Slaughter Bringing New Identity to WVU D-Line - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Slaughter Bringing New Identity to WVU D-Line


His name fits the job description. When you think of a defensive line coach, calling him "Slaughter" seems about the perfect label.

When Erik Slaughter took over for former WVU assistant Bill Kirelawich, though, he had quite the role to fill. The players who worked with Kirelawich day in and day out would tell you he was one of the toughest people they had ever met, but also one of the funniest and the best to be around off the field.

His voice could be heard bellowing from his back left corner of the practice field as quips and insults were slung toward his students.

Slaughter was aware of Kirelawich's reputation when he came to Morgantown, but he never tried to base his act on the performer who preceded him.

"I just knew that he had been a very successful coach for a long period of time," says Slaughter. "As far as his style, I've heard the kids imitate him from time to time just as they would with any coach they enjoyed being around."

Most of the imitations he has probably heard from the players are of some of the quirky sayings Kirelawich used to spew out left and right, particularly when one of them messed up in one way or another.

Early on, junior lineman Will Clarke says he has learned one major message from Slaughter.

"Don't be a calendar and don't be like a letter," he says. "Be like a text message."

Clarke and the rest of the defensive line heard Slaughter say these words and each one of them laughed a little. If the worst names they would be called were "calendar" and "letter," this whole new coach thing may not be too bad.

Slaughter explains his philosophy.

"A letter takes a long time to get somewhere. A text message is instant," he says. "I want them to be fast. We want them to play fast and compete fast and think fast – everything we do needs to be fast. That analogy is don't be like a letter that takes three or four days to get there, be a text message that gets there in a hurry."

In a defensive scheme that will put a greater emphasis on pressuring the quarterback than last year's would have, preaching speed at all positions makes sense.

It is with that in mind that we move along to some other new faces in the defensive line room, those of Tyler Anderson and Josh Francis.

Each player is lining up as a "Buck" linebacker this season, the position that will go a long way in determining whether the defense's look is a 3-4 or a 4-3, depending on if they are lined up as an outside linebacker or a defensive end.

Much of the scheme's success depends on this position, and Slaughter is confident he has some quality weapons to deploy in Anderson and Francis.

"We use him in pass rush a lot and we'll probably even bring others," Slaughter says of the Buck. "He's got to be a guy who's versatile and can do a lot of different things. He has to be extremely athletic – the faster, the better – and it's really a special position on the football team."

As with any position on the team – and any player and coach, to be sure – the defensive line remains a work in progress. The teaching will continue after spring break and the depth chart will continue to carve itself out in preparation for the fall.

The progress on the field is just one part of what Slaughter is working to accomplish, though. In addition to improving their play, Slaughter hopes to develop a relationship with the student-athletes that he believes will be key to their growth as a unit.

"You have to know these kids and show them that you care for them and if they know you care for them, you'll fight for them and you're there for them in the good and the bad, then they'll play hard for you," he says.

So far, it would appear he is doing quite well in that department.

"He got close to us the minute he came here and he's a real great guy," Anderson says of Slaughter. "He does more of teaching. When you mess up, he doesn't put us down or anything. He's a guy who likes to teach, he likes people who are coachable and if you're coachable, he'll teach you the right technique."

He will also teach confidence. Slaughter says half of the battle of game day is having confidence that no matter what offense his guys are lining up against, they can outplay it.

If they buy into the system and what they're being taught, he feels they will have all the pieces they need to enter each battle knowing they can come out on top.

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