Thaxton Key Ingredient For Defense

After several position changes, senior Jermaine Thaxton is hoping to make an impact during his final season of play for West Virginia.

Playing time hasn't come easy for the talented Thaxton, who was heralded as an immediate impact player coming out of Valley Forge Military Academy. However, after stints at linebacker and wide receiver, Thaxton has seemingly found a home at the bandit position in WVU's defense.

The spot, one of two that call for a combination of linebacker and safety skills, seems suited for the 6-1, 197 pound Pennsylvania native, who was outsized at linebacker.

For WVU's new 3-3 stack defense to work, the bandit and spurs must be playmakers. They have to swarm to the football (run defense is their first priority) but they must also be agile enough to drop into pass coverage and deliver open field hits on receivers.

Thaxton demonstrated his potential in last Saturday's scrimmage when he picked off a pass and returned it some thirty yards before being dragged down.

"I just read my keys and got my depth against the pass route," Thaxton explained of his pick. "I just watched the quarterback and broke on the ball."

Thaxton took some good natured ribbing from his teammates after being tackled on the return, but he fired back quickly, blaming a lost shoe for his inability to return the interception for a score.

"I lost my shoe, and I lost my speed, because you can't run with one shoe on and one shoe off," Thaxton laughed. "I tried to cut it back and make something happen, but we did get the turnover, so that's what counts."

Thaxton says his previous stint as a wide receiver helped him with his foot work (when he has both shoes on), but it's obvious that he's more suited to the defensive side of the ball, as his play during the spring has established. Thaxton has made steady improvement during April, and hopes to become one of the mainstays of a defense that is searching for an identity after last season's performance.

Along with defensive teammate James Davis, Thaxton is also getting repetitions as a bullet on the punt coverage team, which is a new experience for him.

"This is my first time ever playing bullet, so I'm trying it out to see what happens. Whatever gets me on the field, I'm going to do it."

This fall, Thaxton will get a lot of chances to see the field, and his play will be a big factor in WVU's success.

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