McLeod filling big role in WVU secondary

File photo courtesy of Caleb Saunders/ WVU Football West Virginia defensive Jordan Lesley praised the play of freshman Saint McLeod’s play at the spur position in the win over Texas. Lesley is speculated to be a candidate as the new head coach at Troy but says his focus remains on Saturday night’s game at Kansas.

MORGANTOWN — On paper, Saint McLeod doesn’t seem like the prototypical playmaker — at least not yet.

First off, he’s a freshman. His playing time in his first year at the college level has been sporadic. Prior to last week’s matchup with Texas, he had yet to start a game.

That’s no matter for West Virginia and defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley, who says that McLeod already possesses many necessary skills needed to make an impact.

“Saint has a nose for the football,” defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said Tuesday. “When you have that, that’s a skill and a natural ability that you don’t have to coach. He’s ahead of most guys at that position that are his age. Saint’s got a bright future.”

With linebacker Exree Loe sidelined with an injury, Scottie Young slid over to fill the void. This resulted in a hole at the spear, a position that features traits of both linebackers and defensive backs.

McLeod saw his number called last week. He started at spear on Saturday, making him a benefactor of the team’s depth chart shuffling. The move ultimately turned into a good one for West Virginia as McLeod finished second on the team with seven tackles, as well as a forced fumble.

Each of McLeod’s tackles came in the second half, helping West Virginia cement the 31-23 win over Texas. It wasn’t just the plays he made that made an impact, rather Brown says McLeod’s mindset was a tremendous asset.

“Any young man that has his first college start against — however you want to think about it, Texas is still the University of Texas,” Lesley said. “For him to step up into that says a tremendous amount about him.”

Yet, McLeod’s impact stretched further than the box score, according to head coach Neal Brown.

“I thought, first of all, he played with a lot of confidence,” Brown said. “I like his demeanor. He’s kind of a guy that’s not too high, not too low.”

Still, there were plenty of rookie jitters for the Philadelphia native.

“He got a little anxious at times, overplayed some things,” Brown said. “He over-pursued, which, you’d rather have him do that, ’cause he was playing really hard, but he overan the ball. Anytime he missed some tackles, it was because he didn’t take a very good angle, didn’t use the sideline. I thought he did a nice job.”

With Loe and starting cornerback Nicktroy Fortune already ruled out entering the regular season finale against Kansas, as well as defensive back Charles Woods questionable to open the week, Brown said that McLeod would start again this week.

Undoubtedly, West Virginia is hoping McLeod’s positive impact will continue. A win allows the Mountaineers to punch their tickets to a second-consecutive bowl appearance.

Lesley addresses Troy Rumors

Lesley could be in the running for a new gig.

Troy, after firing Chip Lindsey on Sunday, is searching for a new head coach. Lesley, who came to WVU with Neal Brown’s coaching staff in 2018, previously spent six years on the Trojans’ coaching staff. He also played there from 2000-04.

“It’s nothing more than speculation right now,” Lesley said Tuesday about the rumors. “Just trying to get to the Kansas game and move on from there. But nothing more than speculation.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $3.92/week.

Subscribe Today