MORGANTOWN. W.Va. — Toward the end of West Virginia’s preseason camp, coaches noticed a new-look defensive end showing pass-rush moves that were explosive and disruptive.
And, no, they weren’t fawning over Dontrill Hyman.
Hyman, the junior college transfer with impressive measurables, may soon develop into a wrecking force, but it was sophomore Eric Kinsey who developed into the starting defensive end opposite Will Clarke.
“I think (Kinsey) is coming out of his shell a little bit with confidence and starting to believe in himself,” said defensive line coach Erik Slaughter. “You’re seeing a guy with a lot of talent growing up and having confidence in that talent.
“I trust him.”
That last bit rings essential, because even though Kinsey appeared in all 13 games last season, he wasn’t able to crack the primary defensive line rotation and admittedly spent his freshman year in “go-with-flow” mode.
“Just out of necessity last year we played Shaq Rowell and Jorge Wright, and you’ve got two nose guards on the field and they’re both 300 pounds,” Slaughter said. “If we were playing people who were going to line up and pound you, we were all set. But most people in this league don’t do that.”
Up from 235 as a high school senior to 265 pounds now, Kinsey finally has more of the heft necessary to wrestle offensive linemen combined with the athleticism he had before the weight gain.
“It’s good weight,” Kinsey said. “I’m bigger, but I run faster now than when I got here.”
In long-yardage situations this season, Kinsey might even be used at nose guard to help generate the kind of pass rush often missing in 2012. Though WVU’s 23 sacks ranked in the middle of the Big 12, those sacks belied how often opposing quarterbacks found time to throw. Thus the Mountaineers allowed a league-worst 38 passing touchdowns and also ranked last in pass-defense efficiency.
“We’ve got to affect more passes and take some pressure off our DBs,” Kinsey said, pointing out one of Slaughter’s preseason refrains. “When we feel like lagging in practice, he says, ‘Do you want to lose six games again?’”