WVU uses recruiting class to address pass rush issues
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 00:02
With the West Virginia defense struggling as it did in 2012, a lot of attention was given to the less than exceptional play of the Mountaineer secondary.
And to an extent, that attention was well-deserved for a group that finished near the bottom in just about every statistical category nationally.
But when addressing his 2013 recruiting class, head coach Dana Holgorsen knew one thing he and his staff could go after to improve that in 2013.
Surprisingly, it had nothing to do with the talented crop of defensive backs in the class.
"We put a strong emphasis on guys that could rush the passer," Holgorsen said. "Everybody said that our woes, defensively, were pass defense related, so we should get as many corners as we could. That’s a very uneducated statement.
"‘You better find defensive linemen that can rush the passer’ ... We were not very deep at those positions."
While the Mountaineers were one of the Big 12 Conference’s best defenses against the run in 2012, they struggled at times to get to the quarterback.
After sacking the opposing team’s quarterback 31 times in 2011 with anchors like Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin on the defensive end, West Virginia struggled at times to find a go-to threat to make sacks.
Holgorsen and the staff hope additions made to this year’s recruiting class will be able to come in and make an impact right away.
And it’s a need that had to be addressed as quickly as possible, since the only two Mountaineers with more than two sacks – linebackers Josh Francis and Terence Garvin – will not return next season.
"When you have guys like Brandon Golson, (d’Vante) Henry and Dontrill Hymna, these guys are pass rushers. They’re long and able to get to the quarterback," Holgorsen said.
"We handled our needs.
Defensive line coach Erik Slaughter will have a few key pieces returning to his unit from last season, as both defensive end Will Clarke and nose guard Shaq Rowell come back, but he’s excited to see what kind of impact his newcomers are able to make.
He knows what it’s going to take for them to be successful and thinks this group has the potential to come in and make plays right away.
Now, the rest is on the coaching staff to work with them and make sure they progress the way they’re supposed to.
"Every year, I get the NFL sacks leader; the top 10 guys are sent to me on video, so I can show them to our guys," Slaughter said. "Nobody in the NFL gets sacks who isn’t fast ... If they can run and they’re tall, they’re going to be good pass rushers.
"The rest is on me."
West Virginia has brought in plenty of players with good size, as most of the defensive linemen and linebackers joining the team this season are 6-foot-1 and taller.
"If you notice, it’s a lot of linebackers, a lot of long, tall guys that can run," said defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. "The one thing that people tend to get away from is that I try to get away from looking at positions specifically. I want to go get football players."