There's been a buzz about Francis since spring drills. Most of the buzz is because of his speed at the weak-side position. The problem is, the junior college transfer has had trouble picking up Casteel's odd stack defense.
"In the spring, you get put right into the situation," Francis said. "You have to learn the defense. And there are high expectations because I'm a junior. But this defense, this 3-3-5, is so complex.
"The linebackers are the core of the defense. Everything is run off us. So when you come in, it can be pretty frustrating. But now, in the summer time, it's a lot easier for me. It's coming faster to me."
"He's grown tremendously," Rigg said of Francis. "He has the raw tools to be a great player. He's very fast. He's athletic. He has things you can't teach. Even Coach Casteel said, 'I can't teach that.' He just has it. When he picks up everything, it's going to be really scary what he can do with this defense.
"Athletically, I've never seen a linebacker like him. It's great to have him on our defense."
"I kind of wish I had his freakish natural ability."
Francis has not only had to learn WVU's defense, but adapt to the rigors of summer workouts in Morgantown rather than those of a junior college.
"It's a lot different," Francis said. "Everything is at a faster pace. As far as lifting goes, it's every day. It was every other day at junior college."
The player said he's received a ton of help.
"I feel a lot more confident," Francis said. "My first step, my run reads ... I have safeties behind me, encouraging to keep watching film. They let me know where to go. Terence [Garvin] does a good job with that. [Linebacker] Najee [Goode] helps me out a lot; so does [cornerback] Keith Tandy."
Francis said the help will pay off.
"Spring ball was like the primer on a car," he said. "I feel like coming out of summer, when Coach Casteel gets back, he'll provide the finishing coat, smooth everything out. I should hit everything running from there."
WVU has a fine tradition at linebacker, but this season at least two of the three spots will be filled with first-time starters.
Rigg isn't concerned.
"Coach Casteel is a great coach," he said. "Even though we have little experience, we can get it done. We have the size; we have the talent. It makes it easier that we have a great defensive line with Bruce [Irvin] and them. We're just trying to do our part and be effective."
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvin...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.