There are a number of ways to explain the statistical improvementsÂ on West Virginia’s defense this year. There is experience in the secondary, led by the infusion of former Michigan starter Ryan Mundy atÂ safety, and there is a play-making consistency at linebacker, defined best by Mortty Ivy, who won’t be losing his spot to J.T. Thomas III any time soon.
It seems as though the defensive line has meant the most. Keilen Dykes is a force at the nose position and Johnny Dingle is disruptive on the end. They’ve been the two most noticeable players in the three-man front. Until now.
Tackle Scooter Berry has been named a — get ready for this — Midseason Freshman All-American by Rivals.com.
DT Scooter Berry, West Virginia (RS)
HIGH SCHOOL: North Babylon (N.Y.) HS
BUZZ:Berry has 10 tackles, 2.5 tackles for losses and a fumble recovery on the country’s 19th-best run defense.
The superlative play from those three up front has been a necessity because it is at that position where the Mountaineers have the least depth. In fact, they made the trip to Syracuse last week with just seven defensive linemen and only four — Dykes, Dingle, Berry and Doug Slavonic — played a meaningful numberÂ of snaps when the game was still competitive.
So while the line looks good now and did survive a few games when Dykes was slowed by a bad foot, WVU Coach Rich Rodriguez knows there could be problems as the season moves along and the games begin to take their toll.
“We’re very concerned, simply because we didnâ€™t have a whole lot of depth to begin with,” Rodriguez said. “Weâ€™ve been getting very consistent play out of Keilen Dykes and Johnny Dingle, so those two have been solid, but we need more to emerge. Thatâ€™s going to be a point of emphasis in recruiting. Weâ€™re just hanging on right now. It would be more of an issue if we were a four-man front, I can tell you that.”