King of the Secondary

After spending part of the preseason learning the free safety position, senior defender Brian King figured he was set at cornerback when Jahmile Addae settled in at the free safety spot.

However, Addae's season-ending shoulder injury, along with the emergence of Pac Man Jones at corner, led the Mountaineer coaching staff to make a switch in preparation for the Miami game. King was moved back to free safety and replaced by Jones at corner, and the move paid great dividends against the Hurricanes.

King and Jones were the leading tacklers in the contest, racking up 23 stops between them as Miami filled the air with passes. Perhaps more importantly, neither player was beaten deep, preventing the quick strike that the Miami offense is noted for.

"Your responsibilities are more on you. You are on your own a lot back there," King said of the difference between playing corner and safety. "You have to take some chances. I took a couple of them against Miami, and they paid off for us. I felt good back there.

"It was kind of a crash course, trying to learn on the run like that. We had a bye week, but it wasn't a done deal until Tuesday, when I came back from my back injury. I was able to pick it up, and I think it gave us the best chance to win.

In keeping with Rich Rodriguez' stated philosophy of getting the best players on the field, regardless of position, the move did just that. Although King is not the physical presence at free safety that Addae is, his crisp tackling skills and underrated coverage ability proved to be a solid combination against the Miami offense.

Despite the move, King still got to put his cornerback skills to good use. One of the tweaks that was installed during the extra time off was moving King up to cover slot receivers against three wide receiver sets on one side of the field. During those situations, bandit Mike Lorello often dropped back into the free safety position, leaving King to either go man to man or help with zone coverages, depending upon the defensive play call.

Those changes were also in line with the simplification of some of West Virginia's defensive schemes. After struggling with extra defensive back formations during the previous two games, WVU basically junked their nickel package and simply adjusted their existing personnel to whatever formations the Hurricanes showed.

"We've been getting burned some in the nickel package, especially against Maryland," King noted. "So, we decided to just go with the 11 guys we had on the field. With Pac Man and Lance at corners, we think we have a better chance in this defense."

Although the new ideas did help some, they weren't a cure-all. Miami still managed to record 352 passing yards against WVU while completing 71% of their tosses. Many of those completions came on crossing patterns, which are Miami's bread and butter. Those passes also are one of the best ways to combat West Virginia's 3-3 stack defense, which gives up passes underneath deep zone coverage in favor of stopping the run and the deep pass. King admits that is a weak spot in the Mountaineer defense, but notes that Miami has success with their offensive philosophy against more teams than the WVU.

"The crossing patterns cause problems, but that's their offense. They'll cause problems with every team they play. We'd tried to max drop with the linebackers, and include as many people as we could in coverage. We tried to bang them off the line and get our hands on them off the line as they release. But, there's going to be holes, and they are going to get open. So, you just try to keep them in front of you and get them down on the ground as quickly as possible."

King's game didn't go perfectly, however. He missed an opportunity at an interception when Lorello tipped away a pass that he had a bead on, and was forced to sit out the final plays of Miami's only touchdown drive when his helmet broke.

"I've been playing football since I was eight years old, and I've never had that happen before," King said of his helmet problem. "It just snapped. I would have liked to have been in there, but there's not too much you can do about that."

Like many of his teammates, King is still determined to turn WVU's season around. As one of the senior leaders on the squad, it's up to him to do just that. And given his determined performance after making the move to safety on short notice, it would be unwise to bet against him.

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