Tony Gibson and Jarrod Harper Discussed the Attitude of West Virginia's Defense As They Begin Preparation For Missouri

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Last year Tony Gibson was able to spend an entire summer studying tape on Georgia Southern's potent triple option attack, and his preparation proved to pay dividends as the defense put up a shutout in the season's opening contest. This year, however, Gibson faces the challenge of preparing for a Missouri team that is running a completely new offense.

Last year the Missouri Tigers put one of the worst offense's in power five football on the field, failing to score more than 20 points in eight of their 12 games. That ineptitude led them to change offensive philosophies and hire former Oklahoma assistant Josh Heupel as their new offensive coordinator, and that means West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson has the unique task of scheming and game planning for a Missouri offense that no one has seen before. The third year coordinator discussed how he will prepare and the problems it may pose.

"It's different," Gibson admitted. "The biggest thing with these guys - they have coaches from Baylor, a guy that was on Baylor's staff a year ago, they have a guy that coached at Oklahoma. Josh (Heupel) has been at Utah State so you're trying to watch a lot of different things. It's overwhelming at times to watch four or five different schools."

It was interesting that Gibson noted he has prepared his scheme more so by watching other schools' film then by watching tape of Missouri's offense a year ago.

"You look at (Missouri's film last year) for personnel issues," Gibson said. "We watched a little bit of their spring game, which we understand they don't show a whole lot in their spring game, so we're just trying to get a feel for it. But again, they have coaches from Baylor, a coach from OU, so it's hard to prepare. Our biggest thing is we have to do what we do and make sure we're up on our end of it and make sure we're preparing our kids to just go out and play.

Gibson also added that this week he will focus more on Heupel's scheme and next week he will place an emphasis on studying Missouri's returning personnel. He also admitted that there will be a lot adjustments that will need to be made in-game. As far as the big picture and how the defense has progressed since the beginning of fall camp, Gibson seemed pleased at the strides his unit has made.

"The biggest thing that I see with these kids right now is that they're hungry and they're eager," Gibson said. "They want to be good, they're preparing themselves to go out there and practice, they're preparing for game-like situations and I'm excited about where they're at right now."

Gibson particularly pointed to the work that Jeremy Tyler has put in and his level of play since he found out he would have to replace Dravon Askew-Henry at the free safety position. While discussing the secondary, Gibson also revealed that Mike Daniels and Jordan Adams have been progressing and could be making their way way into the crowded competition between four seniors for the two starting cornerback spots.

"Our top four guys at this point are (Antonio) Crawford, (Maurice) Fleming, Rasul (Douglas) and Nana (Kyeremeh), Gibson said. "And Mike Daniels keeps getting better every day. We're excited about where he's at. Jordan Adams is another kid that showing up and doing well."

Starting bandit safety Jarrod Harper echoed Gibson's comments about the defense being enthused to start live game action, saying the defense is tired of beating up on each other and ready to start hitting a team in different uniforms.

"We're ready," Harper said. "We're ready to go out and play against someone else. We're tired of beating up on each other so we're definitely ready to go out and play. Everyone's excited, we're tired of practicing against each other"

Harper also praised Jeremy Tyler and his ability to move seamlessly into the free safety spot and replace Dravon Askew-Henry.

"Dravon obviously has more experience back there at free," Harper said. "He played there for two seasons but (Jeremy Tyler) is picking up and doing good. He's making plays - in the scrimmage he made an interception so he's doing what he's got to do."

Harper also added that Tyler's experience at the bandit safety position should help him when it comes to being physical and making plays against the run game. The fact that Tyler and Harper have played together for the past three seasons should help the West Virginia defense from a communication standpoint, which is something that Harper says may be the most important task in Tony Gibson's 3-3-5 scheme.

"As far as getting our assignments on the same page it's first getting the call from GIbby, and then the linebackers make their calls, the defensive backs make their calls and then from their we're ready to rock and roll," Harper said. "The communication - that's the most important part. That's what (the West Virginia coaches) stress the most before the snap." 


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