Even among the newcomers on this West Virginia University football team, Noah Guzman is really, really new.
Now — just a few months after his arrival on campus — Guzman finds himself in the thick of the Mountaineers’ defensive plans for the final month of the season.
Guzman and West Virginia were a good match from the start. The Mountaineers lost multiple experienced secondary players early in the summer to the transfer portal and were in pretty serious need of some help at safety. Guzman was coming off a pretty good showing in his first season at Cerritos (California) College — and also his first season as a safety after making the switch from receiver following high school — but had not yet found a major-college destination after his strong season on the junior college level.
“My mind was always set on the Power 5,” Guzman said. “I just set my mind on getting there. But it was getting late [in the recruiting window] so I figured I was going to have to go back to juco for another year.”
With WVU on the hunt for help at safety, assistant coach Blake Seiler — who has a history of finding strong recruits out of junior colleges — made some phone calls. The Mountaineers got Guzman on campus for a visit and the California native committed to WVU in late June. From there, it was just a few weeks before Guzman was in pads with the Mountaineers to open fall camp in Morgantown.
Guzman began his tenure with WVU like many others have before him, on the scout team. It didn’t take long, however, for him to start making the coaching staff take notice of his play. Guzman made the travel roster for West Virginia’s first roap trip of the season — the lopsided loss at Missouri — but did not play in either of the next two games against North Carolina State and at Kansas.
Playing time began to increase for 6-foot, 205 pound sophomore as the Mountaineers began to get hit hard by injuries in the secondary. Guzman saw the field in home losses to Texas and Iowa State before getting some serious playing time with the defense at Oklahoma. As more Mountaineers began to go down with injures, the coaching staff needed to make some adjustments to how WVU put its players on the field. That meant fewer linebackers and an added safety — a role seemingly made just for Guzman.
The third safety is referred to as a “rover” and that is where you can often find Guzman lined up now. He made his rover debut two weeks ago at Baylor and led the Mountaineers with 12 tackles in the close loss to the unbeaten Bears. Last week in Morgantown, Texas Tech did not match up well for WVU’s three-safety look so the Mountaineers did not use it as much. Guzman, however, still found ways to get involved with five tackles, including his first tackle for a loss with WVU.
“There are some differences between rover and safety where I was playing before, but I didn’t have any trouble picking it up,” Guzman said. “I know what I am doing, and I am getting comfortable there. I’m playing in the middle of the field, and I can get to the ball. I like hitting and flying around and getting physical. I like it because it’s free roaming. You get to see everything happening and you try to react.
“It’s kind of set up for the rover to make plays. You are in the the middle of the field, and you can get downhill and get to the ball.”