WVU: Emerging corners cover for Jenkins' departure
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The news that Brodrick Jenkins had left West Virginia's football team seemed barely to register a blip on the radar Tuesday when coach Dana Holgorsen confirmed it.
Perhaps that's because the erstwhile starting cornerback had slid down the depth chart. After playing in 36 games and starting 11 during his three previous seasons, Jenkins had received only token playing time in WVU's first three games.
Yes, he was by far the team's most experienced corner - Jenkins had two interceptions in a game against Rutgers in 2011, which accounted for two-thirds of his career total - but he couldn't crack a starting lineup this season that includes Ishmael Banks and Travis Bell on the corners.
Perhaps more significant, though, is that there is a new wave of emerging pass defenders for the Mountaineers right now. Two who have been rehabbing injuries now seem ready to contribute. Sophomore Terrell Chestnut, shelved with a knee injury since late last season, played for the first time last week against Georgia State. Fellow sophomore Avery Williams is playing again after missing last season with a neck injury.
Chestnut is now listed as the backup to Bell at one of the corner spots, replacing Jenkins.
"Terrell's been doing a good job. His knee's been healing,'' Holgorsen said Tuesday. "We've been wanting to get him more involved. Avery Williams is another guy that will be getting some reps this week at corner.''
Still, none of those four - Bell, Banks, Chestnut and Williams - have created the kind of stir that another corner has this season. Daryl Worley didn't even arrive on campus until this summer and was not a particularly highly regarded recruit.
He's a highly regarded player now, though. At least as far as Holgorsen is concerned.
"He does some things out there athletically that I don't see happen very often,'' Holgorsen said of the 6-foot-1, 198-pound freshman from Philadelphia. "He's got loads of potential. It's only a matter of time until he's an every-down player. Whether it happens this year or next year, he'll be an every-down player and he'll be a tremendous corner for us.''
Worley is close to being an every-down player already, or at least he was a week ago against Georgia State. He started the game at nickel back in place of injured K.J. Dillon, and given the amount of time the Mountaineers spend in the nickel package it's almost the same thing as a full-time gig.
Granted, Dillon is expected to return this week, but that just means Worley - despite what it says on the depth chart - is probably no worse than the backup at both corners and the nickel back. And with the speed of the game what it is and West Virginia's coaches rotating defenders as much as is practical, that means Worley is likely to be on the field more than starters at some other positions.
"Having them both [Dillon and Worley] will bring a tremendous amount of athleticism to our team at those spots,'' Holgorsen said.
So what has made Worley so good? Well, the physical attributes alone make him different. He's bigger than most of WVU's corners, which makes him an asset in a Big 12 Conference that tends to feature a lot of big receivers.
Just as significantly, though, Worley is studious.
"He's extremely attentive, he asks questions, he practices well, he's eager to get in the game and he brings energy once he does that,'' Holgorsen said. "He's got tremendous, tremendous upside potential as a starting corner around her for a long time.''
Holgorsen said Tuesday that West Virginia's health is not at issue this week.
Dillon, linebacker Doug Rigg and fullback Garrett Hopes, all of whom sat out last week, have been cleared to practice. The same goes for defensive lineman Christian Brown, who left last week's game with a leg injury, and linebacker Isaiah Bruce, who has a thigh bruise.
So the only players definitely out this week are those who have been previously lost for the season. That includes freshman lineman Tyler Tezeno, who underwent knee surgery but was being redshirted anyway.
"Everybody's available,'' Holgorsen said. "Nobody's been ruled out other than the surgery guys. We're as healthy as we've been.''
Even linebacker Jewone Snow could play after missing most of the last year with recurring injuries.
"The last two weeks he's been functional on the scout team,'' Holgorsen said. "We'll give him a shot to play on a few special teams and see how he reacts to that.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.