Motivated for More

As part of an experienced, talented defense that is riding high after a solid spring and (by nearly all accounts) a strong summer, there's plenty of reason for one WVU cornerback to feel confident going into the fall.

Both of those factors have convinced senior Kent Richardson that the 2009 season will be better than the one before.

"As far as last year compared to this year, it's a big difference," Richardson said. "We've stepped it up like 10 different levels. We're on a whole different type of level -- getting bigger, faster and stronger. And I feel like we'll be more productive on the field this year."

The Tallahassee, Fla., native is one of West Virginia's top strength and conditioning performers in most areas.

At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds going into his fifth and final year of college football, he possesses both the strength and speed necessary to be a successful cornerback. Much like playing the game itself, experience matters in the weight room as well, according to Richardson.

"When you first get here, you're not expected to know how to perfectly hang clean or power clean or anything like that," he explained. "But as you go along in your years, you get more experienced and it comes more naturally. You get stronger that way."

"Technique, technique, technique" seems to be the mantra of the Mountaineer strength and conditioning staff, headed up by Mike Joseph. With all of Richardson's weight-room success, it's little wonder that a few teammates have asked for advice on how to better execute various lifts.

"I give a couple of pointers, but I mostly leave that up to Mike," Richardson said with a smile. "It's his job."

If Richardson and the rest of the WVU cornerbacks needed any additional motivation going into the season to buy into the team's program, they need look no further than Ellis Lankster.

Lankster, who just had one year with position coach David Lockwood, helped turn himself into an NFL talent (ultimately picked by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh and final round of the draft) by learning from the veteran coach.

"Ellis really had only one good year with Lockwood, and you see where it got him," Richardson said. "That's really motivated us to work with Lockwood and learn his techniques so we can do what he did."

"I'm able to do a lot more things, because when you listen to his technique, it puts you in better position to make more plays."

Richardson, who is likely to back up Brandon Hogan on one side of the field, and the rest of the cornerbacks may need to make more of those plays on their own in certain situations this year.

Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and his staff has emphasized that West Virginia will blitz more this season than in years past, particularly to stop opposing offenses on third downs.

By its nature, blitzing involves leaving fewer defenders to as a "safety net" against the passing game, meaning cornerbacks will be in one-on-one situations a bit more often.

That doesn't appear to be a concern to Richardson.

"Playing man coverage is more of a confidence thing," he said. "I feel like everybody can stop somebody from catching that ball. It's just -- do you feel that in yourself, that you can stop somebody? If you've got that confidence, which I know we have, it's easy. It doesn't matter if we're on an island or not."

Of course, that confidence comes with experience -- one thing this year's defense should have in abundant supply.

"Everybody's in their place and they're comfortable now," Richardson said. "They know what they need to do to get the job on the field."

NOTES:

  • Like most every player asked during the summer, Richardson said that WVU's 7-on-7 sessions were beneficial for both himself personally and the team as a whole.

    "It allowed me to focus on my technique -- how far I play off the receiver or how close I am to him; keeping my spacing when I need to close on him," he said.

    "As far as the team goes, it's been good. Everybody can understand and gel together. We can be one cohesive unit."

  • With camp only days away, there's a sense of excitement for players in that the season is finally here. At the same time, there's a sense of dread for veterans like Richardson, as the tedium of practice can be tiring.

    "It's a grind," he said. "But that's what it's for -- to grind for those first two weeks, and if we do everything right, things will be easier when the season starts."


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