MORGANTOWN. W.Va. — Throughout West Virginia’s preseason camp, Darwin Cook has practiced with an overriding maxim: “Show it with your pads.”

USA Today photo

Safety Darwin Cook says the WVU defense “might just go crazy and heads blow off” once it faces against someone other than the Mountaineers offense.

The senior strong safety who frequently churns out entertainingly candid quotes to the media doesn’t want to be known for his chatter on the field. He’d rather be heralded for smashing receivers.

“It’s no point in talking,” Cook said. “Why am I rah-rahing and hoo-hahing for? We’ve got plenty of guys to do that.”

This year’s camp has taken a more physical turn from 2012, when WVU’s receiving ranks were so thin that All-Americans Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey were frequently off-limits to contact.

“This year we ain’t got Tavon and Stedman where we can’t hit them, so we’re going to take advantage,” Cook said. “Everybody can get hit. Everybody.”

As the Aug. 31 season opener against William & Mary approaches, Cook said the defense is hungry to lay some licks on someone other than the WVU offense.

“I really don’t know how we’re going to react to different teams,” he said. “We might just go crazy and heads blow off or something.”

Merely having eight starters back on defense isn’t in itself a good thing, considering the deplorable stats last year’s unit produced. But Cook sees progress in the returnees, who are playing with higher intensity and thicker skin.

“The thing I like about our defense this year is you can tell us how you feel,” he said. “If I mess up and miss a tackle, get in my (butt). You can bleep that out, but yeah, get in my (butt), just cuss me out, anything you want to do, because we’ve got players on our team now who know how to take it.”

As Holgorsen begins his third season at West Virginia, redshirt sophomore Cody Clay senses the coach has mellowed.

“I can definitely tell he’s more positive,” Clay said. “He doesn’t just lose his cool as much—and that’s something that I can tell he has taken a lot of time to work on.

“I’m closer with him now. Like before, we never really talked any. Now, I feel like he can go to me and ask a question about what I’m doing and I can go to him with a question about what I’m doing and it’s fine.”

Allan Taylor/MetroNews

West Virginia’s KJ Meyers is working as a starter at outside receiver.

Redshirt sophomore KJ Myers owns only two career receptions, but he projects big things now that he’s working as one of the first-string outside receivers.

“I feel like I’ve progressed dramatically, like crazy,” he said Friday. “My focus is just being the greatest receiver in the nation.”

The 6-foot-2 Jacksonville, Fla., native said his camp experience has been one of cleaning up his mistakes.

“When I go watch film of myself I watch the negative things I do, the bad things I do, and I fix them,” he said. “I mean, you’re a receiver and you’re going to catch the ball and make all these plays. But when you focus on the bad things that you do in practice, that’s when you better yourself.”

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  • WVU07

    Please fix the defense! Sheesh....

  • big tom

    the big problem is, no one is getting fired,,,deforest is in his second yr of a 500,000 dollar per yr contract,,, dana's buddy. he ain't goin no where,
    we can't afford to fire these guys, someone handed out crazy contracts and no one will leave
    just like huggins, at 10 grand a day, he's gonna milk this cow until it's dry. \ isn't this hard to believe, knowing how many people in wv don't have job s to support their families, and he's rakin in that much,,l, shame on luck for giving him this much

    • Charles

      Rich rod wasnt cheap either!!!! It's the going rate in the market guy. Both coaches are mid pack in pay to their peers in conference. Jealous. Go ahead and bounce around the cheap coaching jobs available to start. All these guys bounced around the country for peanuts to get where they are. Many years of 15000 of less a year

  • richard

    lol mauldog, i sure as hell ain't no marshall fan!!!! can't stand them. i was just saying facts. if this defense is worse than last year then the coaches should be fired. no way a defense as bad as last years should go another year and be that bad. besides...i root for the players, not the coaches. once again, i bleed blue and gold......but that doesn't mean a person can't say what they see. i want the defense to improve. if we had any defense at all last year we might have won another 3 games. thats just a fact.

  • Maxxajay

    My kind of player...

  • mauldawg

    Just ban richard and Big Larry for being trolls.You both need to go back to the MU section.

  • richard

    the defense sure couldn't be any worse! there is no where to go but up. if this defense is worse------fire the defensive coaches because something isn't right in mo-town.

    • Big Larry

      If the defense is worse...Fire Holgorsen!