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WVU defense showing signs of improvement

By Dave Hickman, Staff writer

MORGANTOWN — It would have been difficult for Tony Gibson to walk off the field Saturday with anything but a smile on his face.

West Virginia’s rookie defensive coordinator had just watched his first team pretty much shut out the Mountaineers’ first-team offense during the scrimmage that put an end to more than two weeks of pre-classes camp.

No, it wasn’t a perfect performance. But pretty much everything Gibson had asked of his defense, it delivered.

“I thought we played with energy,’’ Gibson said. “It was the first time in a couple days we had some energy on defense. I thought the ones did really well. I don’t think we gave up a touchdown. We put them in a lot of different situations and they responded.’’

The best thing about that was the improvement the defense showed from one day to the next. As offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson pointed out, sometimes one side just gets the best of the other. Well, in the days leading up to Saturday’s scrimmage, it was the offense that was doing the getting.

“We counted and [during a Friday live scrimmage] we missed 22 tackles,’’ Gibson said. “That’s not going to get the job done.’’

Indeed, as camp ends and West Virginia begins classes and two weeks of preparation for the Aug. 30 opener against Alabama, perhaps the No. 1 priority for the defense is tackling.

“That’s my biggest fear right now. It always is going into a first game,’’ Gibson said of tackling. “We’re still missing way too many. We had the live situation yesterday and we missed 22. So we really honed in on it [Saturday] and I thought the kids reacted well. I think we only had two or three missed tackles during the whole scrimmage.’’

During the portion of the scrimmage that was open to the media, the No. 1 defense faced the No. 1 offense in five possessions. A couple of times the offense moved the ball well in the middle of the field, but the defense stiffened in the red zone. In various situations, the offense once ran out of downs and another it ran out of time. Once safety K.J. Dillon intercepted a Clint Trickett pass and two other times kicker Josh Lambert missed field goals.

There were also instances when both the first- and second-team defenses put pressure on the WVU quarterbacks. The most pleasing part about that to Gibson was that the Mountaineers weren’t doing anything particularly special in order to do that.

“It helps when you got guys that can get after the quarterback and you don’t have to blitz all the time and leave the defensive backs hanging,’’ Gibson said. “I was very happy with that.’’

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow @dphickman1 on Twitter.


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