Depth Charge

Karl Joseph and Darwin Cook are holding down the top two slots at the field and bandit safety positions, according to position coach Tony Gibson. Beyond that, there are some youthful surprises.

"Every day, they have to come and compete," Gibson said of Joseph and Cook. "If a guy goes with the ones, he has to keep his job. They are being evaluated with every drill we do. Skeleton, team. Karl and Cook, we aren't going to say those are our starters, but they are running with the ones right now. That could change tomorrow."

That gives West Virginia a pair of big hitters in the secondary. But that mentality has caused both players issues at times when trying for a more physical play than is needed, which has caused missed tackles or bad angles to be taken.

"Sometimes they get themselves in trouble, get out of control, and those are the things we are trying to work on right now," Gibson said. "Keep them under control and make a tackle. You know, a good tackle is getting them on the ground whatever way we have to do it. For those guys, get under control and make the play."

Gibson said he has seen solid mental progression from Joseph, a true sophomore who tied for fifth in the Big 12 in tackles and forced fumbles while being named the team's Defensive Player of the Year last season. The 5-10, 200-pounder also received an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention nod from the Associated Press and a trio of Freshman All-American honors. The issue now is not so much Joseph's spot, which he understands, but fine tuning his knowledge of the other positions as well.

"Since I have had Karl, from spring ball to now, his understanding (is better)," said Gibson, in his first year during his second stint at WVU. "I don't want him just knowing his position or just what the safeties are doing. At that spot, you have to know what the linebackers are doing, what the corners are doing. He has picked up the speed and he has a full understanding of our entire defense. That's really important."

Gibson also noted that many other players remain hesitant, not yet having that full grasp of the scheme and becoming paralyzed because of thinking. That will improve over the remainder of fall camp, and more is being digested daily.

"I think they are thinking," Gibson said. "As we go against our offense, different formations, motions. Every day there is something new. What we try to do is repeat installs so they can get a better understanding of it and make adjustments. Today is practice 11. Offensively, they will come out with something new today that we are going to have to adjust to and talk about and scheme up a bit. One thing we do is not scheme (directly) to our offense. We try to get good at what we do. We try to play our base to everything they do so we feel comfortable with it. That way, if we struggle (understanding a more comprehensive idea), we can move back to our base defense, base coverage and be ok (against other fast-paced offenses).

"That's the No. 1 thing. We have to call out formations, call out passing strength. Know where we are weak in certain coverages and I think guys sometimes get caught up in, hey, I gotta do what I gotta do and get lined up and all those things. We have to do a better job communicating coverage, all those things (between players). It's a work in progress right now. The way we do it, linebackers are responsible for certain things, safeties are responsible for certain things. Our checks in coverage come from the safety spots. Those guys have to communicate and make sure we are getting into the right stuff."

Ideally, West Virginia would like to have six solid players at the two safety slots, which is the exact same number cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell said he would like for his pair of positions as well. Gibson said he "really likes" redshirt freshman safety Jarrod Harper (6-1, 212 lbs.), and that he "had a great spring. He's physical, he has a great presence. He plays the run really well. He is getting better and better at coverage schemes. He's progressing and is one of our top four guys at this point. Him, and Ricky (Rumph) are going to be battling for the (reserve) spot."

Gibson also mentioned another freshman, Jeremy Tyler, as being in the mix. Tyler is in his first season in the program after an All-Class 5-A career at Martin Luther King High in Lithonia, Ga. The 6-0, 195-pounder is having the prototypical up and down sessions of a newcomer, but is "coming along. He's learning every day," Gibson said. "The first day or two he was really good, and then he stalled for a couple practices because we are overloading him with a lot of stuff. Now, as we are in practice 10, 11, he has gotten better."

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