WVU Receivers Helping Defensive Backs Prepare for Big 12 - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Receivers Helping Defensive Backs Prepare for Big 12

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MORGANTOWN -

When West Virginia's receivers line up against their defensive counterparts in practice, there's a sometimes heated, but usually friendly, rivalry.

It's only natural when you've got two units going head-to-head and trying to best each other every single day of practice. That's why, during drills like the Oklahoma, you've got the defensive players jumping around and celebrating a tackle, while the offensive players seem to be more appreciative of a big block.

In less than three weeks, though, the Mountaineers won't be lining up against other Mountaineers every day. Starting September 1, this team will have other opponents to deal with, and with the move to the Big 12 this season, a lot of those opponents will be better teams than WVU has faced in recent seasons.

Of course, the defensive backs will have one of the biggest adjustments to make. The Big 12 is full of pass-happy offenses that will light up the scoreboard. That's why defensive backs coach Daron Roberts thinks it's such a benefit to have quality receivers to cover in practice.

"I always go back to my time at Detroit and coaching corners," Roberts said, "and those corners lining up against Calvin Johnson every day. It's frustrating at times, but I'd tell those guys, 'Listen, if you can play man-to-man against Calvin Johnson every day and get better, then when you go play (Larry) Fitzgerald, DeSean Jackson, and some of those guys, you're going to feel pretty comfortable covering them."

Now, West Virginia's top two receivers, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, aren't Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald. They are, however, two of the biggest playmaking receivers in college football, and give Roberts and the defensive backs plenty of chances to face the type of talent they'll be seeing once the season starts.

"Same way with us," Roberts continued. "You can't beat, from a preparation standpoint, the opportunity that we have to cover Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin every single day. That's the best work that we can get. Whether it's one-on-one's, seven-on-seven's, or team, we really relish the opportunity to line up against those guys."

It's not as though WVU's defensive backs are short on talent. It's just that the cornerback position requires a lot of experience, as Roberts explained. The only way to get that is to go up against receivers, which is the purpose of practice. In terms of preparation, it just helps if those receivers are as talented as Austin and Bailey.

In that regard, West Virginia is very fortunate, because very few teams in the country can boast two receivers the caliber of these two.

Yet, as they say, it's a two-way street. The defensive backs know that they are helping the offense get ready for this season's opponents, most of which are new to all of the Mountaineer players.

"Going against Stedman every day and Stedman going against me every day, we can get the amount of reps that can simulate, maybe, another Big 12 corner and stuff like that," said cornerback Brodrick Jenkins.

Jenkins wasn't a full-time starter last season (four starts), but he was tied for second on the team with two interceptions, and he will be one of the regular starters this season.

West Virginia has more hype surrounding it this year than it has the last few seasons, but the players know that, with the step up in competition, they are going to have to improve upon 2011's team if they are going to do something special.

"We all know that if we help each other get better, then we can take this thing a long way," Jenkins said, "so we just try to put ourselves in that environment of competition, knowing that we both can make each other better."

The next time these two units take the field, there will be some jawing, each player will be rooting for his side of the ball, and the rivalry between the offense and defense will be alive and well.

But these players know that they are doing their part to help each other, and that the fans may see the benefit of that come September.

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