The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

March 25, 2014

Depth could make Mountaineer defense better in 2014

BECKLEY — The numbers are enough to make babies cry and grown men scream. West Virginia University’s football team’s defense gave up 472.5 yards and 38 points per game in 2012 and only showed incremental improvement last fall, allowing 455 yards and 33.3 points per outing.

If the 2014 Mountaineers are going to improve on their 4-8 finish this past fall, those numbers must completely transform.

As WVU prepares for its ninth practice of the spring Thursday, there’s reason to believe that’s a possibility.

The biggest factors leading to a positive outlook from coaches and players are experience and depth. The Mountaineers have numbers on defense, and they don’t just have bodies. They have players who have experienced life in the Big 12.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the secondary, where the spring depth chart includes Ishmael Banks and Daryl Worley at corner, Karl Joseph and Jeremy Tyler at safety and K.J. Dillon at the spur.

The backups — Marvin Gross, Terrell Chestnut, Keishawn Richardson, Jarrod Harper, Ricky Rumph, Brandon Napoleon and others — have also seen meaningful playing time.

“We have much better depth at safety than last year,” said junior Karl Joseph, who had 68 tackles and an interception in 2013. “Last year, we just had myself, Darwin Cook and K.J. Dillion that were experienced. This year, everybody has experience. We have multiple people, and they can be productive.”

Up front, defensive ends Kyle Rose and Eric Kinsey have seen plenty of action on the ends, and Christian Brown is strong in the middle. Noble Nwachukwu, Darrien Howard and Dontrill Hyman provide depth.

“We have a bunch of guys who are going to be strong for us,” said Rose, who recorded 49 tackles and a sack last year as a sophomore. “Christian Brown and Darrien Howard at the nose, Eric Kinsey, myself, Dontrill Hyman and Jon Lewis are all strong. Our first team and second team are interchangeable. With the defensive line, you need a lot of depth. You can’t ask for too much, but right now we are pretty solid.

“I feel we could throw in anybody and not have a drop-off in performance. With me, I’m bigger, I feel stronger. I don’t know about faster, but I feel quick off the ball.”

The defensive line should also benefit from the addition of former Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who will handle that position as WVU’s new senior associate head coach.

“Coach Bradley has coached a lot of good football players and a lot of good football,” said Rose. “It’s a great opportunity for me and a once-in-a-lifetime chance. He doesn’t yell at people and is kind of docile. He knows what he’s doing, because he’s coached so much. You don’t want to get on his bad side, though.”

That leaves only the linebackers, where Brandon Golson, Nick Kwiatkoski and Isaiah Bruce top the depth chart.

New defensive coordinator Tony Gibson seems more than satisfied with what he has there.

“We have 14 guys out there right now without Jared Barber and Wes Tonkery (who will miss the spring with injuries),” said Gibson. “Shaq Petteway is slowly working his way back to healthy. Guys are getting a lot of quality reps and stepping up.

“Any time you can work with a lot of players is great. It increases competition.”

The Mountaineers will hold an open practice in Morgantown at 1 p.m. Saturday. They’ll hold practices on Tuesday and Thursday next week before hitting the road for a practice at Laidley Field in Charleston April 5 at 12:45 p.m.

The annual Gold-Blue Spring Game is planned for April 12 at 1 p.m. at Milan Puskar Stadium.

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH. 

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