Cornerbacks hoping to learn from mistakes
MORGANTOWN - Blame it on the lopsided score, late-game substitutions or any of the myriad reasons some have used to rationalize all the yards and points West Virginia's defense gave up in its opening-game win over Marshall, but the bottom line remains the same.
It would probably be a good idea if future opponents were less successful.
Daron Roberts, West Virginia's cornerbacks coach, is right in the middle of it all. After all, Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato completed 70 percent of his passes for 413 yards and two touchdowns, so naturally the cornerback play has to be examined.
And he and his cornerbacks are doing just that.
"No one was pleased with the way we played,'' Roberts said, including both he and his cornerbacks in that mix. "We'll see whether or not there are some people in the room who are taking constructive criticism and doing something productive with it. If not, then we'll make a change.''
For the most part, West Virginia stuck with two corners during the bulk of that 69-34 rout - starters Pat Miller and Brodrick Jenkins. Miller, a senior, played 80 snaps and Jenkins, a junior, 72. Only two other corners played, sophomore Ishmael Banks and true freshman Nana Kyeremeh.
And the results of each were mixed. Miller, the most experienced of the quartet, graded out the lowest, Jenkins and Kyeremeh the best and Banks in the middle.
Anyone searching for the potential to inject new energy into the group probably has to look at Kyeremeh, the 5-foot-10, 176-pounder from Ohio.
Roberts certainly is as the Mountaineers prepare for Saturday's game against James Madison in Landover, Md.
"He's definitely going to put himself into the conversation,'' Roberts said. "When you show up repeatedly on special teams and you show up as explosive when you come into the game late [on defense], you put yourself into position to get some playing time.''
As for the group on the whole, Roberts said that the flaws exposed against Marshall were a combination of things, namely technique and missed assignments.
"It's a combination of both,'' Roberts said. "We were a little bit lazy in some of our technique, which we're going to get fixed. That's my job. Also, some of our assignments, we were too greedy. We didn't have disciplined eyes and that's also my fault.''
"For example, in man-to-man coverage, your eyes should be on the receiver and not on the quarterback or in the backfield,'' Roberts said. "If your eyes are not on [the receiver] then it's going to put you in a position to have a ball caught on you because you're looking [elsewhere] and you react too slowly. Again, that's my job and something I have to take responsibility for.''
Kyeremeh played just 20 snaps, but obviously made an impression as one of those who had fewer missed assignments and technique errors. Certainly that will translate into more opportunities to play on Saturday and all the cornerbacks know that.
"I've had conversations with him and I've had conversations with the older guys and he's going to fit into the mix,'' Roberts said. "It's the older guys' responsibility to keep their jobs and it's Nana's responsibility to take someone's job.
"What we want to foster on this team is good competition. And as long as you're playing well, we're going to reward you with more plays.''
The problem Roberts faces is that if he wants to make changes there aren't a lot of options. Another true freshman, Ricky Rumph, may join the mix, but for now the four who played last week and Rumph seem to be the only ones who have earned a shot. That could change as the season goes along, but for now the group of cornerback candidates will remain pretty much the same.
"Those five corners, that's who we have in the room. We can't make any trades, so those five guys will play in some way,'' Roberts said. "Which two or three or four play, that's up to them. And this week of practice will go a long way toward telling us who thinks they should be in that rotation.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1.