Change In Focus

In high school, West Virginia freshman Brandon Napoleon was the typical high school star who shone at quarterback and played defense as something of an afterthought. After coming to West Virginia, his mindset has changed as he moved to a dedicated spot on the defensive side of the ball.

Napoleon was like many superb athletes who play quarterback in high school -- he also played defense due to his speed and quickness. As a cornerback, Napoleon wasn't just marking time until he got the ball back, but there's no denying that the majority of his concentration was on the offensive side of the ball.

While Napoleon had the ability to play QB on some level, his potential as a cornerback attracted much more attention on the Division I level. Schools such as Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina and Rutgers, among others, offered him scholarships as a defender, even though he admitted to paying more attention to offense. When he chose West Virginia relatively early in the process, he knew it signaled an end to his quarterbacking career, but he also knew that the new challenges that awaited him as a defender could bring him success on the Division I stage.

"Back in high school when I played both quarterback and cornerback, my mind wasn't always on the defensive side," he said as West Virginia wrapped up fall camp and headed into final preparations for the 2012 season. "It was more offense. I was more focused on playing offense. Now I'm here, my focus is all on defense, and I don't have to worry about changing my focus back and forth."

Napoleon knew that change was coming, but he also indicated some positives he gets out of playing just one position.

"It lets me be more aggressive, but it's been a big adjustment," he admitted. "Everything is going pretty well so far."

Napoleon will likely miss some of the spotlight that comes with playing quarterback, but he hasn't let that influence him at all during his time at WVU. He has spent a good bit of his early career learning defensive sets, which allows him to play without having to think too much about his assignments.

"Learning the plays was the toughest," he said. "Everything now is about athleticism. You have to be fast twitch and react quickly. Learning the plays was the big thing, but now I have to go and execute them. I do have the coverages down. Now it's becoming second nature to me, so I can just go play."

The son of former Mountaineer running back Eugene Napoleon, Brandon is prepared to either redshirt or play during his true freshman season. If it's the former, he can take tips on getting though the process from his father, who had to sit out a transfer year in 1986 after leaving Pitt for the Mountaineers in 1985.

"If I redshirt I will take the extra year and get better, but if I don't I'll be working hard to get playing time," Napoleon said. "The biggest thing is that either way, I will have to be prepared mentally."


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