MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Tony Gibson’s glowing preseason assessment of West Virginia’s defense was outlined by many functional components. Nick Kwiatkoski was his plug-and-play linebacker, Daryl Worley his top cover corner, and Karl Joseph everybody’s All-American. Jared Barber served as his coach in the middle, Noble Nwachukwu a rising enforcer on the edge and KJ Dillon a sustainable power source to light the entire grid.
After 11 games, two shutouts and nearly two more, Gibson’s unit ranks No. 2 among Big 12 defenses in points and yards surrendered. And his surprise standout wasn’t named in the paragraph above.
Nose guard Kyle Rose, the least sung of the defense’s seven senior starters, has brought so much pass pressure recently that Gibson jokingly dubbed him “the sack monster.” Pitched primarily as a guy who would occupy interior blockers to give linebackers rack up tackles, Rose has four sacks this season after registering only one in his first 38 games at West Virginia.
“I’ve been around this (3-3-5) defense six years here, a year at Arizona, a year Michigan and back here for two years,” Gibson said, “and I’ve never seen a nose guard as productive as he’s been this year.”
Most eye-catching about Rose’s surge—he enters Saturday’s season finale at K-State second on the team to Nwachukwu’s 7.5 sacks—is how he has managed to bother quarterbacks even when Gibson relies on a three-man rush.
Rose is also the top tackler on the defensive line with 39 stops, seventh-most on the team overall. At a loss to explain the production, Gibson guessed that it might date back to Rose’s high school wrestling days. The Ohio 215-pound runner-up as a junior at Centerville High, Rose won the heavyweight state crown at 285 pounds as a senior.
“With what we do, people try to single-block him and he can win most of the time,” Gibson said. “He’s a brawler. You go one-on-one with him he’s going to win most of them.
“He’s been really, really productive and I’ve not seen that out of a zero nose in any odd defense I’ve been around”