Plenty Of Ground To Cover

Last season there were three extremely talented freshmen on the offensive side of the ball- Noel Devine, Jock Sanders, and Brandon Hogan. This year, the latter of that trip is slated to get his playing time on the flip side of the line.

Last season Hogan played 10 games at the slot receiver spot and caught 12 passes for a total of 67 yards and was yet another threat to an already mind-blowing offensive machine. This season the 6-0, 170-pound sophomore will be knocking down passes, stopping wide outs from getting touchdowns, blitzing off the corner, and seeing football in a totally different light.

At the beginning of summer camp, the coaches approached the talented sophomore from Manassas, Va. about a possible tryout for a spot at the cornerback position in order to pump up competition and talent levels on the Mountaineer defense. And with only a couple of weeks to go before the season and home opener, against the Villanova Wildcats, Brandon Hogan remains at corner, listed as a second string, behind Kent Richardson.

This is an unusual transition because most wide receivers have reputations of being afraid of contact and getting tackled. Hogan, on the other hand, has a different opinion of his new duty.

"I like it, I get to hit people," he said with a shrug when asked if he enjoyed to play on the defensive side of the ball.

Coach Stewart has been very impressed with Brandon Hogan and his move from offense to defense.

"Brandon Hogan can play," said Stewart. "This camp, man he has put some serious licks on some guys."

By moving Hogan to cornerback, Coach Stewart is once again subscribing to the theory of having the best players on the field at all times no matter where they are playing.

"His athleticism just continues to impress us," said Stewart.

Some could see this as a mistake by the coaching staff in that they are forfeiting a valuable offensive weapon to plug the holes in a presumed weakness (secondary), but Brandon Hogan might not just be exclusively a defensive player in the 2008 season.

"Coach Mullen told me he wants to throw me in on offense. He asked me if I would be ready and I told him ‘yeah," Hogan said. "I still like offense" said Hogan "I want to score touchdowns."

Hogan has the ability and knowledge to play both ways because he has spent the summer working out on defense and he already had an impressive freshman campaign and spring at wide receiver, thus he needs little instruction in learning the offensive play book. But, even with this summer, Hogan admits that he still has a lot to work on before he can be a major impact at the cornerback position, especially since the season opens in less than two weeks.

"I got to get my reads right and it's a lot of little things like that," said Hogan.

As impressive as his switch has been, it hasn't come without the major adjustment of turning his offensive-oriented mind to one which must focus predominantly on defense. Hogan has had to undertake a complete 180-degree switch in physical playing. While he spent last year learning how to use his hands to get away from a defender or block him, this year he is learning how to use his hands to destroy the receiver's route and get off blocks to make a tackle.

But what Hogan said was the most difficult thing about the change to defense was the most obvious answer.

"Just learning corner," says Hogan. "Knowing my reads, knowing how to disguise, you got to know what to call when you have three receivers or more, and just the little stuff like technique."

This year, the Mountaineers will have to rely on a youthful, inexperienced defense to help a veteran offense hold back the opposing teams for West Virginia to reach their ultimate goals of being the Big East Champion once again and to be able to play for the BCS Championship. If they do not, the Mountaineers might be looking at a repeat of the 2006 season in which theywere looked upon as a pre-season national title contender, only to finish as Gator Bowl Champion.

Should Brandon Hogan continue to wow the coaching staff for rest of practices and into the season to become a serious player on defense, and if Coach Mullen decides to give defensive coordinators something else to bite their nails over by sneaking Hogan in on some offensive plays, opposing players will not be looking forward to seeing No. 22 across the line of scrimmage, either as a wide receiver or a defensive back.

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