Locking In

With WVU's secondary preparing to take on its biggest challenge of the season so far, the team's cornerbacks coach talked about the need for his players to continue to improve.

"Just like anything, it's something we've got to continue to work at," said Dave Lockwood, position coach for the Mountaineer cornerbacks, said of the defense's pass coverage.

"In the secondary, we've got to do a better job of not giving up the big play. They're going to complete some passes and stuff, but we cannot continue to give up the big play. We've got to make guys earn it."

The players chiefly responsible for that are starting cornerbacks Brandon Hogan and Keith Tandy. Both have fallen under scrutiny at times for mistakes made in coverages that have proven costly.

Both, however, are still learning on the job. Hogan just made the switch to defense from his former spot at wide receiver a little over a year ago. Tandy will be starting for only the sixth time in his career when the Mountaineers travel to Syracuse this weekend.

"He's still young and still learning," Lockwood said of Tandy. "Brandon is starting to be the Brandon that he used to be. (The) bottom line is that both of them have to continue to get better week in and week out."

"They're steady, but I'd like for us to be more productive."

Lockwood's charges have a significant challenge on their hands this weekend in the form of Orange receiver Mike Williams, who has quickly become the favorite target of SU quarterback Greg Paulus.

After having a chance to study the film, the cornerbacks coach said he can tell that the Syracuse coaching staff makes a concerted effort to put Williams in a position to make similar plays while doing so out of different looks to keep the opposing defense on its heels.

"One time they'll line up and run it, then the next time they'll motion and run it It might be a different formation, but they're doing the same things," Lockwood said. "They do a great job of trying to get him the right matchup and get him the ball."

"Obviously we have to know where Mike Williams is. If you do draw him, you have got to bring your A game. You can't bring your A minus game or your B plus game. You've got to bring your A game, because he'll go up and get it. Any time you get a receiver like that, it's tough, because you can have great coverage but he's going to go up and fight for that thing. You've got to do just as good of a job of fighting back."

One way to keep Williams from dominating the WVU defense is to keep his quarterback from being able to deliver the ball to him. While that means that the defensive front is sure to work its best to apply pressure, the secondary can do its part by presenting different and confusing looks of its own.

Disguising coverages may be one way the Mountaineer defense can take advantage of Paulus' relative inexperience. The quarterback hadn't played a snap of football in over four years before arriving at SU and winning the starting job during preseason camp.

While Syracuse will probably expect for most all of its opponents to try to play those sort of mind games with Paulus, Lockwood said there is only so much that can be done before the game to simulate what the opposing team's real defense will do.

"You don't get that same look out of the scout team -- the tempo and stuff," he said. "Hopefully we can get out there and give him some different looks and get him to hold that ball just a little longer and give our guys up front some time to get there. We'll sort of mix it up."

While the secondary has struggled to deal with opposing pass offenses in the first four games of the season, the veteran position coach believes that the perception of a systematic weakness in the middle of the 3-3-5 defense is not accurate.

He said that while the defense has done a good job handling things on the vast majority of occasions, just enough glaring mistakes are being made to make things seem worse than they are.

"Bottom line, we have to do a better job of executing, because we're daggone good when we do," Lockwood said. "For nine plays, we've got 11 guys doing things right, but on that tenth play we've got one guy here and one guy there making a mistake. The unfortunate thing about it is when that mistake is on the back end, everybody sees it."

"It's a team thing, 11 on 11. If we're flying around and getting after it, the big plays will come to a halt."

While there may be plenty of room for improvement for the players he coaches currently, Lockwood said he enjoys the process of teaching his young charges how to play their position correctly.

"I told them the other day I love coaching them as a group," he said. "I can say in 22 plus years, I've coached some individual guys that I loved, but as a total group, I like coaching these guys because they will work and give you everything that they've got."

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