MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Senior safety JoVanni Stewart will miss the Texas game for “personal reasons,” a West Virginia athletic department spokesman confirmed Thursday afternoon.
Stewart’s impending absence was first reported by Mike Casazza of 247 Sports, who also indicated that Stewart is considering taking a redshirt for the rest of the season so he can play elsewhere next year.
“He’s not going to play this week,” coach Neal Brown said on his Thursday night radio show. “We’ll probably have more on that next week.”
Stewart has not entered the NCAA transfer portal and remains on the roster.
Stewart has started all four games at the spear position. He has 17 tackles, including one for loss.
The 5-foot-8 Stewart was one of the most indispensable players on WVU’s defense last season, moving to outside linebacker thanks to a slew of injuries at that position. He started every game and finished the season with 54 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
On the surface, it appears there is a high probability Stewart has played his final game as a Mountaineer.
As a native of Katy, Texas, the Longhorns game would figure to be near the top of Stewart’s personal list in importance. On the other side of the equation, Stewart is likely to receive a frosty reception in the locker room if he indeed chose to bail on the biggest game of the season contemplating whether or not to redshirt.
Last year the NCAA passed a rule allowing players to redshirt if they played in four games or less. Meant to benefit developmental freshmen, older players across the country are already turning it into an exploitable loophole to set up a transfer.
Redshirt freshman Kwantel Raines is Stewart’s backup. Raines has two tackles and a forced fumble this season. Bridgeport native Dante Bonamico would be next in line behind Raines. Bonamico moved to the spear from strong safety in training camp.
True freshman Tykee Smith, who worked at spear early in training camp before switching to strong safety, may also return to the position.
“We feel good about Kwantel Raines, Tykee Smith and Dante Bonamico,” Brown said. “Tykee Smith is one of these guys – we scrimmaged four times in the bye week with younger guys, and he just stood out. I’ve got big expectations for him.”