During the winter of 2012, when both Brian Mitchell and Tony Gibson were hired to join the West Virginia coaching staff as corners and safeties coaches, respectively, their first order of business was to get to know the prospects who were going to sign letters of intent on National Signing Day in early February.
One of those players was defensive back Daryl Worley, who was from Penn Charter School in Philadelphia.
Worley, who’s expected to make his first start Saturday against No. 16 Texas Tech, was recruited by Jake Spavital, now the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M. Not wanting to lose such a talented player like Worley, both Gibson and Mitchell jumped on Worley’s recruitment – getting him to sign as planned.
Because of that effort, both coaches knew they were going to have to fight over who would coach him once he got to WVU.
Then Mitchell went to see Worley in person in spring just a few months after National Signing Day. He saw a glimpse of Worley’s potential.
“When you’re recruiting kids, you like to recruit like-minded kids,” Mitchell said. “I was at (Worley’s) school during the spring, and he just finished the state track meet. He had won the 100, 200 and the 400 all in the same day. That was a kid who wasn’t afraid of competition; that was a kid not stepping away from being great.”
With Worley’s natural speed and athleticism, there was no question that he maintained the potential to play right away. It was just a matter of crafting those skills from that of a high school superstar to a Division 1 defensive back.
And for Mitchell, who got to know Worley before coming to campus and now knows him even better after coaching him for the past three months, he sees a rare trait in the true freshman.
“The most important thing I can say about the kid is that his football IQ is as great as anyone on the team. I mean, he gets it,” Mitchell said. “He’s played a lot of positions coming out of high school. He can adapt, and he’s adapted very well.”
Gibson said he has seen the same characteristics that Mitchell has noticed, giving both coaches the confidence to believe Worley can handle anything they throw at him.
“I think he’ll be a special player because of his maturity level for a freshman,” Gibson. “He comes in, he’s serious, he wants to get better, he works every day. He’s a very mature kid in meetings. He’s great.”
And once both coaches realized they not only had a physically gifted talent, but also a very bright football mind, they understood they didn’t have to fight over where to put him. They could put him in a position where the team needed him.
Worley’s understanding of the game and West Virginia’s defense gives Mitchell and Gibson the chance to play him at both cornerback spots or even a nickel cornerback spot.
“Both of us have used him a little bit,” Gibson said. “I used him at nickel in the Baylor game. He was actually at safety when he got his pick. So we’ve shared him a little bit, but he’ll play just corner this week.”
Worley earned the start for WVU at the boundary corner spot. He currently leads the team with four pass breakups, while also registering 15 tackles and an interception in the first six games of his career.
“It’s based off production, and he’s a kid that when you put him on the field, good things happen. He’s a student of the game; he’s one of our best workers,” Mitchell said. “I mean he’s a kid who is playing like a redshirt sophomore right now, so we’re going to give him an opportunity because he’s earned it.”