Mike Dorsey grabbed notice almost from the first moment he set foot on the practice field at West Virginia in 2010. The Warren, Oh., native announced his presence in last year's camps with several big hits, and always seemed to be around the ball when he got into scrimmage action. His performance there pushed him past any consideration of a redshirt, and he played in all 13 games as a true freshman, contributing seven tackles (two for losses) and a fumble recovery.
With such an impressive debut behind him, it might be expected that the hard-hitting sophomore would automatically get more time in his second year, and perhaps even contend for a starting nod. However, one snag exists in that plan -- the presence of two other safeties with an equal level of talent and ability. In front of him at the spur sits Terence Garvin, who followed a similar path and now holds down the job entering his junior year. Dorsey also has the ability to play at bandit, but rising talent Darwin Cook looks to have snared that position. That might appear to leave Dorsey as the odd man out, but the cheerful second-year player doesn't look at is as a setback.
"It really isn't frustrating," he said of the emotions that come with battling other talented players for time. "It's just competition. We're out there competing and to have fun, and the best man will get the job. I know I am going to get to play some time, though, so I will just have to be ready to go in."
Indeed, there's little doubt that the coaches have to find ways to get Dorsey on the field. He flies to the ball and always seems to be in the thick of the action -- qualities that usually lead to big plays. So when it comes to getting snaps, he'll likely be on the field in special situations as well as a backup when Garvin needs a break.
Two of those opportunities will come on third down and on special teams -- situations tailor-made for Dorsey's talents.
"Those are very important," he said of two units that he expects to be a part of. "Third down, getting off the field, that's the money down. I see myself playing third down, probably some linebacker, because in our third down defense safeties move to backer. I think I can play that position. Special teams, and playing in space, that fits with what I do at safety."
Dorsey is a solid choice as a fixture on third down packages. As mentioned, WVU moves its safeties around to fill linebacking spots, then fills those gaps with extra corners to complete the defensive alignment. Dorsey would bring a hitting mentality to the backer spot, and the Mountaineers likely wouldn't lose much in run support with him manning one of those spots. (There was some thought of playing Dorsey as a linebacker out of high school, and that's a position he could eventually migrate to in the future.)
As for training at the position, Dorsey mentions a pair of departed Mountaineers as his mentors.
"Robert Sands and Sidney Glover, they played those positions last year, and I learned a lot from them. I learned about being more physical from Sidney. He taught me how to do that and attack and do everything hard. I watched them a lot last year, so I think I will be ready to play this year. I just need to be more focused, and stay on my keys, and then just go play."
On special teams, Dorsey believes that one of the necessary attributes for playing safety carries over into the requirements for the coverage squads.
"We play in space a lot, so that helps me on special teams," he explained. "Then the other part of it is just natural instinct. You have to be open and free, and you don't have to worry about linemen on you, and that helps out a lot."
So, while Dorsey might not end up with a starting role this year, he certainly has the potential to rack up more snaps than the average sophomore. Put together 5-10 reps as a spur, 15 or so on third down and passing situations, and another 10-15 on special teams, and he will have many opportunities to display his abilities. Those chances could end up making him one of the key players in West Virginia's rebuilding project on defense and kick coverage teams -- and earn him more notice from those that overlooked his fast start.