Garrett Hope Brings New Mentality to WVU Practice - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Garrett Hope Brings New Mentality to WVU Practice

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Garrett Hope is looking to build on the role he played for West Virginia's defense in his freshman year and it starts in practice.

As the season progressed, Hope, now taking reps as a middle linebacker, worked his way into the defensive rotation with more regularity. He had the opportunity to make an impact outside of just his blocking duties on special teams, but it took some time for him to prove worthy of that playing time.

He believes a big part of why it took so long for him to show his coaches what he was capable of inside that 6-foot-3, 245-pound body is that he is not the same player in practice as he is when it counts in a game.

"I feel like I need to practice more how I play," Hope admits. "My mentality during the game is I just want to kill everybody. I could say that I'm crazy during the games, but during practice, going against my buddies, it's a little different. I can't get fired up just to hit my buddies. I'll start practicing how I'm going to play this year. I'm going faster, I'm taking every single rep 100 percent."

When Hope speaks of his mentality during a game, it evokes the image of Bobby Boucher in the 1998 Adam Sandler comedy The Waterboy. Boucher would envision an enemy of his when he looked at the opponent and the result was the best tackler Clint Howard had seen since Joe Montana. Or Joe Mantegna.

Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, who works with Hope each day at the middle linebacker position, wants to see his sophomore utilize Boucher's method every day, not just in the fall on Mountaineer Field.

"You're trying to earn a position, you're trying to earn playing time," says Patterson. "You have to put that out of your mind. When we cross that white line, they're not my friend, they're not my teammate. They're in the way of me trying to play and I've got to make plays."

Hope looks forward to doing exactly what his coach asks of him throughout the remainder of spring and into the coming season so that he can build on the 14 tackles and two tackles for loss that he contributed to the defense in 2012.

He's been moved around to a variety of positions throughout the spring so far, but the staff believes he's found his fit at middle linebacker.

"He's kind of a ‘tweener' in a couple of different positions," Patterson says. "He's really not big enough to be a defensive lineman, he's not necessarily that explosive guy that we want at buck, but yet, he's got good size and he's a strong kid. So we moved him inside and I think eventually that's going to be a good fit for him."

Hope's frame is very much unlike other middle linebackers on the roster, with the likes of Isaiah Bruce and Nick Kwiatkowski measuring in considerably smaller, but still bringing plenty to the table.

In a defense that wants to throw a few different looks at the Big 12 offenses they'll face this fall, the ability to mix in players that present various challenges to what the offensive coordinators have in their game plans.

"Against teams that want to line up and pound the ball at you, it gives you another option where you're not just playing athletic guys inside," Patterson says of adding a player like Hope to the rotation. "You've got to have some guys that have some size and it allows us to really be bigger versus the run."

The result, Hope believes, of a season working against some of the nation's most explosive offenses, will be a much improved defense from the one that helped contribute to WVU dropping six of its final eight games.

"There were three plays that changed the whole entire record of our season," he says. "We finished [the regular season] 7-5, but we could have been 9-3 just like that with those three plays, if they had been positive instead of negative plays. I feel like we're going to be more of a finish team this year with our defense, especially. That's what we're focusing on."

It starts in practice this spring. 

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