The eyes of Texas are upon WVU linemen Darius and Dante Stills

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Texas’ offensive coaches are seeing double this week as they prepare for West Virginia.

Brothers Dante and Darius Stills are ranked second and third in the Big 12 in sacks, respectively, and very much on the mind of Longhorns coach Tom Herman.

“Really quick, explosive, powerful,” Herman said of the Stills brothers. “They do a good job in their scheme moving those guys around. We think they’re pretty dang good.”

Dante, a sophomore defensive end, has four sacks. Darius, a junior defensive tackle, has three. They also rank among the best in the Big 12 in tackles for loss. Dante is third in the league with 6.5 TFL, while Darius is fifth with 5.5.

West Virginia coach Neal Brown said the brothers from Fairmont are still only scratching the surface of their full potential.

“They’ve played at a high level, but haven’t been as consistent as we’d like,” Brown said. “Darius probably played the best of his career against Kansas. Dante has been really good, but has to continue to be more consistent. He plays too high sometimes. His effort has been OK, but I think he can strain and play at a higher level. Dante has a lot of talent and you’re starting to see that. We’re just pushing him to be his best all the time.”

Horns who cares?

Brown won’t be wasting a lot of breath talking about the “Horns Down” sign this week.

Last year, the Mountaineers were assessed two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties when David Sills and Will Grier flashed the hand gesture. Much was made of the flags when then-coach Dana Holgorsen indicated that officials told him it would not be penalized prior to the game.

This spring, an unknown team prankster flipped Texas’ logo upside-down on the giant season schedule posted outside of West Virginia’s team meeting room.

This week, reports out of Oklahoma indicate that the Sooners’ spirit squad has been warned not to flash the symbol at the stadium or even on social media. Oklahoma and Texas play their annual game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas next week.

As a stranger to all of this, Brown isn’t diving into the anti-Texas fray.

“That’s much ado about nothing,” Brown said of all the talk surrounding Horns Down. “We respect everybody we play. We’re not going to be disrespectful. That’s something we’re not going to spend much time on.”

Playing the heavy underdog

Brown and the Mountaineers open as 11.5-point underdogs in their home stadium. It’s not a role he’s used to playing as a head coach.

“We were probably a pretty good underdog last year against Boise, but it’s probably been awhile,” Brown said.

Brown’s Troy Trojans were actually only an 8.5-point underdog in last year’s season opener against Boise State, but ended up playing like the line should have been much wider in a 56-20 loss to the Broncos.

Brown doesn’t see the underdog role being fuel for any additional motivation, though.

“If you’re not motivated to play this game against this team coming off a bye week, in a nationally televised game — I don’t think we’ll need a whole lot of motivational ploys this week,” Brown said.

Wickline praised

Senior right tackle Kelby Wickline is the only WVU offensive lineman other than all-Big 12 left tackle Colton McKivitz to start all four games at his current position this season.

After a rough opener against James Madison, Wickline has solidified himself as a reliable right-side anchor.

“From last year to this year, he’s one of the most improved players on our entire roster,” Brown said. “He’s played almost every snap at right tackle. He’s done a really solid job. He played some last year, but this is the first time he’s been a starter going into the season. He played pretty good against Kansas and really well against North Carolina State. He’s done a really good job for us so far.”

Caution with Cowan

Bandit VanDarius Cowan is ready to play again after a four-game NCAA suspension, but don’t expect him to be the second coming of Von Miller right off the bat.

“It’s the first time he’s going to play meaningful snaps in a college football game,” Brown said of the Alabama transfer. “It will very much be a first game for him, so we aren’t going to put too much on him early.”

Brown said Cowan will contribute on special teams and his time with the defense will build gradually. Cowan, who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, has mostly worked with West Virginia’s developmental squad of freshmen and sophomores in practice.

“He’s in good shape. He’s athletic. Does a good job playing the edge,” Brown said. “I’m excited to see what he’s going to do in live action.”





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