West Virginia secondary has a chance to improve

LUBBOCK, TX - OCTOBER 15: Jonathan Giles
LUBBOCK, TX - OCTOBER 15: Jonathan Giles /

The West Virginia defense is already falling into the trap of other Big 12 Conference stereotypes. The league is always predicated on big offense and very little defense.

Against Virginia Tech, the West Virginia defensive unit gave up 235 passing yards to Hokies freshman Josh Jackson. Against East Carolina, two Pirates QBs burned the Mountaineers.

Thomas Sirk threw for 191 yards and Gardner Minshew threw for 137 yards, including a 95-yard completion. Those big plays didn’t help the Pirates in the end because the Mountaineers held on for a big victory.

This week, West Virginia has another big victory that is ripe for the taking. The FCS level Delaware Hornets will be a pushover on Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium. The Mountaineer will win this one handily but there is bound to be something they can improve on.

This game gives the West Virginia secondary a chance to shore up its numbers, break up some passes, pick off some passes, and not allow any big plays. Kyzir White had two interceptions against East Carolina, so the next task should be for another safety to step up and pick off two, himself.

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Candidates for that to happen are Dravon Askew-Henry and Toyous Avery. Askew-Henry is coming off a solid game where he had five tackles against East Carolina. Avery had four tackles and three pass breakups.

Delaware State quarterback Jack McDaniels probably won’t have much time for adjustment. He will be bumrushed by the defensive line, forcing him to make quick decsions. Avery and Askew-Henry should be on their toes to pick off McDaniels’ wayward passes.

If those players can step up and limit Delaware State’s production, it will win over defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. Gibson knows there is room for improvement.

“There’s been good and there’s been bad,” Gibson told Jim Butta who writes for the Wheeling Intelligencer.

Some of the good and the bad has West Virginia in the middle of the Big 12 pack in some categories such as pass efficiency (sixth with 123.2) and opponent fourth down (seventh with 66.7), according to Butta.

Cornerbacks Mike Daniels, Elijah Battle, Corey Winfield, Kenny Robinson, JoVanni Stewart, Marvin Gross and Derrek Pitts have all seen playing time and are rotated around quite often. Gibson will use different combinations of those players to see who fits in best in certain situations.

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After Delaware State is over and done with, Gibson may have a better sense of what to expect from his secondary heading into Big 12 Conference play.