With four major contributors from last year’s secondary either graduating or entering themselves in the NFL Draft, West Virginia's coaching staff knew it had some holes to fill this off-season.
Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson put in the hours on the recruiting trail, and it paid off with a class of signees that included some much needed secondary help.
“We had depth issues at corner anyway, so we knew we were going to go out and try to sign three or four guys. With Daryl (Worley) leaving that put us down another number. I think we ended up getting four, counting Jacquez (Adams), five,” Gibson said.
“We have a good corps of guys that will be here through spring ball that we’ll get to watch and keep a close eye on, and then add four guys once fall camp starts. It’s going to be very competitive at that position. That might be the most competitive position in our defense this spring.”
The highlight of Signing Day for the secondary was the moment Lackawanna College safety Kyzir White sent in his commitment. Rated as a four-star recruit by Scout, and touted as potentially the most talented of the White brothers to come through WVU, Gibson said he will likely find his way to the field sooner rather than later.
“Kyzir is going to be a Spur and replace KJ Dillon. We talked a lot, and in depth, about a lot of different things with Kyzir. He’s going to have to come in and win the job, and he’s going to have every opportunity to do that. He’s a kid that we think very highly of. He’s very athletic and physical. He can play man. He reminds me a lot of KJ; just bigger,” Gibson said.
“He was a key target. That’s the guy we wanted to get. A lot of people played a role in it: coach Scott, coach Galloway, myself, coach Holgorsen, the whole staff. I was up there the last three times we could visit him, and tried to get in and seal the deal with it all. It was work, and it wasn’t easy. We worked at it, and in the end we won out.”
KJ Dillon made a name for himself playing the Spur position in West Virginia’s 3-3-5 defense last season, and is reaping the benefits with improved draft stock now. Kyzir White undoubtedly saw what Dillon was able to do at that spot, and once he heard Tony Gibson’s plan for him, the scales tipped in West Virginia’s favor.
“His biggest thing is he wants an opportunity to come in and have a spot and have a plan. We showed him our plan and how we’re going to use him, and at that point he liked what he was seeing and hearing.”
Because of the sheer number of players West Virginia lost this year, going after junior college players like White was necessary.
“When you lose eight guys that started, and you lost three or four key backups who played a lot, you have to be able to go in and get guys that we think are going to be game ready. We don’t have time right now to develop guys in two years and then throw them on the field. So it was our time to go out and get some JuCo guys. Next year obviously won’t be a big year for junior college on defense. We’ll focus more on the high school guys then,” Gibson said.
Only time will tell if Kyzir White can live up to the hype that has surrounded his recruitment, but it seems he will get a chance to prove himself in the near future.