Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia safety Derrek Pitts (1) closes in on Kansas receiver Jeremiah Booker during last season’s game in Lawrence.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In what remains a springtime experiment, the conversion of Derrek Pitts from safety to cornerback has yielded favorable results.

“Right now he’s playing well,” said West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, sounding cautiously encouraged through five instruction-oriented practices. Pitts, a sophomore from South Charleston High, will give coaches a truer read once the Mountaineers begin fully padded drills following spring break.

“He’s a good cover guy, he can run, he’ll hit you, and he’s got some length,” Gibson said. “I think he’s a really good fit there.”

A Rivals four-star recruit who was West Virginia’s highest-rated signee last year, Pitts played in 10 games, primarily on special teams, though he made a few a appearances as the backup Bandit. He finished with nine tackles.

“We maybe expected a lot out of him a year ago,” Gibson said. “Putting him in at safety in the most physical part of the game as a down safety, and knocking the run to him, we probably put him in some situations he wasn’t ready for.”

“Now we’re asking more of him in coverage rather than run fits.”

The move to corner also follows a winter conditioning program in which Pitts was unable to add weight. He’s at 185 pounds currently, about 15 shy of where Gibson likes his safeties.

While Pitts joins Hakeem Bailey and junior college newcomer Keith Washington as the frontrunners at cornerback, the Mountaineers remain actively in pursuit of a graduate transfer to strengthen the competition.

Any realtors named Mellencamp?

New running backs coach Marquel Blackwell faced West Virginia three times while on the staff at South Florida from 2009-2011. What was his take on WVU from afar?

“A place where you can win, a place where they love you,” he said.

Hired away from Toledo only two weeks before the onset of spring practice, Blackwell became a quick study on the Mountaineers’ offense. The hard part involves finding a realtor who can meet his 4-year-old daughter’s demands.

“I’m getting it every day from my daughter,” he said. “She’s killing me about this new pink house she wants.”

From analyst to the field

Spending last season as an offensive analyst, Dan Gerberry was restricted from on-the-field coaching. Now that he’s a full-time assistant again, coaching WVU’s tight ends and fullbacks, he’s enjoying the full interaction.

“The desire to get out there and coach never really left, but I just had to keep it inside,” Gerberry said. “It’s such a relief that now I can go and be who I am.”

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