As the Mountaineer football team prepares to resume workouts on June 15, we continue our look at a potential depth chart.
Today we look at the WVU’s cornerback positions.
For the most part, the depth chart for the majority of West Virginia’s defense seems pretty cut and dried. There may be a few battles, but the two-deep we anticipate is likely the one that will be in place for the season opener.
That’s true for much of the defense, other than the cornerback position, which is still a guessing game. With the graduation of WVU’s top two cornerbacks from last year, Hakeem Bailey and Keith Washington, who between then started 21 games in 2019, West Virginia has precious little experience returning at the corners.
Here is how we view the cornerback rotation.
Anticipated starters – Nicktroy Fortune (Soph.), Dreshun Miller (Jr.)
Nicktroy Fortune is the only current WVU cornerback on the roster who has starting experience for West Virginia. The 6-foot, 196-pounder from Roswell, Georgia, started a pair of games as a true freshman last season at right corner when Keith Washington was hurt. In nine other games, he was used in a backup role, though he saw considerable playing time with the defense and amassed 17 tackles and two pass deflections.
Just based on game reps, it’s logical that Fortune will work with the first unit at one corner.
And while it’s still an educated guess, the likelihood would seem that Dreshun Miller has the best shot at the other starting cornerback job. An all-region player coming out of Eastern Arizona College, Miller enrolled at WVU in January of 2019 and seemed poised to challenge Bailey or Washington for a starting job last year. A preseason leg injury kept the 6-1, 190-pound Kennesaw, Georgia, native out of the lineup for the entire season, though. The only good news was that Miller had a redshirt available, so he still has two years of college eligibility remaining. As long as he’s healthy, he’s certainly expected to factor in this coming season, be it as a starter or heavily-used reserve.
Likely top backups – Jackie Matthews (Jr.), Tae Mayo (RFr.)
Both Jackie Matthews and Tae Mayo figure to challenge Fortune and/or Miller for starting jobs this year. Even if neither is on the field for the first snap, they each should see considerable game action as the Mountaineers try to improve upon their cornerback depth, which was perilously thin last season.
Mayo, who has added 20 badly-need pounds on to his 5-foot-10 frame since last summer and is now 181, saw emergency duty against Iowa State in ‘19, recording two tackles, but other than that stayed on the sidelines and was redshirted. The Leesburg, Georgia, native now seems to have the size and strength to better handle a more extensive role.
Matthews enrolled at WVU this past January after enjoying a NJCAA All-American season at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. He had 52 tackles and six interceptions on the year in leading the Bulldogs (12-) to the junior college national championship. He has the size (6-0, 195 lbs.) to play safety, but the Mountaineers want to give him a shot at cornerback first.
Other key returnees – Alonzo Addae (Sr.), Tacorey Turner (RFr.), Naim Muhammad (RFr.), Malachi Ruffin (Soph.)
Both Alonzo Addae and Tacorey Turner stayed on the sidelines last year. Addae (5-11, 192 lbs.) did so because of his transfer from New Hampshire, while Turner (6-2, 204 lbs.) was a true freshman who took a traditional redshirt. Each figures to see action this year. While both will get their initial chance at cornerback, either could play safety as well. Special teams also figure to be big parts of their obligations.
Naim Muhammad actually has more game experience for the Mountaineers than anyone else on the cornerback list other than Fortune. The 5-foot-10, 209-pound graduate of DeMatha (Md.) Catholic saw special teams action as a true freshman in the final two games last season, recording two tackles, but maintained his redshirt status. Special teams again are expected to be his primary role this coming season, but he could seem some action in a depth role at cornerback. Malachi Ruffin, a third-year sophomore, is looking for his first game action at WVU.
Newcomers who could see game action this season – Jairo Faverus (Fr.), David Vincent-Okoli (Fr.)
A native of Amsterdam, Netherlands, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Jairo Faverus attended the Bristol Academy of Sports in England. He caught the eye of the Mountaineer staff during the camp circuit in the summer of 2019 where quickly earned and then accepted a scholarship offer. He enrolled at WVU in January but his adaptation to American football was cut short when the coronavirus shut down college sports in mid-March. He’ll pick back up that education this summer. While he has excellent physical tools, it’s probably a bit much to expect him to jump into a prominent role as a true freshman.
If West Virginia needs another corner to see game action this season, David Vincent-Okoli certainly would seem primed for that chance. The 6-foot, 180-pound true freshman from Gaithersburg, Maryland, was highly recruited and appears capable of making an immediate impact. If or how much he plays this year will depend on the efficiency of some of those ahead of him at the moment – like Mayo, Addae and Turner. If they struggle, it’s certainly not farfetched to envision Vincent-Okoli jumping up the depth chart. Maybe not to a starting role, unless injuries strike, but very possibly into a spot as a regular in the cornerback rotation.
Previously In The Series