West Virginia Spring Football 2016 Cornerback Preview

The fourth installment in our pre-spring look at position grouping outlooks for the WVU football team zeroes in on the cornerbacks.

DEPARTURES

West Virginia suffered an unexpected loss at corner for the 2016 season when Daryl Worley, who missed the Mountaineers’ Cactus Bowl win due to academic deficiencies, decided to bail on the program altogether and move on to the NFL. Whether or not Worley had already decided to leave prior to the bowl game doesn’t really matter at this point – what does is that his departure made cornerback into an even bigger position of immediate need for the recruiting class of 2016. He finished his career with 146 tackles (120 of them unassisted) ten interceptions and 21 pass breakups.

Worley’s decision piled on to the graduations of Terrell Chestnut and Rick Rumph III, leaving the Mountaineers threadbare at the position. Chestnut was a tough guy on the order of linebacker Jared Barber, as he battled shoulder issues throughout his career while fighting back from a knee injury during his redshirt freshman campaign. Playing in 40 games and starting 27, he piled up 86 tackles, four interceptions and 20 pass breakups during his career. Also a hard hitter, he forced three fumbles and was very good in run support. Rumph was a solid backup who played in 42 games for WVU, including three starts in 2015. He finished with 58 tackles, one interception, one pass breakup and one fumble recovery. While he wasn’t a star, he provided good support in different pass packages, as well as being a dependable fill-in on three starting assignments during his senior season.

REDSHIRTS RISING

Jordan Adams is the only scholarship redshirt on the roster, and he will get a lot of snaps in the spring to see if he is ready to handle playing time. Twin brother Jacquez, who enrolled in January, is a true freshman after attending a semester of prep school, but due to both time in the program and size (Jordan is listed an inch taller and 15 pounds heavier heading into the spring), it’s likely that Jordan has the better chance of seeing the field this fall, while Jacquez goes through the process his brother did a year ago.

The only other redshirt freshman on the spring roster is Densel Barnes, who was a quarterback in high school before walking on at West Virginia. With such a short roster, there’s going to be a great deal of pressure on the three seniors, as well as the incoming recruits, to make an impact.

NEWCOMERS

In addition to Jacquez Adams, WVU added four other players in the recruiting class who are initially slated to start out as corners. Elijah Battle and Mike Daniels are junior college transfers, while Jake Long and Sean Mahone are high schoolers.

If the incoming heights and weights are accurate, West Virginia did get some bigger players with which to combat Big 12 passing attacks. Daniels (6-0, 195 lbs.) and Battle (6-1, 190 lbs.) are both being counted on to provide immediate competition, and could see considerable time for the Mountaineers this fall. Unfortunately, neither was able to enroll for the spring semester, which would have been a big help in that process. However, both are physically mature and have shown the ability to stick with some of the top wideouts in junior college.

Jake Long and Sean Mahone will have more time to develop, but they also have the height and reach (both are six feet) to help disrupt passing attacks. Mahone, at 200 pounds, is the more physical of the two, but Long has the best raw speed of any of the signees. While both will get a chance to show what they can do in the fall, it might be tough for them to get noticed with the returnees and jucos vying for attention.

HOW IT ALL FITS

West Virginia returns redshirt seniors Rasul Douglas and Nana Kyeremeh,and that duo is likely the starting cornerback pair heading into practice. However, transfer Antonio Crawford, who sat out last year after transferring from Miami, will also be primed to make his mark in the spring. Plenty of snaps will be available for this trio, and each will have questions to answer. Douglas must show he has command of the coverages and the ability to play 40-50 snaps per game, while Kyeremeh has to be more consistent after seeing spot duty through his first three years. Crawford, who had a respectable three years of performance in Miami, will need to hit the ground running for WVU and demonstrate that the year off hasn’t affected his ability. The Adams twins will also be on the field a good deal, with each getting their first real chances to perform on the field with playing time on the line.

After that, it’s on to the fall, when the rest of the class arrives. Perhaps more than any other position this year, cornerback figures to remain unsettled through much of camp. Certainly, there will be a pecking order established to some degree during the spring, but that could become a jumble again with the arrival of Battle and Daniels during the fall. They will face the same challenges as Douglas did last year, and it took at least two-thirds of the year for him to get into position to make contributions. WVU will need to get more than that from its newcomers, otherwise it will have at least moderate depth issues in 2016.

