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