There may have been no bigger need for depth on West Virginia's roster than at the safety position and as a result the Mountaineers added six prospects in the 2017 class. While the combination of Kyzir White, Dravon Askew-Henry and Toyous Avery could quite possibly be the strongest returning unit on the roster, there is only one proven reserve in Marvin Gross. That lack of experience means that all six newcomers could be fighting for the chance to avoid a redshirt right away.
Matt Caponi, the man tasked with preparing the six freshmen, seemed cautiously optimistic about the group's overall potential.
"Each one of them has some unique qualities that kind of fit what we do defensively," said Caponi. "Whenever you turn the film on the six guys we brought in at safety are all the best players on the field so that’s a pretty good sign."
Derrek Pitts is the name most are probably already familiar with. Pitts, who is an in-state product and is ranked the No.34 safety by Scout.com, is the only early enrollee of the group and head coach Dana Holgorsen recently said that the former South Charleston Black Eagle would need to add to his frame before fall camp kicks off in June. Still, Caponi has come away impressed with Pitts' potential and said the freshman will start out at the bandit position.
"Derrek is a very athletic, long, rangy kid and covers ground," Caponi said. "It's good to have him as a mid year guy and work out during spring practice. I'm looking forward to working with him."
After breaking down film Caponi came away impressed with the other five safeties as well and there seemed to be one reoccurring theme among them - versatility. Caponi said he could see each player at multiple positions and although he has a game plan for where each signee will start out, he stressed the importance of his group learning multiple positions.
"We’re going to start off by putting two safeties at each position so we’re going to mix and match," said Caponi. "I look for good athletes and good football players because we like to move those guys around and if they’re interchangeable it gives us more depth.
"You recruit guys for the positions you think they can play but with football now-a-days you want to get the best guys on the field. If they can play multiple positions that’s more of a benefit to us to mix and match and move some guys around. We’ll get more of an idea of where some guys can help us out at. Some guys may be better tacklers and some may be better cover guys"
The importance of having players learn multiple positions was evidenced in the beginning of fall camp a year ago when Dravon Askew-Henry suffered a season-ending knee injury and Jeremy Tyler filled in almost seamlessly. Of course there is a lot of work to be done before we rush to any snap judgements about the six freshmen safeties and Caponi is excited to do begin that process.
Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE "We have a good core group of guys with Kyzir and Marvin and we get a healthy Dravon back. Then with Toyous (Avery) playing the way he was at the end of the season it gives us a solid four man rotation coming in to the season. It was important for us to get some young depth behind them so these young guys coming in have the opportunity to learn from seniors and juniors on what the program is about and what we do defensively. It will be good for them to be able to learn from the older guys, work their butts off and build some depth."