Jenkins, Miller step up for WVU
Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 30, 2012 00:08
West Virginia University cornerbacks Brodrick Jenkins and Pat Miller are both pretty laid back. They like to joke around and have a good time with their teammates.
But as the only players at their position with significant in-game experience, that mentality is going to have to change this season when they’re expected to be a couple of the biggest leaders on the WVU defense. They’ll be in the spotlight Saturday when the Mountaineers open the season at home against Marshall.
"Coming into this year, (co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest) and (cornerbacks coach Daron) Roberts were like, ‘You know, (Keith) Tandy and those guys are gone now, so you have to be the ones to step up and show this team the right way to do things’," Jenkins said. "I’ve grown to realize that I’m an upperclassman – I’m not young anymore.
"I’ve just got to know when is the right time (to joke around) and when is not. That’s all I’ve got to do."
Jenkins, a 5-foot-10, 183-pound junior from Fort Myers, Fla., has four career starts. He made two interceptions last season against Rutgers in his first career starting assignment and finished the season with 27 total tackles.
Miller has the most experience in the secondary with 11 starts in his career. The 5-foot-11, 187-pound senior from Birmingham, Ala., scored a touchdown last season on a 52-yard interception return at South Florida. He had 66 tackles and two interceptions for the season.
Roberts said although they know they have to be more serious around their teammates, they still know there’s a time and place to have fun.
But they have things they’ll have to do before they get the chance to do that.
"You can make more jokes when you make more plays," Roberts said. "People laugh when you’re making plays, but when you’re not, they’re going to look at you as someone who doesn’t take this seriously enough. They know what they have to do to be ready to play, though."
And they know that because of the leaders they’ve seen in the last few years since they’ve been at West Virginia.
The Mountaineers have had a tradition in recent years of bringing in a lot of talented defensive backs who have been able to take charge and balance being the fun guy the other players enjoy being around and the person who knows when it’s time to be serious and go to work. Possibly the best example of that balance was there to teach Jenkins and Miller the ropes last season.
"I like the way (Keith) Tandy played last year; I liked the way he handled himself," Roberts said. "That was just a guy who was not going to be denied. I remember NFL scouts would call me and ask about Tandy, and I’d say that what you see is what you get. He’s going to show up to work every single day.
"That’s the kind of guy that plays 11 or 12 years in the league, and that’s the same mentality that I’ve got to create among the 10 guys in my (position meeting) room."
This spring, Miller was restricted to doing most of his leading from the sideline with a broken bone in his foot. But even though he couldn’t be out there showing younger players what to do with his play on the field, he led by example off it.
"With the freshmen here, you have to have somebody there to lead the group, and I’m the oldest one here, so I took it upon myself to lead like that and be a good example for them that you can’t feel bad for yourself when stuff like that happens," Miller said.
"I could’ve gone down that road where I sat around and was sad and wanted everyone to feel sorry for me, but I turned up and worked hard."
What Miller went through with his injury is something Roberts thinks won’t just help the senior as a player, but the realization he had that things can be taken away in the blink of an eye is a good lesson to teach all the other players at cornerback this season.
"I always tell my guys that the ball’s going to go flat eventually," Roberts said. "It may be tomorrow, it may be after three years in the league, it may be in the Oklahoma game, but you don’t know when your snap is going to be.
"As a player with pride, you need to put everything you have into every snap. That’s something he can teach the younger guys."