Heading into this season with what figures to be a much improved defense, WVU has shaken things up along the defensive line, to a certain degree, in an effort to shore it up.
The on-field personnel has changed as well. Redshirt junior Christian Brown, who saw the majority of his playing time at nose tackle, has moved to defensive end and is looking to make the Mountaineer pass rush much less pedestrian in 2015.
“I just try to work on my craft, work on the little things I didn’t do last year. Playing at defensive end, it’s a new position. I was at nose (tackle) for half of the season, then I moved to defensive end. I’m just working on the little things to make me become a better player,” Brown said.
For Brown, the move brings him back to the position he’s always wanted to play. Rather than anchoring the middle of the defensive line, drawing double teams and getting cut down at the knees by interior offensive lineman, Brown will have a chance to rev his engine and get after the quarterback.
“Defensive end is what I always wanted to play at the next level, and just in general. Nose is physical. It’s a lot more physical than defensive end. There’s stuff you have to adjust to but it’s nothing big, nothing major to worry about,” Brown said.
Certainly there will be some adjustments he has to make, but the fact that he got some experience at the position last season should help make the transition to full-time defensive end a smoother one.
“The good thing about it is he ended last season at the defensive end spot, so right now he knows the game, he knows the system. He’s doing pretty good right now. He’s just got to stay consistent,” said defensive line coach Damon Cogdell.
“His athleticism, his speed, his power, especially the power playing the five technique makes it good for him. So now he’s got to put everything together, combine it, and hopefully he becomes a great player.”
Whether Brown can inject more life into the WVU pass rush remains to be seen, but the fact that he will soon be experienced at every position on the three-man front gives the coaching staff more mobility and depth to work with.
“I think a lot of those positions, you know, there’s a lot of carry over. We teach them certain techniques, and essentially if you can play the nose, you can definitely play out on the end,” said defensive line coach Bruce Tall. “Because he’s explosive and has some athleticism, he can do that. He has the ability to play any of the three spots which is ideally what you’d like to get when you bring guys in.”