VanDarius Cowan back, but WVU faces other lineup questions

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia bandit linebacker VanDarius Cowan is eligible to play against Texas with his four-game NCAA suspension now completed.

“He’ll get heavily evaluated heading into the Texas game,” WVU coach Neal Brown said on Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference.

The Mountaineers (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) host the No. 11 Longhorns (3-1, 1-0) on Oct. 5 after an idle week for both teams.

Bandit is a position where defensive coordinator Vic Koenning has repeatedly stated that the Mountaineers need more consistent play. Quondarius Qualls has seen the majority of the snaps, and Koenning has indicated that Qualls has had trouble staying fresh at the end of games as a result.

Built as a hybrid linebacker/defensive end, the bandit is crucial to West Virginia’s pass rush. The Mountaineers have gotten a combined zero sacks and 0.5 tackles for loss from Qualls and Zach Sandwisch this season.

Cowan is waiting to play his first game as a Mountaineer. He sat out last season as a transfer from Alabama, where he had been dismissed from the team by Nick Saban.

Sills, Miller statuses up in air

Brown did not sound overly optimistic about the status of starting junior offensive lineman Josh Sills.

Sills has missed the past two games with a shoulder injury, and did not make the trip to Kansas.

“We’ll have more of an update on where Josh is at Tuesday,” Brown said.

Brown confirmed that junior cornerback Dreshun Miller is rehabbing after undergoing surgery. Miller, who has not played this season, still has a redshirt season available if needed.

“We will know more about his status for this season in the next week or so,” Brown said.

September standouts

Brown was asked about who he would deem the most valuable players for West Virginia through four games. On offense, the answer was a no-brainer.

“Offensively, our best player is Colton McKivitz,” Brown said of his senior left tackle. “He’s been our leader. He’s played really physical. He’s protecting the passer well. He’s played at a high level.”

On defense, there is no one player who has stood out. In each of West Virginia’s three wins, someone different — or multiple someone differents — have contributed to the defensive effort.

“Outside of the second quarter against Missouri, we’ve just been a group that’s played well together,” Brown said. “I think the defensive line as a group has been the bright spot on the defensive side.”

A concerning lack of explosions

Brown believes quarterback Austin Kendall has done an admirable job of managing games, but still needs to see more from him in the final two-thirds of the season.

“We’ve got to be more productive in our explosive plays,” Brown said. “That’s something we have to improve on. But we’ve done a nice job through four.”

Kendall is 94-of-144 (65.3 percent) with six touchdowns and three interceptions. He is averaging 217.8 yards per game, which ranks seventh in the Big 12.

As Brown stated, explosive plays have been lacking for West Virginia’s offense. The Mountaineers have 14 plays of 20-plus yards, which ranks 95th nationally. Nine of those explosive plays have been passes, which rates 96th in the country.

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