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Previewing The Enemy: West Virginia Mountaineers

The eve of Penn State football’s 2023 season is finally upon us, and the Nittany Lions will take on the West Virginia Mountaineers at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 2, at Beaver Stadium. Last season’s 10-2 regular-season record and Rose Bowl triumph garnered nothing but heightened expectations for Penn State this season.

So, who exactly is this West Virginia squad rolling into Happy Valley? Before Penn State kicks off its season Saturday night, let’s take a look at the Mountaineers from all sides of the ball.

The Team

Head coach Neal Brown, entering his fifth season in Morgantown, holds a 22-25 record at West Virginia but is 57-41 overall as a head coach from a previous four-year stint at Troy. Brown’s Mountaineers went 5-7 last season, but defeated Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in two of the campaign’s last three weeks.

West Virginia will return a deep crew of starters this season, including All-Big 12 first-team offensive lineman Zach Frazier. Conversely, the Mountaineers lost All-Big 12 first-team defensive lineman Dante Stills and All-Big 12 second-team wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton to the NFL.

Penn State is 42-6-1 all time against West Virginia. The two teams last played on October 24, 1992, when the Nittany Lions won 40-26 in Morgantown.


West Virginia faces significant turnover on offense. Several players, including quarterback JT Daniels and lead wide receiver Sam James, are no longer with the program, and the Mountaineers will have a new signal-caller and a new-look wideout corps.

Brown didn’t name a new starting quarterback similar to James Franklin, but junior Garrett Greene will likely line up behind center. The 5’11,” 202-pound Florida native played behind JT Daniels last season and appeared in nine games and started two. Greene tallied 493 passing yards, five touchdowns, three interceptions, and completed 55% of pass attempts over 78 attempts. He also rushed for 276 yards and five touchdowns.

Greene’s primary running back is CJ Donaldson. Donaldson rushed for 534 yards and eight touchdowns last season, the most of any returner.

The wide receiver room includes redshirt senior Devin Carter, who transferred from NC State and was previously committed to the Nittany Lions out of the transfer portal. Senior Cortez Braham and junior Jeremiah Aaron are returning players who have familiarity with Greene and the West Virginia system. Braham is the best receiver to return, but he managed just 147 receiving yards and no touchdowns last season.

At tight end, the Mountaineers secured junior Kole Taylor in the transfer portal from LSU. Taylor played sporadically in Baton Rouge and registered just five catches for 55 yards last season. Additionally, redshirt sophomore Treylan Davis recorded five catches for 51 yards in 2022.

The offensive line has 2022 All-Big 12 center Frazier in the fold, along with Wyatt Milum and Doug Nester among the returning starters.


West Virginia’s defense allowed 32.92 points per game in 2022 under coordinator Jordan Lesley, who enters his third season on the job.

Linebacker Lee Kpogba is a key returning player. He is arguably the team’s most versatile defensive commodity, as the senior led the team with 92 tackles while tallying 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss.

Alongside Kpogba is likely Jairo Faverus, who was primarily a depth piece last season behind Exree Loe and Jasir Cox, who have both left the program.

Meanwhile, Sean Martin anchors West Virginia’s defensive line. Martin, a junior, had 34 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, four sacks, and one forced fumble last season. Moreover, Mike Lockhart, Edward Vesterinen, Jalen Thornton, and Taurus Simmons make up the rest of the defensive front for the Mountaineers.

West Virginia’s secondary also had some shakeups. Andrew Wilson-Lamp should start as the left cornerback now that Wesley McCormick departed Morgantown. Wilson-Lamp had nine total tackles and two pass breakups over 10 appearances last season.

Lining up on the other side of Wilson-Lamp is likely redshirt senior Malachi Ruffin. Ruffin appeared in every game last season, making 26 total tackles and two interceptions and returning one for a touchdown.

Additionally, Aubrey Burks and Marcis Floyd return as the two starting safeties. Burks, who was highlighted by Franklin in his weekly press conference, made 66 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack, and one interception. Meanwhile, Floyd made 63 total tackles, one tackle for loss, and one forced fumble.

Special Teams

Ja’Shaun Poke, a wideout transfer from Kent State, stands as the likely starter at kick returner. Poke handled these duties at his former school, with 15 kickoff returns for 411 yards and averaging 27.4 per return.

Meanwhile, Michael Hayes is expected to handle kicker duties. He transferred from Georgia State, where he went 11-for-14 in field goal attempts. The redshirt junior was also used as a punter in Atlanta.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a third-year journalism major from Silver Spring, Maryland. He's an avid fan of all D.C. sports teams and Liverpool F.C. If Nolan isn't writing about or watching sports, you can probably find him listening to all sorts of music or traveling. To keep up with Nolan, you can follow him on Twitter @nolan_wick or email him at [email protected].

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