Sowers Settling At Safety

Nate Sowers is settling without having to do so in terms of playing time.

The quarterback-turned-safety has finally found a home in the revamped West Virginia secondary and now appears primed for additional playing time in the fall. Sowers, who has always claimed he is a "a football player first and a quarterback second," is now on his third – and hopefully final – collegiate position. After a brief stint at quarterback under the former coaching staff, Sowers emerged as a potent special teams coverage threat, then saw time at receiver as well. But his talents and physical tools are best utilized at safety, where the Martinsburg native can parlay speed, agility and a penchant for the big hit into increased on-field action.

"I'm settled," he said. "I have a lot of fun, and have always had a lot of fun playing defense. You get to run around and get to the ball. Right now, I am still getting comfortable with it. The spring really helped me out and I am really starting to enjoy it now that I understand it better. We'll wait until fall to see."

Sowers is challenging Sidney Glover for a starting spot, and his added depth is growing increasingly important with the dismissal of Charles Pugh, who was expected to see major time at the bandit slot. Sowers, who could also play free safety is pressed, seems a solid fit at the spur slot, one that demands less pure speed but the ability to fit well against the run and handle backs and tight ends in open space. The rising junior was effective in the fall, but was still grasping his role within the 3-3-5 odd stack defense. With his better understanding of the sets and WVU's promise to use more 4-3 looks this fall – a defense the quarterback routinely faced at the prep and college levels – Sowers is expected to elevate his play during fall camp.

That could not only add to the Mountaineers' superior secondary numbers, but perhaps give Sowers a shot at starting as well. The 6-2, 215-pounder appeared in 10 games last season, making seven tackles (four solo) and one tackle for loss. Perhaps his most lasting memory thus far was a solid hit on kickoff coverage in the Gator Bowl win over Georgia Tech, when he waylaid the Yellow Jacket returner. It was one of two key special teams tackles he made in the game and a look inside what could be.

"I am glad to be on defense; I am learning and even in seven-on-seven, I am gaining chemistry and communicating better with teammates," Sowers said. "Your teammates take care of a lot of it. When I am out there, the coaches will not be. So in the heat of the battle you have to look for your teammates if you have questions about things. It was my first spring over there (on defense) and so I was treated like a young guy. It's like that during the spring. It's technique and the concepts of what we are trying to run and the entire defense and how it operates."

It helps that, under defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and secondary coach Steve Dunlap, Sowers will be tutored by mentors with a combined 51 years of experience. Both have served as defensive coordinators at West Virginia, Dunlap having held the position from 1991 through 2000, when Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen retired. The duo recognize the abilities of Sowers, and know that all that's missing is the mental aspect, an area in which Sowers has never struggled.

Even now, little more than one spring in, Sowers has moved past the basic developmental and instructional phases, which most often limit a player because he isn't free to simply read-and-react. Once the understanding is thorough, as it should be for Sowers once fall is completed, playing becomes more instinctive, and thus quicker and typically at a higher level.

"I'm not there yet," Sowers said. "You still can't play at as fast a pace as you'd like. I hope by the fall that I can be there, seeing things and reacting. I'm still learning."

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