MORGANTOWN - Brodrick Jenkins and the rest of the back end of West Virginia's secondary completely buy into what their coaches are saying about the key to playing defense in the Big 12, which is being able to force turnovers."The more we can give our offense the ball back, the better. That's what the coaches are emphasizing,'' Jenkins said. "As long as we get the ball back and give Tavon [Austin] and Geno [Smith] and Stedman [Bailey] a chance, I think we'll be good.''Here's the thing, though: They also know that there will be times when that doesn't happen. There will be times when opponents score. In fact, they may score in bunches.Four of the top 10 teams in the nation in scoring offense from last year are on West Virginia's schedule now. The Big 12 was the highest-scoring conference in the country. Forty-point games and 400-yard passing performances aren't the exception, they're the rule.
And as soon as that happens the first time to West Virginia, the secondary is going to get much of the blame.Pressure? Well, sure. But cornerbacks and safeties are used to that."That's what we're here for,'' Jenkins said. "We understand that we probably have the hardest job on the field. You have to know what's going to happen and be ready for it."And I like that. I like knowing that it's going to be hard and that I'm going to be on the edge all the time, one of the last guys back there. It makes me a better person.''It might make Jenkins a better person, but it's also going to make him a target. He and Pat Miller will most likely be the starting cornerbacks when the season begins. No one behind them has any real college experience save for special-teams play.There are some backups who are going to have to step up, like Avery Williams. Jenkins says he's been impressed so far with at least a couple of the true freshmen, Ricky Rumph and Nana Kyeremeh. Others will surely work into the mix.
But for the most part, it's going to be up to Jenkins and Miller at the corners, along with safeties Darwin Cook and Travis Bell and probably a couple of true freshmen, Karl Joseph and K.J. Dillon.They will be under fire constantly, and there will be times when the other guys win. It's inescapable."It's going to happen. It always has and it always will,'' Jenkins said. "There are great players everywhere. Deion Sanders got beat. Everyone gets beat. It's how you react to it that judges your character and judges the type of player you are.''The best thing the secondary has going for it in preparing for the offensive onslaught is, of course, familiarity. It's not as if the Big 12 offenses that West Virginia faces are going to be much better - if at all - than WVU's own.So Jenkins relishes facing Smith and Austin and Bailey and the others every day.
"If I know I can defend Stedman Bailey and help him to be a better player, then I know that I can compete with anyone,'' Jenkins said. "My confidence goes up every time I defend Stedman or Tavon."We all know that if we help each other get better we can take this thing a long way.''BRIEFLY: Today is an off day from practice for the Mountaineers, who resume again on Monday. That's the beginning of the final week of pre-classes workouts. Students return next weekend and begin classes on Monday, Aug. 20. ... Today is the team's annual fan day at the Caperton Indoor Facility. It is from 1 to 3 p.m. and includes autographs from coaches and players.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.