MORGANTOWN — Despite a couple significant transfers during the off-season for the WVU football team, there really weren’t a lot of questions about who would sit at the top of the depth chart heading into game week against Maryland.
Head coach Neal Brown would say otherwise, but the Mountaineers, especially offensively, returned many starters, and what starters were lost had an experienced replacement.
The NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility certainly helped, especially in the secondary, with safeties Sean Mahone and Alonzo Addae, but there were a few spots in doubt that needed to be decided during fall camp.
WVU released its first depth chart of the season heading into Saturday’s game at Maryland, and most of those spots were finally decided.
Perhaps the biggest was cornerback opposite Nicktroy Fortune, one of the spots left open by the transfer of Dreshun Miller to Auburn, and it’s sophomore Daryl Porter Jr. who will get the start against the Terps.
Porter battled Jackie Matthews all camp — it appeared Matthews may have had the edge at the start of camp — but an injury limited Matthews and it was Porter who took advantage.
“Jackie missed a good bit of time but he’s going to play,” Brown said. “He’s going to be healthy for the game but he missed some time during fall camp. We grade everything defensively and Daryl was our most productive in that room during fall camp. He’s had some growth and he’s earned that opportunity. But Jackie will play and play a lot.”
The other big battle came on special teams between kickers Evan Staley, Casey Legg and Tyler Sumpter, but it was Legg who came out on top, although all three will still have a place.
Staley suffered a season-ending knee injury in October last season and battled back, using his extra year like Mahone and Addae, to become the team’s kickoff specialist, hoping to limit his reps.
Legg “won the job in fall camp,” Brown said. “What Evan has been able to do in just under 10 months from a really severe knee injury … He’s going to handle our kickoff duties. I think we all need to appreciate that and he needs to appreciate to be able to perform at a high level. Casey has just been really consistent through fall camp. He’s done a nice job of changing ball flight, getting it up higher. The thing I really like is that he’s grounded in all aspects of his life.”
Finally, on offense, the lone spot that was really in question was right tackle, and according to Brown, it still hasn’t been decided.
Sophomore Parker Moorer and true freshman Wyatt Milum went head-to-head at right tackle during fall camp, but it appears both are going to get snaps.
“Both will play,” Brown said. “A lot of it will be based on how practice goes this week. Tuesday and Wednesday’s practice will go a long way in determining how those reps are going to be split up.”
Maybes at Maryland
Brown mentioned two offensive players — each expected to play significant snaps — are questionable headed into this weekend in tight end Mike O’Laughlin and running back Tony Mathis.
O’Laughlin, listed as the starting tight end on the depth chart, was in a walking boot for most of fall camp, though his exact injury has been kept under wraps. He returned to practice late, but will be a game-time decision.
Mathis, backing up Leddie Brown, had an outstanding spring and fall camp, according to the coaching staff. While Neal Brown didn’t say why, he is also a game-time decision. If Mathis can’t go, expect Justin Johnson to get the bulk of the carries when Leddie Brown is out of the game.
Nose tackle Darel Middleton, a transfer from Tennessee, is the only one Brown said is out for the Maryland game. Jordan Jefferson will likely spell Akheem Mesidor at that spot.
Grier cut by Panthers
Former WVU star quarterback Will Grier was released Tuesday by the Carolina Panthers after spending the last two seasons with the team.
Grier started at quarterback for the Mountaineers in 2017 and 2018, even finishing fourth in the Heisman voting as a senior in 2018, but he continued to fall down in the 2019 NFL Draft until he was finally selected by his hometown Panthers in the 3rd round.
During his rookie year, with Carolina’s quarterback situation in limbo with an injury to Cam Newton, Grier was erratic, throwing four interceptions with no touchdowns in two starts. Last season, he sat behind Teddy Bridgewater and was the likely third-stringer.
The same could be said during the current preseason, battling it out with P.J. Walker for the backup QB job behind Sam Darnold, but it was Grier who came up short.