MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Sack totals alone aren’t necessarily the most accurate gauge of a team’s pass rush.
But after a unit ranks 107th out of 123 FBS teams in sacks, combined with finishing 92nd in third-down defense and 96th in passing-efficiency defense … well, the metrics don’t lie.
West Virginia’s 2013 pass rush wasn’t adequate on any level, and Tony Gibson is counting on new additions to remedy the void in 2014.
Gardner Webb graduate transfer Shaquille Riddick has been encouraging in his camp debut, and junior college linebacker Edward Muldrow is flying around. Gibson envisions those long, lean newcomers joining holdover Brandon Golson in packages aimed to ramp up the pressure.
“If I don’t have those three on the field on third down, something’s wrong,” Gibson said.
Before Saturday’s practice—the eighth of West Virginia’s preseason camp—Gibson said Riddick has looked every bit as disruptive in person as he did on the first highlight video the coach saw in May. Back then, Gibson was in Florida recruiting when a call alerted him that an FCS All-American was looking to transfer up.
“I watched Shaq’s video on my cell phone,” he said. “I watched about eight to 10 plays and said we need to get his guy.”
Among those plays were two sacks at the expense of Marshall tackle Garrett Scott, a sixth-round pick of the Seahawks. Even at a slender 240 pounds, Riddick’s 6-foot-6 frame, long wingspan and natural burst should help his pass-rushing skills translate to the Big 12.
“There’s certain guys who just have a knack for it,” said Gibson.
While Riddick essentially can be lined up and let loose in obvious passing downs, other situations require him to learn responsibilities specific to WVU’s scheme.
“He’s had some great days of practice, but there’s other days where he has breakdowns,” Gibson said. “That’s on us as a coaching staff. He just has to catch up.”
Muldrow has earned first-team reps at Sam linebacker —”He can run, he can bend the edge,” Gibson said—and Golson is almost cleared from shoulder surgery at the Will spot outside, where he made four sacks in 2013. Teamed with Riddick, the group presents a more athletic force than last season, when opposing quarterbacks completed 60.8 percent of their passes, highest in the Big 12.
“Those three guys, we feel, are going to be good matchups for us,” Gibson said. “They’re really able to get after the quarterback.”