Blessing In Disguise?

West Virginia cornerback Pat Miller will be out for the rest of the spring practice after undergoing surgery to help correct a broken bone in his foot. It's not an ideal situation for the Mountaineers, but if there can be fortuitous timing for an injury issue, this may be one such case.

Miller, a rising senior, is likely one of the more established players on the WVU defense at this point.

Though the Mountaineers' new defensive coaching staff insisted before spring drills that the team's published depth chart wasn't so much as worth the paper it was printed on, that likely didn't ring as true at corner, where Miller and Brodrick Jenkins had sizable advantages in experience over backups Avery Williams and Terrell Chestnut.

Miller, you'll recall, came on strong towards the end of last season, picking off passes in the regular season finale against South Florida and the Orange Bowl triumph over Clemson. He returned the pick against the Bulls for a crucial touchdown in WVU's narrow 30-27 victory.

With stalwart corner Keith Tandy's eligibility exhausted, Miller will be expected by new position coach Daron Roberts to lead the group.

But leadership and solid play from one player (or even two, adding Jenkins) simply won't be good enough for West Virginia this fall, as it prepares to face several pass-happy offenses in the Big 12 Conference.

Quality depth is a desirable trait at every position, but it is especially necessary at cornerback because of how many receivers the Mountaineers may have to cover on any given play.

Terrell Chestnut
"We're not very deep at corner," coach Dana Holgorsen admitted. "You have Brodrick Jenkins and you have Avery Williams, who obviously needs work. You have Terrell Chestnut, who obviously needs work. Lawrence Smith is a guy who didn't play last year but is back. He needs reps. Cecil Level needs reps, but he's a walk-on. We're down to three scholarship corners now."

Thus, Miller's injury might mean the corners group looks a little rougher in the short term (say, for the final few weeks of spring practice), but it gives those further down the depth chart an important chance to rep with the first team defense -- and take more reps overall.

Chestnut, particularly, may benefit from the extra work. His talent was apparent to many as a recruit out of Pottstown High School in Pennsylvania, as he picked WVU over offers from Boston College, Miami and Pittsburgh, among others. But his true freshman season was derailed before it ever began, as he had to have surgery to repair a pre-existing shoulder issue.

The year off, so far, has been apparent, according to Holgorsen.

"He's looking okay," the head coach said Tuesday of Chestnut. "He's still not where we want him to be by any stretch of the imagination.

"He got beat on a couple of post routes today, and then I saw him puffing on an inhaler on the sidelines. He's a guy who's still trying to figure out how to play in pads due to not having pads on for a year, because he had the shoulder surgery. He's not where we want him to be, and he's a guy that needs to take advantage of as many reps as he can. If he's puffing on an inhaler, that's not going to be possible, but he needs to overcome that and get out there and play as much as he can."

Miller's injury will give Chestnut that chance for the final few weeks of spring. And when Miller returns to action in July, he should have plenty of time to get himself into the condition necessary to be ready to compete when fall camp begins in August.

A short-term shot at the Mountaineers' depth at cornerback may ultimately prove to be beneficial to their overall ability as a group come fall. At least that is what Holgorsen, Roberts and the rest of the WVU defensive coaching staff will be hoping for.

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