Final Rutgers Game Notes

We're feeling defensive as West Virginia prepares to face Rutgers on Saturday.

DEFENSIVE DESPERATION

One sure sign of a unit in trouble is personnel shuffling, and the Mountaineer defensive team is Exhibit A.

We don't blame the coaches for moving people around - they are doing everything they can to try to stem the tide - but the simple fact that they are forced to do so speaks volumes about the state of the defense.

Jason Davis has moved back to tackle. Adam Lehnortt has moved from linebacker to rover (although he's gotten very little playing time). Tim Love has bounced along the defensive line. Brian King has played both corners as well as whip. The end result of all those moves is a lack of continuity, which hasn't helped matters at all.

Keep track of who plays where against the Knights - hopefully the position moves will settle down over the final month of the season.

TACKLING THE PROBLEM

WVU features three players in the NCAA's top 20 in tackling this week, headed by free safety Rick Sherrod at 17 stops per game. Kyle Kayden is fourth with 15.29 per contest, and Shawn HAckett is tied for 29th with 11.5.

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Of course, leading the nation in this stat is usually indicative of more chances to make tackles, which in turn points to more plays run by opponents, which circles back to poor defense.

We remember big tackle totals run up by Temple and Rutgers players in past seasons, and can recall wondering if the stat men for those schools were padding their numbers. This year, we've been enlightened. Opponents are simply running too many plays against WVU's defense.

HEAD GAMES

The Mountaineers have been plagued by inconsistent tackling over the past few seasons, to say the least. Poor technique has played a role in the problems, but at this point we think that a loss of confidence is also coming into play.

When you tackle, you have to break down into proper form, then fire out on the ball carrier. You can't or won't do that, however, if you're lacking confidence. You might sit back instead of snapping into the opponent, or you might reach with your arms instead of using your entire body. Or, you might go for the "big hit" but fail to wrap up with your arms.

No matter what the problem, the result is often the same - a weak attempt that can be broken by many opponents.

Where does that lack of confidence come from? It's hard to say at this point, but it's a problem that needs to be addressed. Coaches need to build up the team's pride in this skill, while the players must continue to concentrate on using the proper techniques.

It's not going to be an easy fix, but it has to start sometime, or WVU's defense will continue to plumb the depths of national rankings.

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