Young corners need to step up for WVU
MORGANTOWN - Daron Roberts might have the most daunting task of all West Virginia's assistant coaches as the Mountaineers prepare for their first season in the Big 12.
In a pass-crazy league, Roberts coaches WVU's cornerbacks. And not only is this his first year as a cornerbacks coach, it's the first year for pretty much half his players, too.
"Knowing that we're going to a pass-happy league and knowing that we're going to have to run down the field quite a bit, some of the young guys will play,'' Roberts said Wednesday. "In this league you have to be deep at corner.''
Deep isn't what the Mountaineers are right now, at least as far as players with experience is concerned.
There's Pat Miller, who has played in 35 games and started 11 in three years, but missed most of the spring with a broken bone in his foot.
There's Brodrick Jenkins, who has played in 26 games and started just four.
And then there's, well, not much.
Lawrence Smith has played in 16 games, but mostly on special teams. Avery Williams played in five games last year as a freshman, but again, mostly as a special-teamer. Terrell Chestnut redshirted last year and Cecil Level was another special-teams guy.
Enter the newcomers, who might have to play whether they're ready or not.
"I'm telling them that the only two corners on the team with snaps in a game are Pat Miller and Brodrick Jenkins,'' Roberts said. "We've had practices here in camp and the spring where we've played without one of them, so it makes sense for us to try and create as much depth at that position as possible.''
Among the new faces, that depth would have to come from three true freshmen. Nana Kyeremeh is a 5-foot-11, 170-pounder from Ohio. Brandon Napoleon is 6-foot, 175-pounder from New Jersey and the son of former WVU running back Eugene Napoleon. And Ricky Rumph is a 5-11, 180-pounder from Florida who signed so late that he isn't even in the team's media guide.
Could they play? They might have to.
"We have three freshmen who are getting significant snaps during practice, but unfortunately we had some setbacks in Brodrick and Avery with a few injuries,'' Roberts said. "The fortunate side is that Nana, Brandon and Ricky have gotten more snaps.''
Given West Virginia's precarious depth at the position, more snaps in practice might mean a lot. Miller and Jenkins are not going to be able to play every down throughout a Big 12 season. A handful of the others show potential, but in many ways they're the same as the freshmen, at least from the standpoint of experience.
But if nothing else, Roberts is encouraged by their progress.
"I'm seeing a steady improvement. I think our guys are coming along,'' Roberts said. "I think those guys are becoming more comfortable with the system. We're starting to see more of the younger guys make plays on the ball, interceptions and pass breakups.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.