Rotational Forces

Even at the conclusion of fall camp, WVU head football coach Bill Stewart stressed that all starting positions were still open.

While that appeared to be a bit of coach speak, it was made evident in the Mountaineers season opener against Liberty when redshirt sophomore safety Eain Smith was installed as the starter over sophomore Robert Sands, and Sidney Glover didn't even dress for the game.

The moves also emphasized the need for the safeties to be able to switch between the free, spur and bandit positions on the defense. Smith, who began his career as a free, has worked at the spur, but went back to free in place of Sands at the start of the game. Both were also on the field later in the contest, along with Boogie Allen and Nate Sowers.

"Right now, [the safeties] are trying get the feel of what positions that we want to be at," said Smith. "We all can play different safety positions. I can play free [safety] or spur [safety.] [Robert Sands] can play free and at bandit. [Boogie Allen] plays bandit and the spur. It all works out and we get a good feel on where to be at."

While there was plenty of playing time for everyone, Smith didn't deny his pleasure at earning a starting spot. "It felt good to start out there and get my feet back in the game," he noted. "Sands was good, too," he added. "He did what he was supposed to do. He read his keys. He made breaks on the ball. Everything he did was pretty good."

"[The rotation] is going to keep happening throughout the season," said Smith. "The coaches don't want us to get beat up so it takes a lot of pressures off of us knowing that we have some backup to keep the rotation going and keep up with the game. [It could be an advantage] but [opponents] should know that we're all going to be playing all three positions."

Sands agrees that the rotation will be helpful to West Virginia.

"[Being able to rotate] is definitely going to be an advantage because we're always going to be lining up in different places," admitted Sands. "Plus, we move around a lot as is so it's really hard for an offensive coordinator to pick up on a certain person. "

Communication is key among the safeties as they move between the three positions. If one of the three safeties on the field doesn't hear a call or execute correctly, it can throw off the entire defense.

"We're all on the field at the same time so we just have to know where each other is at all times," said Smith. "We practice good communication a lot of the time. It's a good feeling out there. We had a few miscommunications out there [against Liberty.] I think now we are doing pretty good."

After a few, first-game mistakes against the Flames, Smith and the rest of the defense are preparing for their next test against East Carolina.

"They like to run the ball," said Smith. "They like to throw, they like to sprint. We are going to be prepared for all of that. We're ready to play them. We're ready to set the tone for the season."

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