I think we know this by now, but Karl Joseph is absolutely not scared on the football field. That can get him as trouble as easily, though not as often, as it gets him in position to do something big, but WVU will take, and encourage, his reckless aggression. In the past month we’ve seen him drift just a little bit, but come back fiercely and go from a guy who made big hits to a guy who makes the tackle in a big way.
There’s a difference and it comes from practice and games and repeatable situations. He is, as is everyone else, better the third or fourth time he’s in a certain situation than he was in the first or second. But he’s leading the team in tackles and he can be the first freshman to ever do that at WVU. If it’s not him this year, then it’s linebacker Isaiah Bruce, who is a redshirt freshman and is in second place.
What Joseph has done, and is doing with back-to-back double-digit tackle games, has his teammates talking.
“What he does is stuff juniors and seniors will do,” said senior linebacker Terence Garvin, who was a safety the previous three years. “He can read keys. He knows now to study film. He just really knows how to play football like an older person with experience. It’s impressive.”
If you believe WVU’s defense has been on an uptick the past few games, you’ll probably then believe Joseph has had a say in it. He’s been asked to do a little more for the defense and he’s been active and he’s had an impact. He never comes off the field, either. His teammates notice it and Darwin Cook said he gets mad and jealous when he sees the team’s other safety make a big hit or a big play. His linebackers play a little more sound knowing Joseph has their back. On and on it goes.
WVU really believes he’ll be named the Big 12′s defensive freshman of the year, though TCU’s Devonte Fields may have a say in that. But he’s been valuable elsewhere, too, and not merely on special teams, where he is also active and important.
Joseph has also helped the offense this season and his unquestioned toughness has rubbed of on others.
During one spring practice, just as he was beginning to get his hands on some playing time, Joseph was with the defense that was going against an offense handing off to running back Shawne Alston.
Alston slipped through a gap before running into a pile of offensive and defensive players.
“I came to a stop,” Alston said. “Karl kept going. He blew me up a little bit.”
Alston knew better than to ever let up again.
“After that,” he said, “I started running angry all the time.”