MORGANTOWN — At the start of every season there are players who show up, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere, and burst onto the scene.
This year is no exception.
Here are some players with whom you may not be familiar with or may not think of as potential big-time contributors to look for.
DL Akheem Mesidor
6-2, 268 out of Ottawa, Canada
A freshman who spent last year at Clearwater Academy is one of the most advanced freshmen on the team. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to starting offensive guard James Gmiter, who has had to play against him on a daily basis in camp.
“Messidor is probably the best young guy I’ve seen over there,” Gmiter said. “He reminds a lot of Dante Stills when he got here. He definitely has potential. He’s one of my least favorite people to block next to Darius and Dante.”
That, obviously, is high praise since both the Stills brothers are premier proven players.
“He’s quick, he has really good hands and he’s deceivingly strong. He doesn’t look like he’d be strong, but he definitely is,” Gmiter said.
WR Sam Brown
6-2, 197 out of Savannah, Georgia
Most teams have a defensive position designated the Sam linebacker, Sam being parlance for strong side linebacker, but on WVU, the Sam position is the Z receiver since talented sophomore Sam James plays there, backed up by true freshman Sam Brown, who last year in high school, averaged 18.2 yards per reception and caught 11 touchdown passes.
How good is Brown?
“He’s as exciting as a freshman as anyone I’ve had the opportunity to coach,” said wide receiver coach Gerad Parker. “He has a lot of promise. Like all freshmen, he is maturing as a human being and as a player, but he’s exciting and meets the standards of what a wide receiver is.”
LB Tony Fields II
6-1, 220 out of Las Vegas
A late arrival who transferred from Arizona, from where he graduated and started all 37 games he played, Fields was the second leading tackler on the Arizona team last year.
He was recruited there by WVU cornerback coach Jahmile Addae, and who, along with Scottie Young, a senior and another three-year starter, is one of two Arizona transfers who could impact the team this year.
“I recruited him and Scottie Young to Arizona and brought them into the college fold,” Addae said. “They were dynamic. They have turned into more elite players than I would have thought. They both had productive careers at Arizona. Both have skills sets unto themself.”
Young, who got to WVU before Fields transferred in, has not advanced as far as Fields yet.
“Scottie is new and trying to find his way,” Addae said.
But Fields stepped onto the field playing at a high level.
“Tony is a guy who made a bunch of plays, a bunch of tackles. He’s extremely athletic and is a possible NFL guy. We [the deep secondary] like playing behind guys who can run.”
CB Dreshun Miller
6-1, 192 out of Kennesaw, Georgia
A redshirt junior who also came in from Arizona, but not the school in Tucson, but instead Eastern Arizona Junior College. Miller missed last year with a knee injury but has rebounded completely this year and has won one of the cornerback spots.
“Dre has been the most consistent guy in camp and it’s been cool to see,” Addae said. “He came in as a guy where consistency wasn’t his strong suit. Last year, he got to sit back and watch the game while having to deal with his knee injury. In hindsight, maybe it was one of the better things to happen to him, being as he was able to advance himself mentally while trying to rehab himself physically.
“Now it shows, he is back both physically and mentally. He’s probably ready to have a big season. I’m excited for him. Any time a guy works his butt off in rehab that comes back better than they left, that’s a cool thing and Dre has done that.”
The fact that at 6-1 and 192 pounds Miller has the body type that Addae likes in his corners helps even more.
“Every cornerback coach says they want the tall, long kid. That’s huge, to have the length. Any time you have the length, even if lack something whether it’s at the line of scrimmage or downfield, it’s still hard to get the ball in because of the large radius around him in which they can get to the football,” Addae said.
“And when you have both — that large radius and the athletic ability — it leads to a cool, complete athlete. He’s definitely not that yet, but it’s very, very close.”
DB Daryl Porter Jr.
5-10, 179 out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Don’t be fooled by his size, Daryl Porter is a true freshman who can play. Offers from Baylor, Boston College, Indiana, Iowa State, Louisville, Minnesota, Penn State, TCU, Utah, Vanderbilt and Washington State tell you that he wasn’t pictured as anything but a major college prospect.
And what he’s done through camp has fortified that thought.
“Daryl has done what every defensive back should do that’s got to get the football,” Addae said. “The most important thing to him is his ability to respond. There are times as a young corner where you give one up, but every time he’s done that he’s bounced right back.”
He probably learned that from his father, who played five NFL seasons with the Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions.
6-2, 308 out of Fairmont Senior High
The best offensive lineman in West Virginia high school ball at Fairmont Senior High the past couple of seasons and a state champion wrestler, the athletic Frazier is blazing paths others never even think about.
He’s a true freshman and has earned the backup center job and also will backup at guard and Neal Brown expects him to see a good amount of playing time this year as he preps for what will be an open center’s spot next season.
Brown was thrilled to get such a top prospect and keep him at home.
“I think it’s very important for us, being in a state with a low population that may not have as many Power 5 prospects as other places, we have to keep those guys at home who are from within our state,” Brown said. “Zach is an outstanding wrestler; I think he has been beaten only once in high school. I think he has a chance to be a dominant player at center for us. He has great football instincts, is intelligent and loves West Virginia.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel