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UAB Georgia Football

Quarterback Tyler Johnston III (17) is brought down by a Georgia defensive lineman during an NCAA football game in 2021 in Athens, Ga. Johnston transferred from UAB and will challenge for the starting job at Towson in 2022.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third installment of a 12-part series previewing West Virginia’s opponents for the 2022 football season. The Mountaineers’ second nonconference matchup comes at home on Sept. 17 against Colonial Athletic Association member Towson.

While being anchored by fifth-year and graduate seniors has its perks — primarily experience and leadership intangibles — it also comes with its drawbacks, and Towson is feeling those as the 2022 season looms.

The Tigers will have to replace their starting quarterback and running back as well as their leading wide receiver and top five leading tacklers from last season, leaving a lot of uncertainty. All of that coming off a 4-7 season including a 3-5 mark in the FCS Colonial Athletic Association last year.

There are plenty of returning candidates and a wealth of incoming freshmen and transfers leaving positional battles nearly across the board.

At quarterback, senior Jeff Miller (6-foot-6, 235 pounds) appeared in five games last season and threw for 301 yards on 26-of-47 passing. But he will be pushed by Tyler Johnston, a graduate transfer from UAB who has thrown for 4,837 yards and 37 touchdowns in his career, going 15-6 as a starter. Also, junior Vince Amendola, a former transfer from North Carolina, could figure into the mix.

Junior Devin Matthews (5-9, 195 pounds) is the leading returner in the backfield after rushing for 271 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago. Curtis Murray, a 5-10, 190-pound senior transfer from Maine missed last season with an injury and could factor in for carries as well and junior Sabias Folley (5-11, 235 pounds) is a bruiser who showed flashes in spring practices.

Darian Street, a graduate senior and former transfer from Pitt caught 24 passes for 336 yards and two scores last year with fellow graduate Jabari Allen adding another 29 receptions, 263 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Malik Jackson (6-3, 230 pounds) transferred in from Maryland and could also help in the passing game.

The offensive line is a major question mark with three starters up front having departed the program. Senior Roman Warheit (6-6, 335 pounds) is back after appearing in 21 games over the last two seasons. The Tigers brought in five linemen as part of their 2022 recruiting class with three of them — Ralph Paige Jr. (Merrimack College), Evan Roberts (Myrtle Beach Collegiate Post-Graduate Academy) and Josh Roberts (Lafayette College) — coming in as transfers.

There are likely even more unknowns defensively than offensively. Senior cornerback Charles Peeples (6 feet, 180 pounds) finished sixth on the team in tackles a year ago with 30, but that total is the most of any returner. Peeples also forced and recovered a fumble and broke up three passes. Senior linebacker Ryan Kearney (3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries) and senior defensive lineman Vinnie Shaffer (3.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks) bring back some experience as well.

The Tigers brought in six freshman defenders as part of their recruiting class with graduate student Makye Smith, a defensive lineman from Stony Brook coming over as well. Smith is likely easily the team’s most established player on defense, having accumulated 90 tackles with 17.5 for loss and 7.5 sacks over four seasons with the Seawolves.

The matchup between WVU and Towson will be just the second between the schools, the other coming in a 54-0 win for the Mountaineers on Sept. 6, 2014.

Ryan Pritt covers WVU sports. Reach him at 304-348-7948, ryan.pritt@hdmediallc.com. Follow @RPritt on Twitter.

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