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Leaders Have Emerged Throughout WVU Defense

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MORGANTOWN -

The West Virginia University defense just completed one of its worst seasons in school history. The Mountaineers were lit up in most statistical categories.

As adversity hit the defense, it had very little answer to try and stop the onslaught of offense from nearly every opponent.

"We definitely have a lot of leaders on the team this year," Sophomore Safety Karl Joseph said. "Last year, throughout the season we were trying to look for a leader."

Leaders have already established themselves on every level of the defense. Will Clarke and Shaq Rowell are leading the defensive line. Isaiah Bruce is the leader of the linebackers. Karl Joseph and Darwin Cook are handling leadership responsibilities among the defensive backs.

"This is my last year, man," Rowell stated firmly. "No disrespect to last year's class, but I don't want to go out like that. I feel if I have to sit up and talk to those guys, I am going to do it. I am going to do whatever it takes to be a winner. "

There was no talk like that a year ago. It sounds like there will be accountability from one player to another. That could go a long way towards helping this defense play at a completely different level this fall.

"I don't want to leave here with a losing record," Rowell said. "I want to leave here a winner and that is most important to me. If I got to go cuss these guys out or baby somebody I am going to do it because all I want to do is win."

In fairness, this was a very young defense a year ago. Two of the leaders listed above, Joseph and Bruce, are just sophomores this year.

"I think the main thing is time," Joseph said. "We have grown a lot since last season."

"I felt last year like I was learning from the older guys and the year before that, but I definitely think I have taken a leadership role, so I'm going to try to pursue that and work better and just push everybody to be better on the defense," Bruce says.

There was also a change to the defensive philosophy. Keith Patterson has taken over as Defensive Coordinator. He has not changed the overall scheme, but has implemented some changes that are rubbing off positively on the players.

"We are out there playing," Rowell said. "We weren't playing with a meaning. This year we know what we are doing and we know why we are doing it."

Understanding why a coach tells a player to do this or that is almost as important as actually doing it. With understanding comes the ability to react faster on the field.

"I didn't like all of the practices doing this and you don't know why you are doing it," Rowell stated. "It's like a teacher doing a math problem and giving me the answer but not helping me understand how I got it. This year we are focused on doing what we need to do and we are going to win."

"The thing about it is that every position has a role," Joseph said. "If you understand what you are supposed to do and do what you are supposed to do then we are going to be alright because we do it for a reason. We have to buy into it and believe that what they are telling us to do is the right thing."

The foundation for defensive success appears to be in place through multiple leaders. How the team builds on that foundation and follows those leaders will determine whether or not this defense reaches the level of play it expects this fall.

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