MORGANTOWN - With only one possible exception, no one is under a bigger microscope as West Virginia comes off its bye week than the Mountaineers' cornerbacks.
Yes, it's hard to argue that it isn't Geno Smith in that position. Once the runaway leader in the race for the Heisman Trophy, Smith and WVU's offense have nosedived in the last two games. Righting that ship is paramount.
But on the other side of the ball is the nation's worst pass defense. Unlike the offense, it isn't merely off its game. Its game hasn't been there all season, which is why of the nation's 120 FBS schools the Mountaineers rank dead last in passing yards allowed.
While the pass defense problems are certainly a group effort, it is that small group of cornerbacks who are front and center.
Both they and cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts know it.
"I can't speak [how they're handling it], but I told them that each one of them signed up to play cornerback,'' Roberts said. "And they also signed up to play in the Big 12. And so that's the life. No one's going to stop throwing the ball.''
Next up is TCU (5-3, 2-3), which visits No. 23 West Virginia (5-2, 2-2) for a 3 p.m. game Saturday at Mountaineer Field. That the Horned Frogs are dealing with the loss of their starting quarterback, Casey Pachall, and making do with redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin seems rather inconsequential. West Virginia has defended star throwing quarterbacks, backups, freshmen and those know more for their running than their passing this season, and all have had success against the Mountaineers.
To compound matters, West Virginia isn't very deep and not completely healthy at the position. Only two players, Pat Miller and Brodrick Jenkins, are veterans, and Jenkins missed WVU's 55-14 loss to Kansas State with a knee injury. His status for the TCU game is questionable, at best.
Behind those two is a pair of true freshmen, Nana Kyeremeh and Ricky Rumph, both of whom are still learning both the defense and the college game itself. On this week's depth chart those two are listed 1-2 at one of the corner spots with Jenkins on the mend.
It's a tall task manning the spots at the back end of a defense in the Big 12, but it's even harder doing it with freshmen learning their way and veterans struggling with a lack of success. The glare of the spotlight after so many failures doesn't help, either, but there's only one way to get that spotlight turned off.