Turning the Corner

As the first game inches closer, Mountaineer fans, players, and coaches cannot help but talk about what they expect from first opponent Liberty. That, plus the expectations for the team's play, as well as the season as a whole, are dominant topics around the Mountain State. But cornerbacks coach David Lockwood acknowledges the importance of not overlooking any competitor.

"There's no one on our schedule that we can't beat but at the same time there's no one on our schedule that can't beat us," said Lockwood, espousing the 'Respect all, but fear none' mantra of head coach Bill Stewart. "If we are not ready to play, I don't care who it is, we can go out there and get beat. It's the first game of the 2009 season and we have to make sure the Mountaineers are ready to play."

Lockwood has been working diligently to ensure that his players are ready when the Mountaineers kick off Saturday against the Flames.

"We have looked at some tape," said Lockwood. "They had some skill guys that graduated. They had a couple of [players] last year that were good football players. They're a good football team. Much like Villanova a year ago, they have won a bunch of games."

Liberty, an FCS opponent from the Big South conference, isn't treating this game as a payday or a "good learning experience." Both players and coaches have been quoted as saying they are making the trip north to win the game, and even expect to do so. West Virginia, therefore, must be prepared in order to meet the challenge of a team that has won its conference the past two years.

Lockwood, for his part, has some depth to work with this season to combat opposing passing attacks. With Brandon Hogan and Keith Tandy in starting roles, backed up by Kent Richardson and Guesly Dervil, Lockwood has, in coaching parlance "guys we can win with".

"Every day, we are getting better and better," said Lockwood. "They're a great group to coach. They're all coming together. Everybody is doing the same thing. They might make a mistake here and there but technique wise guys are doing the same thing which is encouraging."

Toss in true freshmen Pat Miller and Brodrick Jenkins, and there is even more promise at cornerback. There was buzz before camp that the pair could earn early playing time, but when the two-deep depth chart was released , the freshmen were not on the list. "It's still an ongoing process," Lockwood said of the duo's development. "Both guys have showed some promise. We have a few more days before we tee it up so it is an ongoing process. Some guys have shown progress where that I don't think it's any doubt that they are going to help this program. It's just a matter of when." Miller and Jenkins both missed a week's worth of practice while clearing up eligibility issues with the NCAA Clearinghouse. While both matters were simply clerical in nature, the lost practice team certainly didn't help them. Thus, Richardson and Dervil kept their backup spots.

"They were ahead because we start the depth chart out at the beginning of the fall and they were here already," said Lockwood. "[Richardson and Dervil] both had a good summer. They're providing some leadership which is good to see. This year is their last go around so they're maturing."

As Coach Stewart has mentioned numerous times during camp, positions are still up for grabs, however. Starting positions are earned daily, and continued improvement is the key in maintaining them. All in all, Lockwood is pleased with what he has seen from his corners.

"Each day that we go through camp, someone is kind of having their own day," said Lockwood. "There's no doubt that [Brandon] Hogan has stood out. Keith Tandy has done a heck of a job. He's consistently making plays. They have all had their day when they had a couple of good days and they have all had bad days."

Hopefully, for West Virginia fans, the former continue to increase while the latter become less apparent.

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