WVU will also face the challenge of breaking in a new position coach. Even if one is brought on board before drills begin next week, he will have to learn the personnel, WVU's system and then put it all together -- just like his new players will have to do. Special teams coach Mark Scott will help with that transition, and that breaking in process could be just as important in the spring as the development on the field.

NEWCOMER BIOS

Enrolled at WVU in January of 2016 … originally signed with West Virginia out of Franklin High School in Reistertown, Md., as part of the class of 2015, but after failing to qualify academically in time to enroll at WVU in the fall, he attended Milford Academy in New Berlin, N.Y., for a semester … official visit was in January of 2015 .… twin brother Jordan was a member of WVU’s class of 2015, and is currently a redshirt freshman cornerback for the Mountaineers … Jacquez was a quarterback and safety at Franklin High School but spent his one season at Milford playing mainly wide receiver … is expected to a cornerback for the Mountaineers … “I loved it there. I didn’t want to leave,” Adams said of West Virginia. “WVU is the place to be. I have always said how it’s mad love here at West Virginia. I just need to keep doing the same thing. I need to hit the books, lift and train. That’s all.” … rated the No. 74 safety in the country in 2015 … finished the 2015 season at Milford with six receptions for 189 yards and three touchdowns in four games, and added 51 rushing yards and one touchdown pass … was a two-time Maryland Class 3A/4A first-team all-state performer for coach Anthony Burgos at Franklin High … led Franklin High to a 13-1 record and a 7-0 mark in the region as a senior, when his team captured its second-straight Maryland Class 3A state championship … Scout.com three-star player … rated No. 2 athlete in the state of Maryland coming out of high school by Scout.com, which also listed him as the No. 5 athlete in region and No. 74 in the nation … his four-year high school totals were 4,810 yards passing with 51 touchdowns and 1,932 yards rushing for 27 scores … completed 108-of-175 passes for 1,539 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior … also played free safety and had 22 career tackles … led Franklin to the 2013 Class 3A state championship, passing for 2,836 yards and 30 touchdowns, while rushing for 885 yards and 14 scores … originally offered out of high school by Wisconsin, Maryland and Virginia, among others … recruited by receivers coach Lonnie Galloway … … “It’s great. I get to spend the next four or five years playing with my brother, and I just feel so comfortable with the coaches already,” Jacquez said. “I feel part of the family already.” … another Franklin product, wide receiver Steven Smothers, signed with the Mountaineers as part of their class of 2016.

WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen on Jacquez Adams – “He can play a lot of different positions. He was a quarterback in high school, but we think he’ll fit in best a corner. Everywhere he’s been he’s been a winner. We like that.”

WVU recruiting coordinator Ryan Dorchester on Jacquez Adams – “Jacquez Adams was a winner in high school. We obviously have some good relationships at that school. He’s a good athlete. He needs to go play defense and accept that. His biggest issue right now is developing. He’s 15 pounds lighter than his brother, which will tell you the kind of gains you can make in a D-I weight program in four months compared to being in a prep school.”

WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson on Jacquez Adams – “Very athletic high school quarterback. He’s a good kid who understands football. We’re going to have to get some weight on him, but we’re excited about him.”

