Football, Sports, WVU Sports

West Virginia natives fill ranks along WVU offensive and defensive lines

MORGANTOWN — The blue-collar mentality has always been a mantra of WVU football, using West Virginia’s work ethic as a way to describe what it means to also play for the program.

In the case of the 2022 edition of the Mountaineers, it may be as true as it’s ever been.

Across both the offensive and defensive lines are a host of state natives, many of which will play important roles in the starting lineup. Many of the positions are unheralded, doing the “dirty work,” but as the trenches go, so does either side of the ball.

On offense, three of the five returning starters hail from the Mountain State — center Zach Frazier (Fairmont/Fairmont Senior), guard Doug Nester (Kenova/Spring Valley) and tackle Wyatt Milum (Kenova/Spring Valley). Not only are all three penciled in as clear favorites to start, but all three have been selected to earn preseason All-Big 12 honors in several publications.

“I think there’s plenty of Division I talent — it just took a couple of people to open the doors before us and you can see all the kids in our areas who are getting recruited now,” Nester said about West Virginia football talent. “I think the talent’s always been here but now it’s really starting to show. It’s something very special. It’s unique — you don’t get many kids coming out of the state, especially to play in the state and stay home.”

Morgantown native Nick Malone earned rave reviews for his performance during spring practice and will be featured as an important depth piece this season at tackle and guard. Bryce Biggs, who also went to Spring Valley, is entering his second season and will also provide depth.

Defensively, Dante Stills, a former Polar Bear like Frazier, is one of the leaders of the entire unit. Now a super-senior, he enters his fifth year with the program.

Stills, a former 4-star recruit, is one of the biggest coups for the Mountaineers as an in-state product, though he was recruited by former head coach Dana Holgorsen. Along with his brother, Darius, Stills was one of the key pieces to get the ball rolling with high-profile in-state players coming to WVU.

Since then, head coach Neal Brown has made it a priority to get the best to stay, especially up front.

Since his first recruiting class in 2020, Brown has landed the top in-state recruit every year since (Sean Martin, 2020; Milum, 2021; tight end Corbin Page, 2022).

“I try to tell people all the time that there’s talent all over the state,” Stills said. “I want, and all the guys just want, to give (high school recruits) the motivation that they can play college ball — it’s possible. I feel like sometimes they feel like it’s impossible and I feel the opposite way.

“I love it — I feel like our state breeds o-line and d-linemen. I love getting to compete against guys I never got to compete against in high school like Doug and Wyatt. Going against them every day makes them better and makes me better.”

Bluefield alum Martin is expected to take the next step and be a major contributor along the defensive line, while South Charleston’s Zeiqui Lawton transferred from Cincinnati back to his home state, looking to break in with the Mountaineers.

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