Coming into this season, it looked like West Virginia would have one of the best secondaries in the Big 12 conference, if not the country.
With Karl Joseph, Dravon Askew-Henry and KJ Dillon ball hawking and making receivers think twice about going over the middle from the safety position, and Terrell Chestnut and Daryl Worley locking things down on the edge at the two corner spots, that looked like it might be the truth through the first three games of the season.
After Joseph went down with a torn ACL, and Terrell Chestnut was sidelined with a shoulder injury against Baylor – his status doesn’t look good for Thursday according to defensive coordinator Tony Gibson - WVU’s secondary is in a much different position than it was at the start of the season.
That is not exactly an ideal scenario as the Mountaineers head into Fort Worth to take on one of the most prolific offenses in the country in TCU. Add in the fact that cornerback Ricky Rumph, who has played a significant role on passing downs this season is likely to not be available for the game due to a death in his family, and the Mountaineers’ prospects for stopping the Horned Frogs appear even bleaker.
“They have their whole offense back, and they’re all healthy and we have our defense back, and our All-American is not playing. We’ve got a corner banged up. We’ve got another corner that’s not going to be there. I wish we did have all those guys, and then I’d be a lot more confident going into it. Not saying I’m not confident, but it’s a little bit different right now from where we were at game 1,” Gibson said.
As a result of Joseph’s injury, redshirt junior Jarrod Harper was plugged in as the starter at safety, and as the injuries have mounted, his role only figures to increase from here. Gibson said he’s liked what he has seen from Harper so far, but the volume of snaps he has seen in the past few weeks is starting to wear on him.
“I really like Jarrod. He’s a great kid, gives great effort, does everything right and he’s getting significant snaps right now, I think at times too many snaps. Last week we couldn’t help him because we had injuries at corner, so we had to move Ricky (Rumph) back out, and (Jarrod) was playing nickel doing all kinds of different things,” he said.
“I hate it for the kid because he’s probably played 180 snaps in the last two games. We’ve got to watch him because what we can’t afford to do is lose him. We’re going to have to get some other guys in the rotation and give him a break. Overall I think he’s playing well. You’ve seen him fading late in games, and I think that’s just the wear and tear.”
West Virginia’s secondary is being stretched thin at the moment, but Gibson still has a few viable options left to turn to on his depth chart.
“We’ve got Nana (Kyeremeh). We can put some guys in at corner and free up some other guys to move inside if we need to. We’re an injury away from not being able to do anything on third downs. Right now we’re ok with what we’re doing,” Gibson said.
“Jeremy Tyler is going to play a lot more. You’re going to see a lot of Jeremy. KJ, Dravon, Jeremy and Harp all may be on the field at the same time. Rasul (Douglas) is going to have to play. He’s going to be in the rotation. Nana is going to be in the rotation. Everybody we have healthy and who can go is going to go. We’re going to have to throw a lot of different people in.”