Played two seasons for coach Gary Thomas at Dodge City … helped team to a 9-3 record in 2015 and an appearance in the Salt City Bowl … played in all 12 games, finishing the 2015 season with 50 tackles, including 38 solo tackles … also had 11 pass breakups, two tackles for loss, one interception and one fumble recovery … made 44 tackles with 29 solo stops in 2014, adding eight pass breakups and one interception … 2015 All-Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference honorable mention … previously attended Barringer High in Newark, N.J., where he finished the 2013 season with 72 tackles and eight sacks … three-star recruit according to Scout … committed to both West Virginia and Minnesota during the recruiting process … originally committed to WVU, then switched to the Gophers after a visit there … when he was unable to enroll for the spring semester, Minnesota parted ways with him to clear his path for a bounceback to West Virginia … announced decision on signing day … commitment rounds out a massive defensive backfield recruiting class for WVU, and gives them a great deal of competition potential for the coming season … “I was expecting to begin as a safety, but then they moved me to cornerback,” Battle 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.” … has excellent technique in pass coverage, and is expected to compete immediately for playing time … is the ninth potential defensive back in the class, including corners and all safety positions … Took to Twitter to announce the decision, writing, “Sorry for the wait! I’m officially signed with West Virginia!” … took an official visit to WVU in November … committed at that time, saying the “visit was very good. I enjoyed everything about it. The fans, I loved them. It was a really good atmosphere. It was nice to see them get the win. It’s definitely a place I could see myself at moving forward. I wanted to discuss it with my family and think everything over, and we all agreed that it was the best place and best situation for me. The people there, the atmosphere, and they way everyone supports the program were all great.” … recruited by cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell … 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 … 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 … also has a good attitude about his position switch, and the learning that it required … doesn’t have a lot of experience as a defensive back, so his techniques and fundamentals are still a work in progress … 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 … will have to work to keep his aggression balanced with smart play … “I had to work on my breaks and skills in the passing game,” Battle said. “I was always good at reading offenses in high school, so that helped me.” … believes he will push for playing time next season, but isn’t expecting to be handed anything … also offered by Arizona, Arizona State, Houston, Minnesota and Nebraska.

WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen on Elijah Battle – “We needed some experience at the cornerback position, and we think Elijah is a guy who can help us right away.”

WVU recruiting coordinator Ryan Dorchester on Elijah Battle – “Elijah fits some of the other junior college guys we’ve got in recent years, in that they grew up sort of near us, but then went away to J.C. and now is coming back closer to home. He’s a competitor and started for two years at Dodge. He’s a guy who is going to be counted on to come in and provide competition immediately to that room. He’s not a guy who will need a whole lot of physical development, because he’s already pretty good in that area.”

WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson on Elijah Battle – “A corner with length. He can play man, which we really like. He runs well, has good hips.”

Played cornerback for coach Cameron Chadwick at Globe Tech in the Bronx, N.Y. … named NJCAA All-American second-team selection … helped lead Globe Tech to an 8-3 record as a sophomore, a No. 19 final regular season ranking and an appearance in the Graphic Edge Bowl in Cedar Rapids, Iowa … played in 11 games as a sophomore, finishing with seven interceptions, returning them for 162 yards and two touchdowns … had 37 tackles, including 21 solo stops and one blocked kick … finished with a season-high 11 tackles against Lackawanna and Navy Prep … had two interceptions versus Dean College, returning one for a touchdown … two interceptions against ASA College, returning one for a touchdown … was a wide receiver as a freshman, playing in four games and finishing with eight catches for 156 yards, averaging 19.5 yards per catch and a touchdown … played for coach Nate Hudson at South Dade High in Miami … verballed to WVU Feb. 2, the day before the signing period started … becomes the third junior college second team All-American prospect to join the Mountaineers’ class of 2016, along with offensive lineman Craig Smith and running back Justin Crawford … both of those players committed over the final weekend in January … made an official visit to West Virginia in late January and has continuously noted the opportunity to play early as a key reason for his serious interest in the Mountaineers … “West Virginia was the first team to offer me a scholarship,” Daniels said following his visit. “With the departure of Daryl Worley and Terrell Chestnut there is a great chance I can see the field immediately.” … will have three years to play two … Scout report on Daniels notes that he is a physical defender who likes to rough up receivers before they get into their routes … relishes press coverage, and uses his size and stature to impose his will on receivers right from the snap … also physical enough to play at one of WVU’s safety positions, but his proven pass coverage skills and West Virginia’s immediate need for corners will likely have him at one of those two spots when he makes it to WVU … very familiar with the Mountaineer program … had WVU atop his list for a long time … “The visit went great,” Daniels told BlueGoldNews.com. “I had fun just hanging out with the players. It feels like family and I enjoyed bonding with the coaches, too.” … WVU knew about him from his high school days at South Dade High in Florida … Daniels is a a self-motivator … “I spent a lot of time in the weight room and doing one-on-ones during the summer to work on my footwork and my technique,” Daniels said. “I also studied a lot of film, mostly just watching myself and knowing what I could improve on so I could be better on the field.” … will need to pick up the defense quickly if he’s to get on the field for West Virginia this fall … does have a redshirt year available, though the Mountaineers need more players at corner, so he’ll get the chance to show what he can do early on … puts a lot of pressure on players coming from the juco level, where coverages and assignments are typically not as complex as those in a Division I program … expects to be tested from the first snap of the game in the Big 12 … will have to deal with the avalanche of new information coming his way when he gets on the practice field … will be evaluated from the very first snap to see if he can help the Mountaineer secondary as it rebuilds from massive personnel losses … appears ready to compete for time … will need to battle through the early days of camp and show his ability, which could end up making him something of a steal in this class … also offered by Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Purdue.

WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen on Mike Daniels – “Mike Daniels has really good coverage skills. We needed some older cornerbacks, and he’s got not only experience but also skill.”

WVU recruiting coordinator Ryan Dorchester on Mike Daniels – “Mike Daniels is another developed thick guy for his position. He was very productive at Globe. Made a bunch of plays this year. When you talked to other coaches that played against him, that was a guy they talked about. He was a junior college All-American, which is something to note.”

WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson on Mike Daniels – “Mike Daniels is a physical corner. He has a good frame and runs well. He can play man. I really like the way he plays. I’m really excited about Mike.”

Played one season for coach Nathan Hillerich at Hamilton Township High … helped team to an 8-3 record and a berth in the state playoffs … made 28 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, two pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 2015 … played in the 2016 Semper Fidelis All-American Game … named to the AP All-Ohio Division III first team (2015), as well as the All-Central Division III District Defensive Player of the Year (2015) … also an AP All-Central Division III District first-team member … All-Mid-State League first team (2015) … previously played at Paul Blazer High in Ashland, Ky. … three-star recruit by Scout … No. 6 cornerback in Ohio and No. 18 cornerback regionally according to Scout … committed Aug. 10 … “My game is fast-paced and I work hard,” Long said. “I’m a leader and I work on technique a lot. I first fell in love with football as a baby, but I only played defensive back recently. Ever since, I have focused on speed, footwork and power.” … said he felt at home in Morgantown … “I felt comfortable in the environment,” Long said. “Where I am from is just like Morgantown. That caught my eye. And the coaches were amazing. Coach Holgorsen is a great coach. The coaching staff are all great guys and very down to earth and their focus is all about the student-athlete, and I really appreciate that. I’ve gotten a lot closer to them since I committed, gotten to know a few guys in this recruiting class, and I’m looking forward to being a part of the Mountaineer program.” … recruited to WVU by assistant coaches Brian Mitchell and Bruce Tall … has continually gotten better … is the very definition of solid, and he does everything well … versatility is one of his strengths, in that he can play safety cornerback … can cover man-to-man, and he is a willing tackler … is a very smart player with a high football IQ … zero character concerns with Long, and he gets it done in the classroom as well … has a great work ethic, and has the potential to play early for the Mountaineers … does not have great size or speed, but he knows how to play the game the right way … has switched schools a few times, so he has played all over the field so far in high school … did not play against the greatest competition in Ohio, so there will be a learning curve at West Virginia ...willing to go to multiple camps to prove himself, and he always takes a ton of reps … could be a player that works his way into the rotation by playing special teams before finding regular duty in the defensive backfield … “I love the conference they play in, and think that conference can better prepare DB’s to play at the next level,” Long said. “I love the coaching staff there, and love their tradition. The fan base is great also, and that makes it better for me too. When I did the comparison (with Purdue), I just thought West Virginia was better for me in every way. The coaches said I fit in well because I can cover in man-to-man, and I have a chance to play early there.” … other schools tried to sway him after he committed … visited Jan. 22 … plans to enroll over the summer … “I want to get involved with the program as soon as I can,” Long said. “I like leading my team and picking everyone up even after mistakes. I like being a leader. My favorite play is cover zero. I like straight man against my opponent. I looked for academics and the football tradition.” … plans to pursue a degree in sports management or athletic coaching … roomed with fellow WVU recruit Martell Pettaway at the Semper Fi Bowl … instrumental in leading Hamilton into the Ohio state playoffs where they lost in the first round … originally committed to Purdue … “We had a great year, and it was disappointing to lose in the round, but I’m proud of my team,” Long said. “For me, I improved a lot over last year and I proved to people I could compete with the best players in Ohio.” … also offered by Purdue and Virginia, as well as several non-Power 5 schools.

WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen on Jake Long – “Jake runs really well. He has excellent speed and athletic ability. He’s got all the skills you want in a quality corner.”

WVU recruiting coordinator Ryan Dorchester on Jake Long – “Jake is a corner with good length who can run. From just a pure speed standpoint, he might be the fastest kid we signed. He reminds me a little of what Shelton (Gibson) looked like when he got here. When he first got here, Shelton had a lot of raw speed that hadn’t been harnessed. I think Jake is a lot like that. He’s got good size and speed for a corner.”

WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson on Jake Long – “Jake is just fast. When you see him, that’s the first thing you notice. He can flat-out fly. He’s as fast anyone we’ve go (on defense). He put up 10.4s (in the 100-meter dash) as a sophomore in track. He’s big-time fast, but he’s physical as well.”

Two-year starter for coach Larry Cox at Lakota West High … made 43 tackles with two interceptions and two pass breakups in 2015 … finished the 2014 season with 51 tackles and three interceptions … played in the 2016 Semper Fidelis All-American Game … named an AP All-Ohio Division I Honorable Mention and All-Southwest Division I District first-team selection as a senior … AP All-Southwest Division I District Honorable Mention as a junior … two-time All-Greater Miami Conference first team (2014-15) … All-Southwest Ohio Football Coaches Association Division I first team and a Cincinnati Enquirer Division I Fall All-Star in 2015 and Enquirer Division I Fall All-Star Honorable Mention in 2014 … also a Journal-News All-Area first-team (2015) and second-team (2014) pick … TriStateFootball.com All-TSF Second Team as a senior … three-star recruit according to Scout, as well as the No. 3 cornerback in Ohio, No. 7 cornerback regionally and No. 61 cornerback nationally … raved about his multiple visits to Morgantown … once saw just the football facilities, and another time toured the campus … committed Nov. 11 … “I saw the stadium, and I think they have one of the best weight rooms,” Mahone said of his visit. “The weight room is pretty awesome. The coaches and I talked about the importance of getting my degree. We talked about the importance of education, then we talked about how I fit into the football program They are losing five senior defensive backs after this season, and I would have a good chance at early playing time. They really treated me like I belonged there.” … final three were West Virginia, Purdue and Virginia … versatile athlete … has the ability to play either cornerback or safety … at 6-0, 200 pounds, also has the physicality to play closer to the line of scrimmage but also possesses enough athletic ability to cover in a man-to-man situation … could play as a physical cornerback, but might also end up at any of West Virginia’s three safety positions … returned a pick for a score as a senior ...where the Mountaineers elect to place Mahone will determine how much time he’ll need adjusting to his role … tends not to turn his head and focus on the ball … focus often doesn’t switch ball to the ball … in the pass-happy Big 12 conference he’s going to be tested and the inability to adjust can lead to being penalized … was WVU’s sixth verbal from the Buckeye state … at times goes unnoticed until he comes up and makes a big hit supporting the run, Scout Ohio recruiting analyst Dave Berk noted. … smooth in his backpedal with the ability to break on the ball quickly avoid blockers and make a play … needs to work on his pressure and ability to blitz … should get a chance at early playing time for West Virginia … also offered by Cincinnati, Kentucky, Marshall, Northwestern, Purdue and Virginia.

WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen on Sean Mahone – “Sean can really strike you. He’s a guy who is going to compete. When you’re in the Big 12, you are going to go through some corners. We average using four or five corners in each game. And that doesn’t count special teams, where those guys also can be very valuable.”

WVU recruiting coordinator Ryan Dorchester on Sean Mahone – “Sean Mahone looks like he’s 12, and he probably won’t start shaving until after he graduates from college. But while he looks young in the face, he’s well put together. He’s every bit of 200 pounds. He was very productive in high school for a really good program. We’ll start him at corner, but who knows where he goes. He may be a safety before it’s all said and done. He’s a good, good football player.”

WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson on Sean Mahone – “Sean is a little bigger corner. The thing I really like about him is that he can play multiple positions. He can go corner or safety. He’s a very skilled, athletic, physical kid. He’s 200 pounds right now, so he’s a guy we will keep building and developing.”

Previously In The Series:

Defensive Line

Linebackers

Safeties


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