WVU Secondary Bringing "Dark Side" to Big 12 - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Secondary Bringing "Dark Side" to Big 12

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Brodrick Jenkins hopes to take advantage of his experience in 2012. Brodrick Jenkins hopes to take advantage of his experience in 2012.
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MORGANTOWN -

When Daron Roberts made the switch to the defensive side of the ball for West Virginia over the offseason, he called the move one to the "dark side."

The new cornerback coach was getting back to the position he had coached with the NFL's Detroit Lions before leaving for Morgantown and expressed his affinity for defensive football with that phrase.

Players in the system say they've used the distinction since last season and it envelopes a number of characteristics, but mostly a mentality with which they approach every day on their side of the line of scrimmage.

"It's a lot you can put into it, but that dark side is that grimy, that ready to get after everything," says junior cornerback Brodrick Jenkins.

Roberts believes it is something a defense has to carry with it at the college level these days.

"Defense is always behind the eight ball, especially now with offenses throwing the ball around 60, 70 times a game," says the second-year WVU assistant. "To play defense means that you're going to have your back up against the wall, but you have to have guys who respond. I think our defense is slowly getting that mentality that they've got to attack."

This is what Roberts has been teaching to a group of defensive backs who will be asked to defend some of the nation's most prolific offenses in West Virginia's inaugural Big 12 season.

Gone are the Big East offenses of 2011, replaced by high-powered passing attacks unlike any the Mountaineers faced a year ago. Aside from their own, that is.

The experience Roberts' players have going up against the receivers he coached and the quarterback who found them will aid their transition immensely.

Tavon Austin stands out as the litmus test through the spring. After covering the nation's top all-purpose athlete, other challenges may not measure up.

"He's probably the best player in college football," Roberts said earlier in the spring. "To be able to go against him everyday in practice is a huge benefit for us because he tests us and gives us a chance to really play against the receiver who I think is probably the best in the country, hands down."

The pressure of defending on an island has fallen to a group of athletes that is extremely inexperienced. Take away Jenkins and senior Pat Miller and you have zero players who have lined up on defense.

And Miller missed most of the spring with a broken foot.

His absence spread the reps around to guys with less experience, which could ultimately prove to be beneficial once the fall rolls around.
"It's getting a whole bunch of us set up just in case somebody does go down because this whole spring we've been low on depth, so players who came in such as Cecil [Level] and Avery [Williams] really stepped up and tried to get the position," says Jenkins.

Helping in the process is the fact that Roberts is very hands on in the teaching process this year. Unlike the receivers position, where he rarely had individual drills for one-on-one work with his students, there is plenty of personal instruction on technique with the cornerbacks.

Andrew McGee, a graduate assistant who came to WVU from Oklahoma State, where he learned from defensive coordinator Joe DeForest, joins Roberts in this part of his job.

"He's a great guy, humble, knows a lot of football and we work very well together," Roberts says of McGee. "He's obviously been in the system and he's close to their age so he kind of understands. It hasn't been a long time since he's played, so he's been a great addition to the staff."

Both Roberts and McGee spent a lot of time with their corners through the spring working on intricate details and not allowing the drills to end until each player had completely it adequately.

That focus on specifics is a big reason why Jenkins is confident that his unit made great strides through March and April.

"He's not only looking for you to be good on the field, but off the field, too," says Jenkins. "He wants to build you into a man with character and just be able to notice that everyday, something might not be promised, so whatever you do, do your best."

That is the mindset that Roberts is bringing to West Virginia's dark side as it begins play with a new scheme in a new conference this fall.

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