By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
“I think we’re improved all around,” West Virginia University defensive lineman Will Clarke said as fall camp opened.
The 6-foot-6, 270-pound redshirt junior believes the reshuffled defense will be able to excel with everyone performing on the same page.
The nearly completely new coaching staff on that side of the ball not only has made changes in play style but also in positions of some players.
“There has been a lot of moving around,” Clarke admitted. “But we’ll be able to work well together.
“I don’t think the defense will be the key to our success, but that it’s going to be a full effort by both sides along with the special teams.”
Clarke conceded, however, it’s still kind of early to pass firm judgment on how the Mountaineers fare as a competing veteran squad in the Big 12 Conference as a new member.
Both of the major polls have ranked West Virginia No. 11. The nation’s coaches do the voting for USA Today and selected media do the voting for The Associated Press.
Clarke, who was recruited from Pittsburgh’s Allderdice High School, has played in 17 games for WVU. He is credited with making 33 tackles.
Five-and-a-half stops were for lost yardage.
Clarke, who has seen action mostly at defensive end, has been a leader for that unit. He said the defense looked pretty good in 7-on-7 drills during summer workouts. He believes it will be strong again this season.
Clarke said, “I think playing in the Big 12 gives the whole team greater motivation. We all want to play at a higher level.”
He will be among the returning defensive players with experience who must lead the way for those with less experience.
Clarke had one sack in WVU’s 70-33 crushing of Atlantic Coast Conference champion Clemson Jan. 4 in the Orange Bowl.
His career-high nine tackles had come in the victory over South Florida.
An ankle injury in the 2010 Marshall game hampered Clarke in to playing just four games as a redshirt freshman in 2010.
Clarke is majoring in criminology and investigation.