MORGANTOWN — Pay no attention to the published depth chart where West Virginia’s defensive line is concerned.
It’s not that it’s a work in progress, but rather there are so many seemingly interchangeable parts that trying to organize them all into a definitive pecking order is rather pointless.
Take Kyle Rose and Christian Brown, for example.
A year ago, Rose started six games at defensive end. Brown, who had played in 11 games as a freshman in 2012, was being thought of as a potential star along the line, at nose guard, until he was injured in the weight room, missed the final eight games of the season and got a medical redshirt.
Fast-forward to WVU’s preseason camp and now it’s Rose who is at nose tackle and Brown at defensive end. The two have even addressed the moves during the offseason by attempting to tailor their bodies to their new spots — Rose gaining weight to play in the middle and Brown shedding it to line up further outside.
For Rose, at least, he says the change is a welcome one. The job of a nose tackle isn’t a glorious one, by any stretch of the imagination. The idea is to attract and preoccupy as many blockers as possible in order that others are free to make plays.
It’s apparently a job Rose relishes.
“I like the inside more than outside,” Rose said. “Playing outside you get more single blocks, but inside fits me better. I’m not as quick off the edge and I have a wrestling background, so it fits my style. Moving inside I’m able to make an impact.”
Tom Bradley is coaching West Virginia’s defensive linemen along with fellow newcomer Damon Cogdell. A few days ago, he had one of the best nose tackles in recent WVU history, Chris Neild, talk to the group. Neild has a special knowledge of what it takes to play in the middle.
“It’s nasty in there it’s a thankless task,” Bradley said. “They have to know that. They’ve got to be grinders. Some guys don’t enjoy that, but Kyle does.”
Rose is listed with 298 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame, but starting camp he said he was closer to 293. He wants to be up to 300 by the start of the season. Either way, that’s going to be significantly bigger than the 283 pounds at which he began last season and the 240 at which he was listed as a true freshman from Centerville, Ohio, in 2011.
Despite being only 240, Rose said when he first arrived former defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich put him at nose guard before starting to bounce him around. So it’s not as if the position is entirely new to him. He played there some last season, too.
“It’s all about where they need you,” Rose said. “If I had an arm I’d be a quarterback. But I don’t.
“Just being in there where the grind’s at, where you’ve got guys coming at you every play, where you’re being double- and triple-teamed. I love that kind of stuff.”
To think that Rose will spend the entire season inside, though, would probably be wrong. Not only has he bounced around throughout his career, many of the others in the rotation also have experience at multiple positions. And there are plenty of those experienced guys, even though two of the defense’s biggest losses from last year were end Will Clarke and nose tackle Shaq Rowell.
Dontrill Hyman, for instance, isn’t even listed on the depth chart but began camp working with the first group along with Rose and Brown. Those three were the first ones out with the No. 1 defensive unit Monday during the brief open portion of practice. Darrien Howard is sure to get snaps at nose guard after losing his redshirt last season with four games left in the season. Eric Kinsey and Noble Nwachukwu will play and that doesn’t even account for perhaps the most intriguing and talked-about player on the line, Gardner-Webb transfer end Shaquille Riddick.
Not all will bounce around to and from different positions on the line, but all are likely to play. None of them are really household names, but Bradley doesn’t really care about that at this point.
“I’ve always said this, I don’t mind if we have a bunch of no-names in August,’’ the former Penn State assistant said. “I just hope we have a couple names comes December.’’
BRIEFLY: Monday was the first full-padded contact practice of camp. That’s not to say that the previous ones were all that tame, however. “There was a lot of energy out there, even a few fights,’’ Holgorsen said of the Saturday practice that preceded Monday’s move to full contact. “That’s always fun to watch.’’ ... One name that keeps popping up is Dayron Wilson, a junior college safety who arrived last year as a walk-on and is now taking advantage of K.J. Dillon’s early absence (with an ankle injury) to make a mark at the spur. He’s been so impressive that Holgorsen put him on scholarship over the weekend. ... Offensive lineman Russell Haughton-James, who also played some tight end last year, continues to sit out practice as Holgorsen says he is “going through some stuff.’’ ... There should be little doubt now that freshman Dravon Henry is in the mix at free safety. He was with the No. 1 defense right off the bat Monday and intercepted Clint Trickett’s first pass.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.