West Virginia Defensive Coordinator Tony Gibson Discusses Spring Goals for Mountaineer Defense

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The bad news is well-known: West Virginia's defense was again hit hard by graduation and the NFL draft. The good news? The replacements are no longer teenage kids, but viable replacements in a Power Five conference.

When the Mountaineers were struck by similar circumstances two years ago, the elevated reserves were mostly freshmen and sophomores. Now, WVU boass enough veteran quality depth to make the task far less daunting. Up front, the loss of Kyle Rose means Darrien Howard will slide into the starting spot - at least initially - at nose. Flanked by top returning sack leader Noble Nwachukwu and fellow end Christian Brown, West Virginia appears formidable in the trench.

The greater concern is at linebacker and into segments of the secondary, where WVU lost six at 'backer - including all three starters - as well as their starting spur safety, along with their top two cornerbacks. That's a whopping six of eight starters gone, nine if one counts Karl Joseph, who started the first four games last season at bandit before tearing his ACL one game into conference play.

Jarrod Harper, however, was solid in taking over the position, especially with the shadow created by an All-American and one pundit's top NFL safety in the draft, and will anchor a unit that also returns Dravon Askew-Henry at free. Otherwise, it looks like Jeremy Tyler slides to spur, to be challenged by junior college transfer Kyzir White and Marvin Gross, who was relocated from linebacker.

The favorites at the corners are Rasul Douglas and Nana Kyeremeh, at least until junior college transfers Elijah Battle and Mike Daniels arrive in the summer, while Xavier Preston and Al-Rasheed Benton are penciled in at sam and mike, respectively, to start, though those battles will also be ongoing with Brendan Ferns looking to challenge for time. Coordinator Tony Gibson, who coaches the linebackers, details those issues and more in his comments above.

Below, first-year safeties coach Matt Caponi details his position, and how he approaches his initial year in the program facing such a difficult rebuilding process. Caponi also gives his take on individual players, including newly-enrolled freshman Dylan Tonkery, as well as some of the returning players like Jarrod Harper, as well as the signing class that will increase depth.


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