Defensive linemen Dante and Darius Stills have been arguably West Virginia University’s two best defensive players through the Mountaineers’ first four games.
Younger brother Dante, a sophomore, is second in the Big 12 with four sacks while Darius, a junior, is tied for third in the league with three sacks. Dante ranks third in the conference with 6.5 tackles for a loss and Darius is not far behind with 5.5 tackles for a loss.
Not bad for a couple of kids from just down the road, but first-year West Virginia football coach Neal Brown said on Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference that he would like to see the pair of former Fairmont Senior Polar Bears take the next step in their development and start performing at a high level on a more consistent basis.
“They have played at a high level, but haven’t been as consistent, maybe, as we would like,” Brown said.
Brown, however, did say Darius has been the more consistent of the two and is coming off one of his best games in a WVU uniform following the Mountaineers Sept. 21 win at Kansas.
Dante, Brown said, has come up big for the Mountaineers but has not pushed himself to his limit yet.
“His effort has been OK,” Brown said of Dante Stills. “I think he can strain and play at a higher level. Dante’s got a lot of talent and you’re starting to see that. He has made a ton of big plays. He has probably made more big plays for us defensively than any other player on that side of the ball. We’re just pushing him to be his best all the time.”
When West Virginia hosts Texas on Saturday (3:30 p.m. on ABC), the Stills brothers will certainly be on coach Tom Herman and the Longhorns’ radar.
“We think they’re pretty dang good,” Herman said.
“[Dante and Darius Stills are] really quick, explosive, powerful. They do a good job in their scheme of moving those guys around and creating different angles for your offensive line.”
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF BYE WEEK
Like West Virginia, Texas had the weekend off ahead of their meeting in Morgantown. That means for the WVU coaching staff, there was nothing new the Longhorns were going to put on film last week and they could turn their focus inward.
“We focused on ourselves a good bit last week,” Brown said. “We did a lot of self-scouting stuff. We watched Texas — we worked them a little bit. We tired to focus on some fundamental things and also get our guys fresh. We don’t have a ton of guys that are playing, so I think it’s important that we take advantage of our bye week and that we’re fresh coming out of [it]. We’ll really get into Texas this week.”
COWAN ON TRACK FOR DEBUT
VanDarius Cowan, who was suspended for West Virginia’s first four games this season due to an NCAA eligibility issue, is all set to make his debut for the Mountaineers on Saturday against the Longhorns.
Cowan, a redshirt sophomore, sat out last season after transferring to WVU from Alabama. As a freshman for the Crimson Tide, Cowan played sparingly in seven games before leaving the program.
“He’s going to play some snaps at Bandit,” Brown said. “It’s really the first time he’s going to play meaningful snaps in a college football game. For all intents and purposes, really his first collegiate action. We’re going play him, and he’ll play some on special teams and some on defense. Very much like a first game for him, so we’re not going to try to put too much on him early.”
Brown said Cowan has been staying busy during the suspension, and he expects him to be in decent shape upon his return to live action.
“We’ve been getting [Cowan] a decent amount of work,” Brown said. “He has been taking part in our, what we call, ‘Monday Night Football’ — which is our developmental program. They get a lot of work during the week, so he’s been doing that. He’s been staying up as far as reps and he’s in good shape. He’s athletic and he does a good job playing the edge for him, so I’m excited to see what he’s going to do in live action.”