WVMetroNews file photos

Linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton looks lean and productive this preseason at 228 pounds (left), compared to his heavier self in 2013 (right).


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Thursday’s 11-on-11 tempo drill presented a curious moment when redshirt freshman Al-Rasheed Benton scrimmaged at first-team Mike linebacker over returning junior Nick Kwiatkoski.

No, West Virginia’s top tackler wasn’t demoted. Gibson said Saturday coaches don’t want “anyone getting comfortable” and have begun tinkering with lineups.

“We want to keep guys on their heels all the time to make sure they execute,” he said. “You’re job is not secure. Just because we put you on top of the depth chart Day 1, it could all change on Day 2.”

Benton’s emergence, however, shows how far the Newark, N.J., product has climbed after looking a bit doughy when he arrived from high school last year.

“He’s a great football player, and we thought that when we recruited him,” Gibson said. “He came in a little overweight and out-of-shape, so we didn’t use him, and I’m glad we didn’t. He redshirted and got his body different.

“He’s really coming on. He’s had about two or three practices in a row where he looks really good.”

While the cornerbacks tandem of Daryl Worley and Icky Banks seems entrenched, position coach Brian Mitchell said there’s a plan to rotate West Virginia’s backups into game action.

“There’s six guys who could go out there and be productive,” he said. “We’re going 90 to 95 plays a game because of tempo. We’re going to need fresh bodies, especially for the long run, when you’re playing 12 games.

“The body wasn’t designed to go 95 to 100 plays a game. Maybe 60 plays back in the good old days, but now we’re asking more of these kids.”

That means sophomore Nana Kyeremeh and senior Travis Bell—second-unit players with starting experience—are primed to contribute, as is Ricky Rumph, who’s back with the corners after spending the spring at safety.

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  • One bullet

    We will be weaker against the run this year I think but overall the defense will look better than it has in years. The offense should come together as well. These boys won't play a game that isn't at least close this year. Let's Goooo. Mountaineers.

    • stephen304

      There were only 3 games that weren't close last year and WVU lost 5 leads late in the 3rd or 4th qtr. The OU game was 9-7 when WV muffed a punt to give the sooners the ball in the Redzone and they scored their only td all game . With just decent qb play, 14 starters returning and an extra year of depth some of those leads won't get lost x

  • JJ

    Last year we ranked 118th in third down conversions. OC Dawson said that means "we weren't very good on first and second down."

    Looks like they weren't good on first, second and third downs. Which translates fourth down to LET'S PUNT...

  • Yogi Wahoo

    If we are still playing 90 to 95 defensive plays a game ....we are not getting stops on 3rd down with consistency.

  • Ducks In A Row

    "Strong is what happens when you run out of weak" (unknown)

    These guys are getting so physically prepared, its scary. Endurance level has to be near its peak. "Bleed" convinced me of that. Now, what about mental toughness? If you believe you can, you can, period. I'm feeling it! Let's GOOO!

    • West By God

      You sound good "Ducks in a row" go on ebay and order a jersey, maybe Coach will put you in!

      • Mountaineer4Ever

        A man of many vain babblings, I detect. No one likes a sour puss, West. Marsha thread is a few clicks backwards, such is their accomplishments also. lol

  • any major dude

    Re: depth

    There's another saying in football: "Injuries are only a matter of degree".

  • VaultHunter

    Depth and experience.

    Two things that can make a team great.

  • any major dude

    Sounds like we may have much improved depth at LB and DB this year. You can never have too much depth. I liked Kwuitkotski vs. the run last year; he needs more help up front this year. Gotta stop the run if you hope to stop UA or anybody else.

    Because we're not playing 'Bama or the Tide. We're playing UA, and we can beat UA.

  • Aaron

    How many games last year did the defense play well in spurts only to give up chunks of yardage due to fatigue?

    Depth is a wonderful thing!!!

    • Ole Sasquatch

      Just about every game. Check that - every game.

  • Mister Man

    Good job, Mr. Benton. Keep at it.