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Get to know West Virginia: Defense/Special Teams

Photo: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Texas (5-5, 4-3) will travel to Morgantown on Saturday to face West Virginia (7-3, 5-2). The Longhorns will be in search of their 6th win of the season, which would ensure a bowl game for the first time since 2014. West Virginia needs a win to keep their hopes alive of playing in the Big 12 Championship Game.

Let’s take a look at what to expect from the West Virginia defense and special teams:

Defensive Line

The Mountaineers defense will operate out of a 3-3-5 look. The 3 defensive lineman will be DE Ezekiel Rose, NT Lamonte McDougle and DE Reese Donahue. Rose, a junior college transfer from East Mississippi Community College, is the most skilled pass rusher out of the trio. Rose leads the team with 4.5 sacks. McDougle is a talented true freshman who has 4 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.

West Virginia has struggled stopping the run this season, allowing an average of 191 yards rushing per game. With the expected return of Connor Williams, Texas could find success on the ground if they stick with running the ball.

Linebacker

Al-Resheed Benton is the Mountaineers leading tackler, collecting 84 through the first 10 games. The senior has also added 12.5 tackles for loss and 2 interceptions. Redshirt freshman Sam Tonkery will see time at the SAM linebacker spot with fellow linebacker Xavier Preston questionable for the game with an injury. WILL linebacker David Long missed a portion of the season with a knee injury, but still ranks second of the team in tackles for loss (11) despite playing in only 6 games. Long had a big game a year ago against the Longhorns, collecting 10 tackles and a sack.

Secondary

Elijah Battle and Mike Daniels are the corner duo for the Mountaineers. Both players are seniors and have years of experience in backup roles before taking over as starters this season. Senior Kyzir White plays the SPUR position, which serves as a hybrid position of a safety/linebacker. White was a second team All-Big 12 selection in 2016 and is having another excellent season, collecting 6 tackles for loss, forcing 2 fumbles and recording 3 interceptions.

The 2 safety positions will be occupied by Dravon Askew-Henry and Kenny Robinson. Askew-Henry is a senior who has started every game of his career, while Robinson is a true freshman who has recently stepped into a starting role.

The passing game for Texas has been inconsistent, but the opportunity presents itself to move the ball through the air against a Mountaineer defense that is not the same defense that came to Austin last season.

Special Teams

The field goal kicking for West Virginia has been an adventure this season. Mike Molina started the season has the primary kicker and went 5 for 8 with a long of 43 yards, but has been sidelined with an injury. Evan Staley has taken over in his place and connected on 3 of 4 attempts, with a long of 36 yards.

Billy Kinney handles the punting duties and is averaging 39.88 yards per punt.

Marcus Simms serves as the primary return man on punts and kickoffs. Simms is averaging 25.57 yards per kickoff return and 6 yards per punt return.

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Jameson McCausland is a senior Sports Management major at the University of Texas. He is originally from Frisco, Texas, where he grew up a Longhorn fan. His two favorite sports are football and baseball, both of which he covers for HornSports. He enjoys spending time with family and friends in his spare time.

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