Spring shoes to fill: West Virginia

May, 3, 2011
5/03/11
9:00
AM ET
Now that West Virginia has finished spring practice, it's time to pick up the Mountaineers for our spring series looking at how teams have fared in trying to replace their biggest or most important stars.

Biggest shoes to fill: Chris Neild

The Mountaineers have a lot of departed stars who need successors, including Noel Devine, Brandon Hogan, J.T. Thomas and Robert Sands. But as I've written ad nauseum here, Neild might be the hardest piece to replace. You just don't find too many nose tackles as strong as Neild who love to do the dirty work, and Neild's contributions helped the rest of the defense look good.

Spring replacement: Jorge Wright

The coaching staff moved Wright from end to nose this spring to see if he could help replace Neild, along with Josh Taylor. He had a very good spring, and the 6-foot-2, 281-pounder emerged as the leader to start there in 2011. He's very strong and a quick learner who entered college as a 16-year old; Wright is still only 20 as a redshirt junior. One possible complication is his arrest last week on marijuana and gun charges. No punishment has been announced yet.

Summer outlook: Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel knows he may have to replace Neild with a rotation of bodies, including Wright, Taylor and incoming junior college transfer Shaq Rowell. The latter is a 300-plus pounder who'll get thrown into the mix in August, but he'll also be busy adjusting to major college football. If Wright can avoid a lengthy suspension -- and Stewart's handling of previous incidents involving Hogan and Jock Sanders seem to suggest Wright will be OK if he takes his medicine -- then the Mountaineers at least will have three big men inside who can plug the middle of that 3-3-5 alignment.

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