The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

August 13, 2011

Replacing Neild easier said than done

MORGANTOWN — Whenever you have a coaching change, there are any number of key things that must be accomplished before success can come, but at West Virginia University the very most important item on the agenda has nothing to do with the restructured coaching situation.

To remain at, or near, the top, the Mountaineers must find a replacement on defense for nose guard Chris Neild, who was the heart and soul of last year’s defense that ranked third in the nation.

“It’s critical,” defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich admitted. “You go back 30 years, look at John Thornton, David Grant, John Oblak … our deal here defensively has hinged on do we have a good nose or don’t we. We play an odd front, so it requires a guy who could be a solid guy inside.”

Neild was one of the best, a mountain of man who was far more athletic than he would appear. He spent a good deal of time occupying a double team in the middle, freeing up linebackers to move freely and Bruce Irvin to rush from the defensive end spot.

This year it appears that the job will go to Jorge Wright, who apparently has put the worst behind of a traffic stop gone bad when a gun and small amount of marijuana was allegedly found in the car he was driving.

Wright is not Neild.

“Is he going to be another Chris Neild?” said Kirelawich, about to answer his own question. “Not at first he’s not. What I want to see is Jorge get better every day. He has to be a little bit more explosive, get incrementally better every day.”

Wright will share a lot of time with Josh Taylor, a hard-nosed player who is not as big as Wright or Neild.

“Josh Taylor has proven he’s a good player. He’s not flashy, but he gets the job done,” Kirelawich said.

There is also a dark horse in this race, a talented junior college transfer named Shaq Rowell, who may just be the answer. He’s behind, but at 6-4 and 308, he is the kind of player who can dominate the position.

“Shaq has to get a feel for what he’s doing. He doesn’t have to be a good player by Marshall. He needs to come on at the end of the year,” Kirelawich said.

And rest assured, he will get a chance to prove himself.

“If a guy is good enough there, I’ll play him,” Kirelawich said. “Jorge is No. 1 right now. That can change any day. Every day they are out there competing for a position.”

But someone has to be the answer.

“The closer you get to the ball, the better football player you have to be. Think about it. You’re on an end, it’s only coming at you from one side. If you’re in the middle, it’s coming at you from both sides. If you are middle linebacker, nose guard, safety … you better be a good player,” Kirelawich explained.

“I don’t care the sport. It can be baseball, basketball or football, you have got to develop it from the inside out. Baseball you have to be strong up the middle. It’s no different in football. Traditionally, the best players are the guys who play close to the ball and inside in the formation.”

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