West Virginia snagged junior college cornerback Elijah Battle after a visit with Mountaineer coaches Dana Holgorsen and Brian Mitchell on Sunday. The commitment is already drawing praise from some quarters as a good catch of an underrated performer -- and one that fits well into the Mountaineer defensive scheme.
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Elijah Battle has versatility -- so much so, in fact, that he played in high school as a linebacker. He transitioned to the secondary at Dodge City, but even then got a curve ball on what is a somewhate rare move.
"I was expecting to begin as a safety, but then they moved me to cornerback," he said. "I liked safety a lot, because you make a lot of tackles, but I like corner better now. That's where I'll play at WVU."
Battle (6-0 185 lbs.) will also be able to get the desired head start at West Virginia, where he will enroll for the spring semester. His experience at linebacker figures to make him very sound against the run, and he shows those abilities at Dodge City, where he closes on his target very quickly, and does a good job getting his hands into the receiver’s catching frame in order to disrupt potential receptions.He flips his hips smoothly when turning to run, but also transitions back to a squared up position in order to make tackles in good form. He also has a good attitude about his position switch, the learning that it required, and even West Virginia's loss this past weekend.
"That didn't affect my decision at all," he said. "I know you can't win all of the games. I had a great visit to West Virginia and when I talked it over with my family it was clear that was the best place for me."
The selfsame versatility and position moves could also factor as negatives. Battle doesn't have a lot of experience as a defensive back, so his techniques and fundamentals are still a work in progress. He does tend to play too high in his stance at times, and if he misses a jam in his preferred position close to the receiver, he could be left open for a big play. He'll have to work to keep his aggression balanced with smart play.
"I had to work on my breaks and skills in the passing game," he verified. "I was always good at reading offenses in high school, so that helped me."
Battle also told BlueGoldNews.com that he "doesn't have any other visits set up right now", which might tend to lead to the conclusion that he could take another one elsewhere. Still, he said his commitment to West Virginia was solid, and that he planned on signing his letter of intent this month. There's also the qualifying issues to keep track of, and its a nebulous thing at best with the NCAA requirements calling for more than just a degree. Again, however, he thinks everything is good for him to make the move back closer to his East Coast roots in January.
An all-conference selection in high school, Battle dropped off the radar somewhat during his juco career -- perhaps due to the position switch. His junior college career still led to offers from schools such as Arizona, Houston, and Minnesota, so in no way is he a reach. If he can make the leap in competition, he could help WVU shore up what will be a thin crop of cornerbacks in 2016 and beyond. And if that proves to be an issue, he could also transition to safety, leaving him several positions where he could compete. He believes he will push for playing time next season, but isn't expecting to be handed anything. That's another positive, and one that he'll have to keep in the forefront when the tough days of practice begin.