We’re all left wondering just what WVU will do on defense in 2014. We have our opinions and our (conspiratorial) theories and we won’t know for sure until Aug. 30.
Remember all that one-down-lineman stuff we were promised in the spring? Remember no-down-linemen in the spring game? Never saw any of it, never heard any of it in the summer. Remember the Buck linebacker? Gone. Remember Anthony Leonard? He’s coaching linebackers, and you can safely presume he’s coaching what he knows at this stage of the season.
And the weekend was, shall we say, interesting for WVU. It started with a scrimmage situation Friday in which the defense missed 22 tackles.
Ickey Banks is away from the team, and while the Mountaineers are hopeful they can fix this Thing, they nevertheless know there’s a good chance they won’t. Dravon Henry dressed in green and didn’t scrimmage Saturday. That’s 40 percent of a starting secondary that took some lumps last season, but there are question marks elsewhere.
Brandon Golson still isn’t practicing. The defensive line was jumbled Saturday with Christian Brown as a backup nose guard, though that may have been just to get a look there and to see what Noble Nwachukwu, Shaw Riddick, Dontrill Hyman and Eric Kinsey could do at defensive end. Quite likely, Brown will play a bunch of nose this season in one role or another.
So while the talk of improvement is probably true and fairly based on the wealth of experienced players, it’s important to remember this thing isn’t fully fixed. Far from it, in fact.
The 2013 season wasn’t statistically as bad as 2012, but it wasn’t good. Not even close. Some of it was out of WVU’s hands because of injuries and youth, to say nothing of good offenses in the Big 12, but the Mountaineers contributed to their problems.
We’ve been over many of those problems before, so how about a new voice? Big 12 opponents remembered many of the things they they did well and many of the things WVU did not do well in 2013 as a way to better explain what has to be better in 2014.
“When they went Cover 2, it worked a lot for us,” Oklahoma State receiver Jhajuan Seales said. “We saw their Cover 2 was always open in the middle of field.”
Quarterback J.W. Walsh passed for 322 yards and three touchdowns against WVU and the Cowboys had success in the middle with screens and short and longer throws into the middle.
The Cover 2 defense WVU played quite a bit last season is a common tactic where the two safeties play the deepest part of the secondary and each take half of the field. The cornerbacks and linebackers underneath play man-to-man or zone defense to protect their area.
“I’d say we were faster than them in those areas,” said TCU receiver David Porter, who caught eight passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns against WVU.