leesburg, Georgia, native added some needed size and strength.
The Mountaineers have some cornerback options beyond Fortune and Mayo. Dreshun Miller (6-1, 190 lbs., Jr.) arrived at WVU in January of 2019 after spending a couple years at Eastern Arizona College. Rated the No. 2 juco cornerback in the country following the 2018 season, it was expected he would compete for significant playing time and possibly a starting job last fall. A preseason injury put him on the shelf for the entire year, though, and the Kennesaw, Georgia, native was redshirted. Last year’s bad luck could be fortunate for both 2020 and 2021, though, as Miller still has two years of eligibility remaining. As long as he’s healthy, it’s expected he’ll be one of West Virginia’s top options at cornerback this fall.
Others who will push for time are Alonzo Addae (5-11, 178 lbs., Sr.), Tacorey Turner (6-2, 185 lbs., RFr.), Naim Muhammad (5-10, 178 lbs., RFr.) and Malachi Ruffin (5-9, 182 lbs., Soph.). Addae and Turner were both new to the WVU program last season and each could also play safety if the Mountaineer coaches feel those are better fits.
A native of Ontario, Canada, and the cousin of West Virginia cornerback coach Jahmile Addae, Alonzo spent three seasons at New Hampshire. He redshirted as a true freshman, and then played in 24 games in 2017 and 2018, accumulating 61 tackles in that time, playing some safety and some corner. As a transfer, he had to sit out game action with the Mountaineers last season and now will have just one year of collegiate eligibility remaining.
Turner is a big cornerback from Park Crossing High School in Montgomery, Alabama, where he recorded 28 tackles and 12 pass breakups his senior year. He didn’t see any game action for WVU last season and was redshirted. He spent the fall working with West Virginia’s scout team at cornerback, but he also has the size that could easily adapt to safety, if the Mountaineer coaches think that is a better option.
WVU has two other cornerbacks who will be in the mix for the 2020 season – one who enrolled this past January and another who enter school this summer.
Jairo Faverus (6-1, 190 lbs., Fr.) is a unique prospect who enrolled at WVU in time for the spring semester. A native of the Netherlands capital city of Amsterdam, Faverus refined his football skills at the Bristol Academy of Sport in England. He caught West Virginia’s attention last summer at the Mountaineer football camp, which he was attending with other European prospects on what was deemed the DreamChasers Tour. His combination of size, speed and athleticism earned him a quick scholarship offer from Neal Brown, which Faverus accepted in short order. He’s not yet competed in a football game against American competition, so he may still be raw, but he seemingly has the skills necessary to eventually be very good at the cornerback, or potentially safety.
David Vincent-Okoli (6-0, 180 lbs., Fr.) was a first-team all-state performer in Maryland the past two years. He’ll enroll at WVU this summer. A native of Gaithersburg, he recorded 49 tackles, three sacks and an interception for The Bullis School in 2019. The three seasons prior, he was a defensive back and wide receiver at Watkins Mill High School. During his prep career, he tallied 168 receptions for 2,360 yards and 36 TDs. Vincent-Okoli is talented enough to play either offense or defense in college, but WVU’s coaches believe his all-around athletic skills translate best at cornerback.