MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As much as assistant coach Brian Mitchell likes the athleticism he’s seeing from West Virginia’s cornerbacks, he primarily appreciates the smarts they’re showing through the first three days of fall camp.
“Our football IQ has developed as our kids were watching film and going out to do things schematically” this summer, Mitchell said. “You want to have that (comprehension) jump. You want to be the master of your position, and to do that you’ve got to work year-round.”
The first-year cornerbacks coach inherited a unit that floundered with inexperience and ineptitude in 2012. That explains why on a roster that lists nine cornerbacks, every scholarship player is drawing strong consideration.
“Right now, we’re repping eight guys because all eight have a chance to help this team win,” said Mitchell, who spent the past three seasons as defensive coordinator at East Carolina.
He’s targeting a five-man rotation of corners “that can do exactly what we are asking them to do. We want to have a two-deep that’s solid and have a swing guy that could be the nickel or the dime.”
Among the returnees are senior Brodrick Jenkins, who was sidelined by a knee injury midseason, and Ricky Rumph, who emerged as a part-time starter as a freshman. Junior Ishmael Banks, sophomores Nana Kyeremeh and Terrell Chestnut and freshman Brandon Napoleon also are factors, along with two converted safeties.
“We have Travis Bell, who was an athletic safety, and we’ve got a freshman, Darryl Worley, who’s 6-1, 200 pounds and runs a 4.4,” Mitchell said. “That athleticism is there. Now it’s how can we transfer that to the field and be sound.”
Kyeremeh, perhaps the most athletic player in the group, is competing for the job at boundary corner, which lines up to the tight side of the field. That’s where defensive coordinator Keith Patterson envisions his best all-around cornerback—a guy who can be physical against the run and disrupt the short passing game.
Banks, Bell and Rumph also are competing on the boundary side. On the wide side, the crew of Jenkins, Napoleon and Worley are taking reps at field cornerback—a spot where Patterson prefers pure cover men.
“We’ve got a lot of pieces, so we’ve got to find the right ones who fit,” said Kyeremeh, who made his lone start last season against Kansas State. “At least now we know how the games go. In the Big 12 with the uptempo offenses, everything is fast, fast, fast. And you’ve got to make sure you’re on top of it, because you know they’re going at you.”