Kyle Rose has been a staple on the defensive line for four years. Whether it was at defensive end or nose tackle, the senior has excelled at the position, having mostly been used to slow the run game. Now, with his ability to flip between nose and an outside slot, Rose has added another dimension of attack in the trenches, and WVU is hoping that shift will be benficial against No. 21 Oklahoma State.
He started his career at West Virginia at end, and slowly moved inside to nose, which is where he was for the entirety of last season, and for the first three games this year. Against Oklahoma, defensive line coach Bruce Tall slid Rose over to the end spot for a few reps. Tall replaced Rose with backup nose tackle Darrien Howard, a solid run-stuffer in his own right and among the more promising players for next season.
“It’s something you always have in your back pocket. For different reasons or different schemes we’re going to see, we want to have that mixture available,” Tall said. “It gives you a chance to put Kyle and Darrien on the field at the same time. You got two really good players who are on the field at the same time.”
At first glance it looks like WVU would be stacking the line with run-stoppers, which is true. But Rose has grown into a versatile player on the line.
“I feel really comfortable with Kyle in the pass rush, too,” said Tall. “He was very productive (against OU). He had more tackles out there than he did inside, this week.”
The added rotation should better the depth and provide another agile body to the front; Tall typically removes Christian Brown when Howard enters. The Mountaineers, however, are still not getting their linemen to the quarterback as much as desired, though that's partially an issue of the design within the 3-3-5 odd stack defense. Noble Nwachukwu and Howard only combine for 2.5 sacks on the year, and Brown hasn't found consistency in getting into the backfield, either.
But in terms of shutting down the run, West Virginia has been very productive. After getting torn apart last year by Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine for over 242 rushing yards, the Mountaineers only surrendered 107 to the Sooners, with Perine's longest rush just 12 yards. The Mountaineers did allow multiple big plays, including three long passes for touchdowns that were the difference in the game.
Howard said the team played hard but not smart, and even though they limited OU to low rushing numbers, they couldn't stop Oklahoma on the backside, and that's where better pressure should aid this team as it moves on without its best defender.
“We learned that little things matter, whether it’s the wrong step or the wrong technique,” Howard said. “It makes a big difference in the game." See more of Howard's interview below.