Coming out of last Saturday's victory over BYU, West Virginia's defense looks like it has a lot to work on going forward. But the one unit who arguably played the best on the defensive side of the football was the Mountaineer secondary, who forced three interceptions including the game winner by Maurice Fleming with only a minute left in regulation. Cornerbacks coach Danny "Blue" Adams said that while his unit has a ways to go, he is pleased with what he has seen three games into the season.
"As the weeks have come and gone I think they guys have gotten better and taken incremental steps," Adams said. "This is the next step. The way that our schedule was kind of set up is with steps like that and this is the next challenge for us. But overall I'm happy with my guys."
The next step in that progression will be a Kansas State offense that features a run-oriented attack that starts with quarterback Jesse Ertz, who is the Wildcats' leading rusher after the first three games. Although the WIldcats don't pose gaudy passing numbers (KSU's 169 yards per game ranks last in the Big 12) Adams has still been impressed with what he has seen out of their offense and feels his corners need to be on high alert.
"(Kansas State) is a really complete team," Adams said. "They do a lot of great things. They can throw the ball, they can run it, they have a really athletic quarterback and they have a good skill group with the wide receivers and running backs. I think it's a good solid team that's coached well. We'll definitely have our hands full with this bunch coming in."
Adams' group hopes to have senior cornerback Antonio Crawford back against Kansas State after Crawford suffered an apparent shoulder injury in the first half of BYU's game. Earlier in Tuesday's interviews West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said that Crawford's status was still up in the air, but Adams seemed to have a more optimistic tone when addressing the injury.
"He'll be ready to go," Adams said. "We all are. We'll be ready to go. If he's not than the next guy will step up but right now we're counting on him to be in and be ready to go."
One positive from Crawford's injury was that it gave Adams a chance to see some of the backups in action and came away impressed with the depth of his cornerback unit.
"(I learned) that they pay attention," Adams said. "They take coaching and they're just awaiting the opportunity to put it on tape. We have more depth than I thought so I'm not losing as much sleep as I was before. It's good though, I'm happy with those guys being able to get in and contribute."
While many left the BYU contest feeling somewhat better about the Mountaineers' secondary, there has been major scrutiny heaved at the West Virginia run defense after allowing BYU running back Jamaal Williams to rush for 169 yards on 24 carries. That tally can be partly attributed to the linebackers inability to get off blocks, but the defensive line will surely shoulder some of the blame as well. After breaking down last week's film, Bruce Tall is stressing the fundamentals going into the Kansas State match up.
"It's like always," Tall said. "You just have to work on your fits and escape and try to get off blocks. (BYU's) running back obviously did a nice job running the ball. I think when you study the tape our guys are doing some good things but you just have to clean some stuff up and finish better."
Tall elaborated on what he saw in the film study and what his unit needs to focus on moving forward.
"When you break them down and grade your guys you see the guys are doing some good things," Tall said. "But they have to do them more consistently. Our guys are in the right place. We have been working on escape moves and we just have to get better at it. The bottom line is we just have to get better at what we do."
This week will be another test for the Mountaineers front as Kansas State's primary focus will be on asserting its dominance up front and grinding out rushing yards. Despite the fact that K-State lost some upperclassmen from last year's offensive line, Tall said they haven't missed a beat up front.
"I think they're very similar to the type of players we have seen," Tall said. "They're very well coached. They have good size and really work together as a unit."
After reviewing last week's performance and discussing his impressions of Kansas State's offensive line, Tall discussed what he has seen from Adam Shuler, who is earning more and more playing time each week and finished last week's contest with eight tackles.
"Adam has been very productive," Tall said. "The one thing that you enjoy when watching him play is that he runs to the ball. He runs to the ball really well for a big guy and a defensive linemen and when he gets there he's very physical at the point of contact."null