After two of the worst statistical seasons in school history the last two years, it’s clear that there needs to be some improvement from West Virginia University’s defense if the team is going to become a competitor in year No. 3 as a Big 12 member.

It wasn’t going against Alabama, Oklahoma or Texas, but first-year defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, who has been charged with the task of fixing those problems, was pleased with what he saw from his unit Saturday, as the Mountaineers wrapped up the preseason portion of camp with a scrimmage at Mountaineer Field.

“I thought we played with energy today,” said Gibson. “It was the first time in a couple days we had some energy on defense. I thought the ones did really well. I’m not sure, but I don’t think we gave up a touchdown, which is good. We put them in a lot of different situations.”

Gibson, a Van native, said he was especially pleased with how his group performed inside the red zone, a point of emphasis this summer.

“They buckled down at the end and did some good things,” he said. “It helps when you got guys that can get after the quarterback, and you don’t have to blitz all the time and leave the defensive backs hanging. I’m very happy with that.”

Tackling has been a concern over the last two weeks, but Gibson said he saw an improvement in that area on Saturday.

“We had a live situation yesterday, and we missed 22 tackles,” he said. “So we really honed in on it this morning and thought that the kids reacted well. I think we only had two or three missed tackles during the whole scrimmage today.”

“I think we tackled better than we had the past couple days,” agreed defensive line coach Tom Bradley, who knows a thing or two about defense, having served as Penn State’s defensive coordinator for 12 seasons. “That was a big concern. We hustled to the ball, still made mistakes, but that’s going to happen. This gives us a chance to correct them.

“I think we’re where we want to be at the end of the preseason. Everybody’s tired, beat up and we got a lot of our guys back that we didn’t have earlier.”

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WVU brought in music for Saturday’s scrimmage, blasting it through the speakers to try to help the team prepare for the noise it will face in the Georgia Dome for the Aug. 30 opener against Alabama.

“We’ve done that the last couple practices, which just adds an element of confusion,” said offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “You want to try and confuse those guys as much as possible out there.

“It’s probably going to be pretty loud. So we’ll deal with that in the weeks to come. It definitely makes you have to focus.”

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Dawson, who’s also the quarterbacks coach, said he’s been pleased with starter Clint Trickett this summer, especially with the senior’s leadership ability.

“He’s done a great job of just taking over that group, and I think everyone in that group looks to him, no doubt,” he said. “That’s what we wanted to get accomplished back in the summer when we named him the starter. 

“I think he had a great camp. I just wanted him to have a grasp of the offense.”

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